Women on Submarines

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by SubSquid, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. SubSquid

    SubSquid Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    0
    I thought this article would gin up a lot of conversation. Having served on boats for a lot of years, I can say with authority that this is the worst idea ever. ADM Roughhead: Take your new SecNav with you on a couple of attack boat deployments and then come back and say, with a straight face, that this is still a good idea.

    Navy Set to Crew Subs with Female Sailors

    September 25, 2009
    Military.com|by Christian Lowe


    [​IMG]
    Breaking with a tradition that spans more than half a century, the Navy is in the final planning stages to integrate female Sailors into its submarine fleet.
    Long considered one of the most elite communities in the U.S. Navy, the small, secretive force has been comprised entirely of male officers and crew in large part because of the small living spaces and long endurance missions.
    The service had examined assigning a small number of females on subs over the last ten years, but found the tight confines and lack of a well-defined career path for female submariners too daunting to change.
    Until now.
    "Having commanded a mixed gender surface combatant, I am very comfortable addressing integrating women into the submarine force," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead in a statement to Military.com. "I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews."
    "This has had and will continue to have my personal attention as we work toward increasing the diversity of our Navy afloat and ashore," he added.
    According to a senior commander in the Navy's submarine fleet who spoke to Military.com on condition of anonymity, incoming Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has charged the service with overcoming past objections and assigning females to subs -- breaking down one of the last barriers in the service to female assignments.
    "We have now received a signal from the secretary of the Navy that he's ready to move out on this. We have never had that signal before," the senior sub commander said. "So now it's time to do some detailed planning to ensure that this is executable."
    Poll: Should female Sailors be on subs?
    The official said the submarine fleet would likely not see female crewmembers for at least two years, but he said it was a change whose time had come.
    "There is no job on a submarine that a woman can't do," the official said during a Sept. 25 phone interview. "We have a vast pool of very talented young women out there who want to serve on submarines."
    The official agreed to speak with Military.com after reports indicated that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman -- and former Chief of Naval Operations -- Adm. Mike Mullen told lawmakers he was pushing the service to lift the ban on women in the so-called "silent service."
    One of the biggest obstacles to the integration is technical -- how can the Navy make accommodations on such small vessels for female crew, such as separate heads and bunks? The official said integrating females into the ballistic missile submarine fleet would be less of a challenge than on the attack sub fleet, where he said "we really don't have much room to store the toilet paper much less make up a new bathroom" for female crew.
    It's likely that the first female submariners will be officers and that they will be assigned to the larger, ballistic missile submarines, or "boomers." The officer accommodations on subs include two- and three-man staterooms and a shared head that could easily be made unisex, the official said.
    "The plan for officers involves no physical changes to the ships," the official said, adding that rough estimates of changes for enlisted crew on ballistic missile subs and cruise missile subs run below $10 million per ship.
    The official estimates assigning as many as five female officers per sub.
    With the enlisted cadre, it's a much more difficult proposition. Not only is there the amount of physical space to consider, but also the career paths and non-commissioned officer leadership to build, the official said.
    Navy officials agree that females must be at least 20 percent of the sub's crew -- meaning 20 women on an attack sub, for example -- so that the women don't feel isolated and have "mutual support" from Sailors of the same gender.
    Sub fleet leaders also want to make sure there are enough qualified chief petty officers to lead and mentor those female crewmembers.
    "Eventually [the Navy] will need to retain enough of the women coming in so that they can eventually provide that leadership," the Navy official said. "We need to have a program and a plan in place that is self-sustaining [and] not always dependent on the surface fleet to get petty officers and officers."
    But perhaps the biggest challenge to integrating women into the submarine fleet is cultural.
    For decades a male-dominated community whose long-endurance missions and distance from logistical support make living and working on a submarine a sometimes dirty job with little privacy (attack submarine crew share bunks when not on duty), the idea of placing women in such close confines worries both veteran submariners and spouses who fear distraction from the job or infidelity.
    "The idea is likely to be unpopular with some traditionalist submariners, who long have believed that the lack of any physical and mental privacy whatsoever and the claustrophobic confines make the idea unworkable," said Joe Buff, a noted expert on submarine warfare, novelist, and Military.com contributor.
    "Some wives of submariners have also expressed concern over fraternization, which has at times been an issue in the surface Navy and on diesel subs of other nations that have had co-ed crews."
    No matter the rumblings within the fleet and from vets and spouses, SecNav Mabus told Military.com in a statement his service is "moving out aggressively on this."
    "I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines," he added.
     
  2. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,511
    Likes Received:
    461
    Out of curiosity, why do you think this is the "worst idea ever?" Is it the close quarters and lack of privacy? The fact that women of child-bearing years will be so close to a nuclear reactor in closed quarters for long periods? Something else?
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005
    I'm fine with it. It's going to happen.
     
  4. Pima

    Pima Parent

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2007
    Messages:
    12,809
    Likes Received:
    956
    I would think that since most subs are already fitted in a tight way, that it makes it difficult to retro-fit, for maybe 1 or 2 women. If they allow women on it would be officer and enlisted, how do you hot bunk enlisted women with the men. Also, let's take the blinders off and admit that sexual relationships may occur, so what happens if she does get pregnant, that means re-surfacing and dropping her off at the next port.

    Kind of curious, if they will re-jig the showers or just decide women take it between x and x hours. As they stated it is a little difficult to find the room.

    Not saying they shouldn't do it, just saying that I think there are logistical issues that this makes it a bad dream, not a nightmare, but still not the easiest thing.

    I keep thinking of that 1960's movie with Cary Grant and the sub got painted pink during WWII...can't remember the name though.

    I wonder, the % of women who want to do this. This kind of reminds me of when they allowed females to fly combat jets, there was a lot of hooplah, but in the end it wasn't a real big deal.
     
  5. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5
    Of course it will. None of the "old boys clubs" that exist or existed in the military will remain all male anymore, opening up all of the positions to women is a logical progression.

    Operation Petticoat (1959).
     
  6. Pima

    Pima Parent

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2007
    Messages:
    12,809
    Likes Received:
    956
    Thanks, I knew petticoat was in it, but all I could think of was the tv show petticoat junction...shows my age:frown:
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005


    Berthing is an issue on some Coast Guard cutters. In general, if it was an issue, it basically boiled down to, receive an even number of female officers to occupy entire staterooms or higher ranking female officers that occupy their own stateroom.

    With three enlisted berthing areas (excluding Chief's berthing and PO1 berthing), women would not "bunk" with males. This meant....no females on those vessels (with the exceptions I listed above).
     
  8. Pima

    Pima Parent

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2007
    Messages:
    12,809
    Likes Received:
    956
    Tpg is there a third choice?:shake:

    LITS here's the problem you can't have women officers come in a high rank, because that will upset the system...i.e. wait a minute our 2nd in command has never been on a sub? That causes bad morale. Thus, they need to make sure they have enough females to occupy a shared quarters. I might be wrong, but I believe there are not many officers on a sub, which then brings us to another issue, will they bunk female officers with enlisted to address the problem?

    All I can figure out is we have female subs and male subs :scratch: Now as a woman I would never want to be on a sub with 100+ females under the arctic :eek: ...not enough chocolate and wine in the world exists for me to put myself through that!
     
  9. Kero

    Kero Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    238
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you mix female enlisted and officers in the same staterooms then you get another frat problem not to mention the male sailors that are hot bunking while the female enlisted have a stateroom. Plus no one has mentioned frigates which still do not allow female enlisted.

    Really I think it comes down to American's need to get over this cultural shyness about gender differences. I really feel that eventually everything should just be integrated and I mean "EVERYTHING". Having all unisex facillities would simplify a lot of logistics, not to say there wouldn't be a lot of problems for a couple years but I think eventually we would actually be better off.
     
  10. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,511
    Likes Received:
    461
    On my 1/C cruise, another female mid and I were the only females on a destroyer. We managed. We had our own stateroom. When we needed to use the shower/head, we put a sign on the door that said "women inside" and moved as quickly as we could. It wasn't an issue for us.

    In fairness, we were only at sea for 2 wks, not 6 mos. However, it can work if the women try to make it work and the guys don't go ballistic.

    As for the sexual tension issues . . . if men want to cheat on their wives/girlfriends (or women want to cheat on their partners), they're going to do it somehow, somewhere Yeah, being deployed together may exacerbate the issue but, IMO, you're either faithful or you aren't.

    When I was assigned to a squadron, I was the only female officer. For two 6 month periods, I was the only woman in the BOQ along with 65 males. Nothing happened b/c I wouldn't allow anything to happen. I made sure I did nothing to even suggest an appearance of impropriety. That didn't stop some wives from gossiping . . .

    The only legit reasons I see in not allowing women on subs are the ones I raised: (1) it's too expensive/complex to reconfigure berthing or bathroom spaces and/or (2) there are issues of women being so close to reactors. The argument that it's always been that way and the like is not persuasive. If it were, Blacks/African Americans would still be sitting in the back of the bus and women wouldn't be able to vote.
     
  11. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    2
     
  12. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,511
    Likes Received:
    461
    ^^^^

    As a woman I have to agree with you at a certain level. I think the reason you won't see females as SEALs for awhile at least is that, while some women could handle it physically, the number who could is probably very, very small and thus it isn't worth the effort to bring in a bunch of women when <1% would make it. At least that's my guess.

    However, remember that this was the argument used to keep women out of jets -- they couldn't handle the G forces, etc. Those theories ultimately were proven false. Also, the nature of flying jets changed and less physical strength was involved.

    It is possible that, over time, the nature of SEAL warfare will change and it may, at some point, become less "physical." Not today, but perhaps in the next few decades.
     
  13. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005
    Also, if you look at a SEAL, in general, while EXTREMELY fit, are not huge monsters. The idea of some giant beast SEAL doesn't match up with the realities of SEALS I have seen, and certainly doesn't match up with one of my classmates who's going through the training right now.
     
  14. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    2,241
    Likes Received:
    275
    Well, the SEAL may only weigh 180, but the SEAL plus gear...
    300lbs is probably not far off
     
  15. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,511
    Likes Received:
    461
    However, in the future, required gear may be lighter or there may be improvements that mean less gear is required. Who knows?
     
  16. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2007
    Messages:
    2,868
    Likes Received:
    237
    Daughter did Boomer out of NSB King's Bay this summer. She thought it was a great evolution. Loved diving the Boat at the wheel. They were told that Women will be considered for SUB deployment in the future. When? Who knows? They used restricted heads and showers during certain hours while under way. Don't know how that would work on a long deployment. GI Jane was such a joke almost as bad as Annapolis.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  17. gunner1zeus

    gunner1zeus Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2009
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    0
    women on subs: WHY

    Is there a shortage of qualified male sailors? NO

    Will having female sailors on-board a sub make it more effective? NO.

    If something isn't broken don't fix it.
    change just for changes sake is not good
    PIMA has a good idea of an all woman crew, you could have a blue team a gold team and say a white team but no coed team
    a stressful job (bubblehead) does not need more stress added to it.
    The above statements are my views and opinions and should not be taken as facts.:cool:
     
  18. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,826
    Likes Received:
    2
    Interesting and thought provoking gunner -
    Your questions could have been posed this way a few decades back:

    black men on subs: WHY
    Is there a shortage of qualified white sailors? NO

    Will having black sailors on-board a sub make it more effective? NO
    If something isn't broken don't fix it.
    change just for changes sake is not good
     
  19. Maximus

    Maximus Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,484
    Likes Received:
    0
    I thinks it's a waste of resources to become politically correct. USNA85 mentioned in a post above how it was no imposition for her when she was one of only two females on a ship but, I'm sure it was an imposition for male Sailors waiting for a whole head to open back up because of two females. Can this be fixed? Sure but again, why and at what cost?

    I've been on (visit with an NJROTC Unit) a Boomer and a Frigate and I just don't see how it's fair to give females a Stateroom when issues like hot racking will cause tensions.

    BTW, to make this a race or gender issue is a cop out and just ridiculous.
     
  20. SubSquid

    SubSquid Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay! Well done to all. Now let’s add some reality and truth into the discussion.


    The article is wrong in that it said that the Sub Force has been around for over a half century. Truth: The Submarine Force will celebrate its 110th birthday on April 11th, 2010. Seems to be more than a century.


    Reactor Exposure: Good thought USNA1985 but the Nuclear Power School has been training female officers for a number of years now. The total ionizing radiation exposure for a three month deployment on a SSB(N) (ballistic missile sub) is about as much as you would receive spending a sunny day at the beach. Most of your high exposure was from actual maintenance time within the Reactor compartment during shutdown periods in port. Even though women have been training at NPS and are also doing prototype training, nearly all of the trained females are assigned to non engineering billets on Nuc carriers. (Anecdotal evidence from a MMC(M) who ended his 30 at NPS). Excessive ionizing radiation exposure is just as harmful to males as it is to females. I have plenty of lead skivvies jokes if you want to hear them! And no, I don’t glow in the dark (anymore)!


    Career Path: Another issue that was raised in article and it is very pertinent. With very few exceptions(Supply Officer, and Weps Gunner or LDOs), all officers on subs are required to be Nuclear trained. Every officer begins their career by first qualifying as EOOW (Engineering Officer of the Watch)and assuming command of an engineering division. Ensigns and junior JG’s usually command ‘E’ (Electrical) or’ RC’ (Reactor Control) Divisions. More senior JG’s and Lt’s command ‘M’ (Mechanical) Divisions. Only after they have successfully completed their engineering qualifications do they begin their sub and command quals for the rest of the boat. Senior officers have completed all of this, completed Engineer’s school, XO’s School and Command School. Women would have to start at the beginning of the career ladder. To my knowledge, there are none qualified for senior officer assignment. Enlisted progression is basically the same: Watch station quals appropriate to rating and then ships quals. I’m sure you are all aware of submarine qualifications. While it is different now that it was back in the diesel boat days, every qualified submariner has been extensively exposed to all of the operations aboard the boat. Because I spent a number of years on the boats, I was qualified for senior watch in engineering, including EOOW but also spent a lot of time with the forward pukes to the point that I could successfully stand several forward watches. The cross training on subs is encouraged and builds that special respect and trust with the whole crew.


    Logistics: These are descriptions of the physical realities that exist on subs. Specifically a ballistic sub; one of the original “41 for Freedom”. Ohio Class boomers are a little more crew friendly but the accommodations on attack boats (688’s, 688 Adcaps, Virginia and Sea Wolf classes) are much worse. Subs are $3 billion weapon systems that are designed with the technology and systems first and crew accommodations last. Berthing: Ballistics boats have one main crew berthing. It is situated on the lower level, two decks under the Conn. There are racks for about 75 to 80 sailors. Each rack is 76” long, 36” wide, and about 28” from the top of your rack to the bottom of the next. They are stacked either three of four high and a third run in the port and starboard sides and the other third run midships. The Goat Locker (CPO berthing) is mid deck, port side, opposite the mess deck (close to the coffee machine). It contained 12-15 racks. Junior officers (including LCDR department heads) are forward of the mess deck, port side, opposite the Wardroom. There are four staterooms with three racks each. The staterooms are about the size of a closet. The Skipper and XO have adjoining state rooms, just forward of the Conn, with a shared shower/head. Boomers also had 6-9 racks in the missile middle level for the MT’s and a small, 4 man berthing area in the torpedo room. The heads for the crew consisted of three telephone booth sized showers, three crappers, and four sinks. The Goat Locker had two showers, two crappers, and two sinks. The officers shared one shower, one crapper and two sinks. Skipper and XO had one of each. Boomers also had a head in machinery room 2 upper level that was an all in one and whose primary purpose was for decontamination. The heads on subs are very sensitive to proper operation. Above every craper is a sign that, in part, reads, “If it hasn’t been eaten first, it doesn’t belong in here”. The sanitary tank is a tank that is designed to be pressurized and “blown” overboard through a 3”, hydraulically operated ball valve. If anything plugs or jambs that valve, your heads are shut down and your ship’s ability to make mission has been dramatically altered. Any guesses what could plug or jam that critical valve on a mixed gender crew? Yeah, it’s happened on family cruises and it takes a million buck trip to the floating dry dock for repair.


    While I’m sure that accommodations could be made for female crew, the rest of the crew would become less than equal and would have to sacrifice even more than they do as a submariner. Perhaps on Ohio Class boats, especially those that are reconfigured for SpecOps or the reconfigured Guided Missile boomer, accommodations for mixed gender could be accomplished but other concerns are still very real.


    Culture: While I’m certain that LUIGI59 sincerely believes that all we are, as submariners, the “good ole boys”, the truth is that a sub crew is unique in its size, devotion, skill and focus. Stress levels are as high on a sub as they are for a forward deployed Marine combat unit. We complete our missions in a totally alien environment (hundreds of feet under water, moving at high speeds, and without being able to “see” where you are going) either hiding from the bad guys (SDP) or searching out the bad guys (Attack boat). Every crew member, from the Skipper to the E-2 mess crank, is tasked with specific responsibilities that are critical for the success of the mission, every minute of every day, during the deployment. Imagine 130 sailors, in a testosterone rich environment, in a situation that demands total focus and devotion to duty for extended periods, never getting into a fight or any kind of dust up. Very true. It is a crew that mutually respects each other, understands the mutual mission, and shares the hard work and deprivation of an extended deployment. Somehow, no matter how altruistic I want to be, I can’t see that crew function in the same way with women on board for many of the reasons already stated. Yes, I’m sure that we have well qualified women in the Navy that could perform the tasks, but I don’t think that the crew could function with nearly as much focus and devotion with the addition of the restrictions and distractions that females would naturally bring to this operational environment.


    Sorry JAM, you’re not apples to apples. We have black crewmen. Never been an issue. Totally different dynamic with women.


    Gunner1zues-Dittos-If it ain’t broke…


    Maximus-Agree. When every branch is trying to squeeze the maximum bang for an ever decreasing allocation dollar, why waste money on a social experiment?


    Okay, my fingers are burned out and your eyes are bleeding! NEXT!
     

Share This Page