JANUARY 22, 2015, NORFOLK (NNS) – Following the successful integration of female officers onboard submarines, the Submarine Force will be immediately opening service on submarines for enlisted female Sailors. The Chief of Naval Operations detailed the enlisted women integration plan in Naval Administrative (NAVADMIN) message 19/15 entitled, “Opening Submarine Force Billets to Enlisted Women.” The plan was formally approved in December 2014 for federal funding by Congress.
With Congressional approval, Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander, Submarine Forces, can begin implementing the plan which was first submitted and approved by CNO, June 30, 2014, and Secretary of the Navy, July 1, 2014. The plan includes opening all submarine ratings and Navy enlisted classification codes to enlisted women in Fiscal Year 2015 for a two-phase integration onboard the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN) and Ohio-class guided-missile submarines (SSGN), and the Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN).
“We are the most capable submarine force in the world,” said Connor. “While we have superb technology, the ultimate key to our success is our people. In order to continue to improve and adapt in a rapidly changing world, we need to ensure that we continue to recruit and retain the most talented Sailors. Today, many of the people who have the technical and leadership skills to succeed in the Submarine Force are women. We will need them. Integrating female officers into the submarine force has increased our talent pool and subsequently the force’s overall readiness, ensuring that we will remain the world’s most capable force for ensuing decades. Following our successful and smooth integration of women officers into the Submarine Force, the Navy’s plan to integrate female enlisted is a natural next step.”
On July 28, 1994, Congress was notified of policy changes to expand the number of assignments available to women in the Navy. The change was not considered by the submarine force until then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates formally presented a letter to congressional leaders on Feb. 19, 2010 notifying them of the Department of Navy’s desire to reverse current policy of prohibiting submarine service to women.
In addition to NAVADMIN 19/15, the CNO has also release two messages outlining conversions to submarine rating specialties – NAVADMIN 20/15 announces the “FY16 Enlisted Women in Submarines Chief Petty Officer Conversion,” and NAVADMIN 21/15 announces the “FY16 Enlisted Women in Submarines E-6 and Below Rating Conversion Process.”
Rear Adm. Charles A. “Chas” Richard, commander, Submarine Group 10 and leader Women in Submarine Task Force, said the two-phase integration will begin in Fiscal Year 2016.
“The Submarine Force’s integration of female officers on our submarines has been very successful,” said Richard. “We will mirror that successful pattern during the integration of enlisted females which will be done in two phases. During the initial phase we will select and train Sailors for service onboard female officer-integrated SSBNs and SSGNs in the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. In 2016 we will integrate the first two crews, the Blue and Gold crews of the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727), and continue with 12 additional crews roughly over a five-year period through 2021. Phase Two will consist of integrating the crews of new construction Virginia-class SSNs. The plan minimizes operational impacts, and provides optimal flexibility, equity, and timeliness at reasonable cost.
“In addition to new accessions into the submarine community, our plan presents an opportunity for female Sailors in selected ratings and from pay grades E-1 (seaman recruit) to E-8 (senior chief petty officer) to convert into submarine force ratings. All prospective female enlisted Sailors will be provided the same opportunity to succeed in the submarine force as their male counterparts. “Supporting the integration of submarine crews will require modifications of the SSBNs, SSGNs, and new construction Virginia-class SSNs. These modifications will ensure conditions meet Navy guidelines for habitability and privacy while maintaining equity for male and female Sailors embarked on submarines.”
Women volunteering to serve in non-nuclear enlisted ratings will join the submarine force through both conversions and new accessions pipelines. For new accessions that will require completion of Navy Training Command (boot camp) in Great Lakes, Ill.; Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) in Groton, Conn.; rating “A” school at various sites; and then assignment to the fleet. The only exceptions will be those females who elect to become culinary specialists (CS), logistics specialists (LS), and yeoman (YN). They will complete their rating “A” school in Meridian, Miss., before entering BESS in Groton.
Women currently serving in the fleet who wish to convert to a submarine rating must complete the two-month BESS.
The prospective enlisted women volunteering to serve in nuclear enlisted ratings will join the submarine force through the new accessions pipeline. This will require completion of Navy Training Command (boot camp); Nuclear Field “A” School and Nuclear Power School at Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston; prototype training at Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in either Charleston or Ballston Spa; and then assignment to the fleet.
SSGNs provide the Navy with an unprecedented combination of strike and special operation mission capability within a stealthy, clandestine platform, while SSBNs are specifically designed for extended strategic deterrent patrols. There are currently 14 SSBNs and four SSGNs in the Navy’s inventory, each with two crews assigned.
There are currently 11 Virginia-class attack submarines in commission (as Nov. 24, 2014). These submarines have multi-faceted missions. They use their stealth, persistence, agility and firepower to deploy and support special force operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary’s military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity, and ensure undersea superiority.