The attack submarines Minnesota, left, and Virginia will be the first Virginia-class boats with female officers, the Navy announced Tuesday. (Navy photos)
The Navy’s top civilian named the first two attack submarines Tuesday to receive female officers as the fleet moves forward with integrating the last all-male swath of the silent service.
Attack subs Virginia and Minnesota will be the first integrated attack boats when female officers report aboard by January 2015, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a Tuesday news release. Two more yet-to-be-named Virginia-class subs based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, will receive female officers in a second wave, set to arrive sometime in fiscal 2016, the sub fleet’s boss said in the release.
“Since Virginia and Minnesota are both Atlantic Fleet submarines homeported in Groton, Conn., I intend to select two Pacific Fleet submarines homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, early next year,” Vice Adm. Michael Connor, the head of Submarine Forces, said in the release.
Each attack boat crew will get two nuclear-trained officers and a female supply lieutenant, there to serve as a mentor.
The naming of the submarines is the latest development in the steady integration of the undersea force and marks progress on one of Mabus’ top priorities — boosting the number of opportunities women have to serve by opening up branches closed to them. So far, 43 women have joined the submarine force, the last of the Navy’s large communities to integrate, and are serving aboard six guided- and ballistic-missile subs, according to the release.
“Female officers serving aboard Virginia-class submarines is the next natural step to more fully integrate women into the submarine force,” Mabus said in the release.
Virginia-class boats are newer and roomier than Los Angeles-class attack subs. Each berthing compartment has an associated head, so a crew member doesn’t need to squeeze down a tight passageway to and from the shower. With these advantages, Virginias are seen as good venues to begin the next phase of the historic effort: Bringing aboard female enlisted.
While top Navy leaders have said this is an eventual goal, it was not mentioned in Tuesday’s announcement and no timetable for it has been released.
Many of the Navy’s first female submariners have earned their dolphins, and some of them have expressed an interest in serving aboard attack boats to broaden their experience, as their male counterparts do. However, the release said the first women to hit the attack-boat fleet will be coming straight out of the training pipeline for new officers.