Groton — The first two attack submarines that women will serve on are local boats.
Female officers will arrive at the Naval Submarine Base by January 2015 and join the crews of the USS Virginia (SSN 774) and the USS Minnesota (SSN 783), Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Tuesday. Women have served on ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines since the Navy lifted its ban in 2010.
“Female officers serving aboard Virginia-class submarines is the next natural step to more fully integrate women into the submarine force,” Mabus said in a 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. Our Navy has proven over the years that one of our greatest advantages is our diversity. This is an advantage we should capitalize on across all platforms, including submarines.”
The Navy plans to assign three female officers to each submarine: a supply corps officer who will act as a mentor and two nuclear-trained officers. The same model was used to integrate women on the other classes of submarines.
The six officers will be selected about a year from now, out of the group of women who are in training.
The submarines were chosen based on their operational and maintenance schedules, according to the submarine force. The Virginia is the first in the class. The Minnesota, which was commissioned Sept. 7 as the Navy’s 10th Virginia-class attack submarine, is the newest.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Tuesday’s announcement reflects the outstanding performance of the female submariners who are serving on submarines and training to do so.
“Further integrating women into our submarine force is a welcome step forward and will ensure that the Navy can continue to maximize the skill and talent of all those seeking to serve our country,” he said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he is “always pleased to see the submarine base at Groton leading the way in improving our submarine force.
“The women who break this barrier in January 2015 will have earned the right by distinguishing themselves alongside their male counterparts, and I look forward to congratulating them in person when the proud day arrives,” he said in a statement.
The Navy announced in January that female officers will begin reporting to attack submarines in fiscal year 2015, and, as the next step, enlisted women will be considered for sub duty.
Rear Adm. Kenneth M. Perry, the commander of Submarine Group Two, is leading the 60-person task force charged with figuring out how to bring enlisted women aboard submarines.
Since the Navy officially changed its policy, 43 women have begun serving on six ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines: the USS Florida, USS Georgia and USS Wyoming in Kings Bay, Ga., and the USS Ohio, USS Louisiana and USS Maine in Bangor, Wash.
The Navy’s goal is to bring about 30 female officers aboard submarines each year.
The Navy plans to assign women to four Virginia-class submarines at first, with the next two selected in fiscal 2016, said Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander of the submarine force.
“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,” Connor said in a statement.
The Virginia-class submarines do not need to be modified to accommodate the female officers, said Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, spokeswoman for the submarine force. The three women on each submarine will share a stateroom, and a sign will be placed on the bathroom door to indicate whether it is being used by a female or male, she added.
The officers will arrive in Groton after finishing their nuclear submarine training, which consists of nuclear power school, prototype training and the Submarine Officer Basic Course at the Naval Submarine School.