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Release Date: 10/7/2009 9:12:00 PM
By John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Oct. 6 women soon will serve on submarines, suggesting a reversal of the long-standing ban by the Navy.

Appearing on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Mabus signaled that the Navy is moving closer to allowing coed personnel on submarines.

"It will take a little while because you've got to interview people and you've got to be nuclear trained," he said, referring to prerequisite steps before a Sailor is assigned to a submarine.

Officials previously have cited a lack of privacy and the cost of reconfiguring subs as obstacles to allowing female crew members to serve aboard the vessels.

But Mabus is one of several top Navy officials recently to call for an end to the policy. The Navy secretary's comments yesterday amplify his previous endorsement of ending the ban.

"This is something the [chief of naval operations] and I have been working on since I came into office," Mabus, who was confirmed as Navy secretary in May, said last week. "We are moving out aggressively on this.

"I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines," he told reporters following a tour of Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News shipyard.

Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, acknowledged that special accommodations would be a factor in the decision, but one that's not insurmountable.

"Having commanded a mixed-gender surface combatant, I am very comfortable addressing integrating women into the submarine force," he said in a statement last month. "I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews."

Roughead said he has been personally engaged through the years in the Navy's debate of the feasibility of assigning women to submarines.

"There are some particular issues with integrating women into the submarine force -- issues we must work through in order to achieve what is best for the Navy and our submarine force," he said. "This has had and will continue to have my personal attention as we work toward increasing the diversity of our Navy afloat and ashore."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the issue with the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

"I believe we should continue to broaden opportunities for women," Mullen is quoted as saying in response to written questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. "One policy I would like to see changed is the one barring their service aboard submarines."

Mullen, a champion of diversifying the services, said this month that having a military that reflects the demographics of the United States is "a
strategic imperative for the security of our country."

For more news from the Secretary of the Navy, visit www.navy.mil/local/secnav.

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I've been chatting with quite a few sailors this week and this subject has been brought up a few times. The opinions have been varied.
I read in one of the blogs I follow outside of this site the following questions: "If a female sailor goes back to her sub after being home and spending time with her husband, then finds out that she's pregnant while out to sea, what then?" "Will the submarine have to re-surface in the middle of an important mission just to return the pregnant woman to land and risk the whole mission and it's sailors?" "What about the air quality on the submarine, since it is significantly tight-closed space...won't that effect her pregnancy?" "What about the bunk this woman sleeps in that she may have to share with one or more people while out on that underwater mission?" "What if the woman has an emergency, a miscarriage while out to sea?" One question of my own: If a woman gets pregnant, what will the Navy do to rectify the situation if pregnant women cannot be on a submarine? These many questions concern me as well as the question of "privacy" for a woman on a submarine. Until all these questions and concerns are answered and rectified, it's my opinion that women should not be serving on a sub. Just one woman's opinion.
I was stationed on a submarine tender, my husband was on a submarine, so I have a pretty good idea of how this works.

Except for aircraft carriers few if any ships evacuate pregnant female sailors who find they are pregnant in the middle of a cruise or mission. I knew of one submarine tender that went out with 0 pregnant women, and came back three months later with 27 women between 2-3 months of pregnancy. It was a massive scandal in San Diego, where I was stationed. Not a single one of them was "evacuated," they simply waited until they came into port at the end of their assignment and transferred to shore duty or seperated from the Navy (back then pregnancy meant an almost automatic seperation).

Submarine missions rarely last more than 3 months, the same as a surface ship. Fast attack submarines may go out for 6 month "WestPacs" but they stop every few weeks at a port. A pregnant sailor can easily be exchanged for another at their port of call.

As privacy goes, this is the military, not a college dorm. Even when I was in many of the heads were co-ed. During my duty as a Damage Controlman I often entered the men's berthing areas, and my male counterparts often entered the women's berthing. All it takes to make this work is some scheduling of the shower facilities. There never was any real privacy. Privacy is the curtain on your rack.

My personal opinion is that the easiest way of doing this is once they have enough women submarines qualified, have a few subs designated for women only and others men only. But it isn't necessary, just less of a headache.
MJ, you know what is going to happen. The same thing that happens in squadrons, on ships, on detachments. The men will have to fill the void the women leave. As usual, they will have to do longer dets, etc. That means they will miss their family. But that doesnt matter, because the women is getting what she wants - all that comes with filling a male billet, with none of the consequences. If a women gets pregnant and is in a male billet or on ship/sub,etc. then she should be required to fill it fully. If she cant, then out of the billet or out of the Navy.
I'm a female and not anti-women but there is a difference between male and female thank goodness. Is it really a good idea to have co-ed ships? I really am asking, I don't know how it is, all I can do is imagine how it would be. My son who is a combat corpsman said that women have no place on the battle field, they can not physically do what the men can do and he said they would get the men killed. He's not anti-women, loves them a lot, thinks they are wonderful and glad to share the planet with them. LOL I know being in combat is different than being on a ship. Just curious and would love to be educated on the subject......
oh no, i don't think this is a good idea
Outstanding!!!

We are long overdue to have women serving on submarines. Where do I sign up?

Diana ,,,
TY!!!!....U..SOOOOO...ROCK!!!!
It's about time. This is a great thing. I really like this.
yea!...TY!!!!!
I'm sorry.....I think this idea is ridiculous. I would not want my daughter on a sub. My son is on a sub right now and I think it will seriously change things for the worse if women are allowed on subs. I won't repeat all the great points you guys have made in previous posts.....you're all right. The privacy, the pregnancy issue, etc. Also, a big issue is the actual physical strength of women versus men. I'm sorry if I offend women out there, but come on, there are just some things that men can do better than women just because of their size and strength. So now the guys on the sub will have to watch their language, watch dirty jokes, generally change the whole "attitude" on the sub so they do not offend these ladies. I'm sorry.....this is a bad idea.

Getting back to the physical strength issue......perfect example......I am 6 foot tall and on the heavy side. Now, if my house catches fire and some little 5 foot tall, 120 lb. woman firefighter climbs up a ladder and wants to carry me down to safety??? Now going to happen. It would be physically impossible. There are just some jobs that are better left to the men. I'm sorry, but serving on a sub is one of them.
The change on the sub would be dramatic. These sailors are a different bread. They have found things to do to amuse themselves while on long underways. It doesn't matter whether we approve of it or not. They get the job done. I have seen women in the Navy bring sexual discrimination charges for some trivial things. If a women was on a sub they would be raising the red flag every minute. It would cause more difficulties than its worth.
I am an engineer and all for equal rights for women. In addition I am as strong as an ox and can outrun my son. However, retrofitting the submarine fleet for women, would be a complete change in a submariners life and result in reduced efficiency. The expense in the name of equal opportunity is too much for the military to bear.

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