Reporting for duty

It's official, women are now reporting for service on U.S. Navy submarines.

Nineteen months after the Navy announced it would be integrating women into the Submarine Force, the first 19 female officers graduated from their final training course last week in ceremonies at the Naval Submarine School in Groton.

Some of the new female submarine officers are reporting to duty this week. They will be the trailblazers on an exciting new journey fully integrating women into the submarine service.

"It's no big deal," Lt. Kelly Chufo, 35, of Brighton, Mich. told Day reporter Jennifer McDermott, about being in that historic first class. Her training was tough but fair, she said, adding, "There's no difference between genders."

While we agree with the latter part of Lt. Chufo's comments, we disagree that integrating women onto submarines is no big deal.

It is. This change now opens a door to the more than 50,000 female officers and sailors - about 15 percent of active-duty Navy personnel.

As Navy brass has noted in the past, it would be a mistake to forgo the talent that female sailors and officers can bring to the submarine service. The first 19 who completed training last week won the admiration of the 73 males in their class for performing all duties and meeting expectations as equals, or in some cases, even better.

Initially women will be limited to serving on the larger ballistic-missle and guided-missle submarines, which are homeported in Kings Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Wash., because they can provide for better privacy in berthing and head facilities.

The fast-attack boats that are homeported in Groton are too tight. But last winter the Navy announced plans to start work on design of women's accommodations on Virginia-class and future ballistic-missle submarines.

For 17 years women have served admirably on Navy surface combat ships, and now they will have new opportunities on submarines. This is a gender barrier that was ready to come down.

No doubt women are as capable as men, and now they have the opportunity to serve side-by-side with them.

Full speed ahead.

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