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USS John Warner to be first Norfolk-based submarine with women on the crew

Sailors man the rails at the commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 1, 2015.

U.S. NAVY

By BROCK VERGAKIS | The Virginian-Pilot (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 17, 2017

ABOARD USS JOHN WARNER — Women have served on submarines since 2011, but none have done so in Norfolk.

The Navy says that will change next summer when the USS John Warner welcomes its first female crew members: a slate of three officers.

Navy officials say having women serve on submarines in Norfolk will greatly expand the talent pool and allow more sailors with spouses in the Navy to serve in the same geographic area. Virginia-class submarines like John Warner typically carry 15 officers and about 117 enlisted sailors.

Cmdr. Burt Canfield, the John Warner’s skipper, says that while adding women will obviously be a change, he doesn’t expect the integration to be a big deal for his crew.

“Most guys – 99.99 percent – they just want to get the work done,” Canfield said. “There’s more than enough work to go around. And if you waste your time doing stupid stuff, it just makes it harder to get your work done.

“At its most fundamental, if you can’t be professional, if you can’t achieve excellence, then you’re just going to suffer – and you should suffer.”

Female officers already serve aboard 11 submarines in four other ports, including some ballistic-missile submarines with two crews each that rotate between deployments.

Canfield noted that when men aboard the USS Wyoming secretly recorded women changing clothes, they were swiftly punished. That problem isn’t unique to submarines, and sailors have been charged by the Navy with similar offenses aboard other types of ships, as well.

This past year the USS Michigan in Bangor, Wash., became the first submarine to integrate enlisted women into its crew, and the Navy is recruiting more women to serve on ballistic missile subs like it. The first enlisted women are expected to report aboard Virginia-class attack subs like the John Warner after 2020.

The John Warner already has addressed one of the most significant issues for accommodating women, and it took only a sheet of paper, some laminate and Velcro.

All officers aboard the John Warner share the same bathroom, which includes one shower, one toilet and one sink. An easily reversible sign hangs outside the bathroom to indicate whether a woman or a man is inside.

The sign got some use this past week when a female judge advocate general, public affairs officer and reporter rode on the John Warner for a brief underway assignment traveling from Naval Station Norfolk to Groton, Conn.

The Navy says there were no infrastructure changes needed to accommodate female officers on any of its classes of submarines.

For enlisted women, modifications will be made to Ohio-class ballistic-missile and Virginia-class attack submarines during scheduled maintenance downtime. That will include a dedicated living space and bathroom facility solely for women with the rank of E-6 and below, and a toilet and shower facility within the quarters for chief petty officers.

Beginning with the future USS New Jersey now undergoing construction, all Virginia-class and Columbia-class ballistic submarines are being designed and built to be gender-neutral.

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©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

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