First four of enlisted women tapped for silent service start sub school Monday

Groton — The first four of the 38 enlisted women tapped to serve in the silent service will start their training at Basic Enlisted Submarine School on Monday.

The women, who are in the Submarine Electronics Communications Field, will be in a class of 79 students, composed mostly of men. 

At the end of June, the Navy released the names of the first cadre of enlisted women who will start serving in the submarine service in 2016.

The female sailors will fill four chief petty officer positions and 34 positions from petty officer first class and below, across the blue and gold crews of the USS Michigan, an Ohio-class guided missile submarine homeported in Bangor, Wash. The Navy began recruiting the women in January.

To prepare for the arrival of the women, sub school officials updated the Groton barracks to meet the Navy's privacy standards, according to Capt. David Roberts, the commanding officer of the Submarine Learning Center.

Senior enlisted female sailors are also reporting to sub school to serve as mentors for the young female sailors, Roberts said.

After completing boot camp, sub school is the starting point for every sailor entering the submarine force who does not have prior nuclear training.

Sub school is eight weeks long and features an academic portion, involving basic submarine systems, for example, skills training, and general military training. 

Class sizes can be as large as 92 students, with a new class starting every two weeks. Within the next month or two, Roberts said, additional groups of women will start their training.

The dropout rate at sub school is around 10 to 15 percent, according to Roberts, who added that generally the reasons for dropping out are not academic but are related to performance or conduct.

He said there are occasional dropouts due to sailors not meeting medical or physical requirements.

The SECF Apprentice training pipeline at 18 weeks is longer than other specialties because of the technical nature of the work.

It covers basic computer and electronic training and fire control systems, trigonometry and pre-calculus, AC/DC circuits, and basic power supplies, among other topics.

After sub school, the women will continue training for their specific rating, as do the men.

The selection of the first cadre of enlisted women represents the latest milestone in the Navy's larger plan to integrate women into the submarine force. Women officers began reporting to submarines in late 2011.

This month, the Navy opened up the second round of selections of enlisted women to serve on submarines. The service is accepting conversion applications for ranks E-1 through E-8.

According to the Navy Times, 113 women applied for the first round. Of those, 108 were determined to be qualified. 

The 70 women who were selected as alternates are automatically included in the pool for the second round, unless they chose not to be.

The second round of women selected will be assigned to the USS Florida, an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine homeported in Kings Bay, Ga.

Electric Boat has been working with the Navy on design modifications for mixed-gender crews on Virginia-class submarines, according to Tim Boulay, director of communications at EB.

Females are expected to arrive aboard Virginia-class attack submarines in 2020.

"The goal is to maximize flexibility while maintaining a high level of privacy in living areas," Boulay said by email. He listed possible options, "still in the design stage only," as:

  • Installing doors in place of curtains in bunk rooms;
  • Lengthening doors for water closets, with segregated shower spaces;
  • Adding a second shower in one lavatory space, to allow for two separate lavatories, each with a water closet, sink and shower; and
  • Rearranging chief petty officer quarters to allow for two private bunk areas. 

j.bergman@theday.com

Twitter: @JuliaSBergman

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