Navy opens submarine billets to female enlisted
NAPLES, Italy —The Navy is opening submarine billets to enlisted women, with plans for the USS Michigan to become the first boat integrated with female enlistees in 2016.
The service released three administrative messages Wednesday laying out guidelines for the change, along with and the application process for the Michigan billets. The Navy is looking for chief petty officers in one of five ratings, or job specialties, and for junior enlisted in any rating, or without a rating. Under the rule change, all submarine job specialties — whether nuclear or non-nuclear — are now open to female sailors.
The announcement comes almost five years after the Navy decided to integrate women into submarines. Female officers came aboard its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in late 2011.
The Navy laid out its long-term integration plan last summer, calling for women to make up 20 percent of enlisted billets on those already-integrated subs by 2020.
Under the instructions released Wednesday, enlisted women will come aboard submarines that have already have female officers serving on board. Those are the larger Ohio-class ballistic- and guided-missile subs, which have two rotating crews each; the smaller, Virginia-class attack submarines only began receiving female officers this month.
Chief petty officers will report to their crew before junior enlisted. The Navy says it will make changes aboard each submarine to accommodate women.
After integration of the Michigan next year, plans call for female enlistees to integrate 12 additional Ohio-class crews by 2021, with two to four crews integrating annually. Enlisted women will wait until 2020 to report to Virginia-class submarines. Those crews will man newly constructed subs in the class, which are designed to accommodate both sexes.
Applications for the Michigan billets are due by April 15, with the selection process beginning the next day. A panel will be convened to select the chief petty officers. The application process for other integrations will be announced in the future, according to the guidelines.
Enlistees selected can convert their rating to any submarine rating, including nuclear. Those who choose to convert to a non-nuclear job position will need to go through the two-month Basic Enlisted Submarine School and any necessary rating school. Those converting to nuclear positions will join new recruits, going back to boot camp before entering the nuclear pipeline.
The five ratings for chief petty officer are Information systems technician (IT), Logistics Specialist (LS), Culinary Specialist (CS), Yeoman (YN) and Independent Duty Corpsman (HM/IDC).
The continued integration of submarines follows the broader military trend of opening once-restricted billets to women. The Pentagon removed the military-wide ban on women in combat units in 2013, three years after the Navy’s decision to integrate subs, and required gender integration plans from each of the services.
As of last summer, more than 60 women officers were serving aboard 14 submarines.
The Navy has described the integration process so far as smooth, although a recent episode aboard the Ohio-class USS Wyoming raised questions. The Navy investigated 12 petty officers for sharing and watching a video of a female officer showering aboard the submarine, according to the Navy Times. One of the petty officers made the recording and passed it along, according to the report.