The USS Virginia and the USS Minnesota will be the first two gender-integrated fast-attack submarines, the Navy announced Tuesday.
Six women — four nuclear-trained officers and two supply corps officers — will report to the subs by January 2015, after completing the nuclear submarine training pipeline, according to the Navy.
Women are already serving aboard the ballistic missile subs the USS Wyoming, USS Louisiana and USS Maine, and the guided missile subs USS Florida, USS Georgia and USS Ohio.
The Navy in 2010 officially changed the policy that had previously prohibited women from serving aboard submarines. Since then, 43 women have been integrated into the sub force.
“Female officers serving aboard Virginia-class submarines is the next natural step to more fully integrate women into the submarine force,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a written statement. “There are many extremely talented and capable women with a desire to succeed in this field and the submarine force will be stronger because of their efforts.”
In an all-hands call last week, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert told sailors that the Navy will lay out a plan by May 2015 for integrating enlisted women into the submarine force. It is important to add female officers first, he said, so that younger sailors will have role models at sea.
“But the fact of the matter is, we’re going to do this,” he said.
Vice Adm. Michael Conner, commander of Navy submarine forces, said he plans to integrate two more fast-attack submarines in fiscal 2016. Virginia and Minnesota are both home-ported in Groton, Conn., so he said he plans to choose two Pacific Fleet submarines home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in early 2014.
In May 2012, some of the first women to serve aboard U.S. submarines said the transition was going smoothly.
“At first, the guys were a little more timid just because they hadn’t worked with females on a day-to-day basis, but after a week they warmed up and were just like brothers and sisters fighting for the bathroom, to get in in the morning,” Lt. Britta Christianson said then. “We’re all sailors, if I’m on a surface ship or a submarine.”