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First 4 Enlisted Females Begin Submarine School Today, Ahead Of USS Michigan Assignment

USS Michigan (SSGN-727) in Guam in 2012. The boat will be the first US submarine with female enlisted sailors by 2016. US Navy Photo

USS Michigan (SSGN-727) in Guam in 2012. The boat will be the first US submarine with female enlisted sailors by 2016. US Navy Photo

The first four of 38 enlisted women selected to serve on guided missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN-727) will begin their training at the Basic Enlisted Submarine School in Connecticut today, the next step in removing one of the last gender barriers in the Navy.

The Navy selected four chief petty officers and 34 petty officers in June who would enter training and, if successful, would next year become the first enlisted women to serve on a submarine. About 50 female officers serve on submarines now after the Navy’s male-only policy change in 2010.

According to a news report in The (New London) Day, these four women are in the Submarine Electronics Communications Field and will go through school with 75 male sailors. The women will then go to technical training at “A” schools and “C” schools where applicable, before being incorporated into the Blue and Gold crews of Michigan in 2016. Enlisted women will begin serving aboard new Virginia-class nuclear attack subs starting in 2020, the Navy announced in January.

The sub school in Groton, Conn., lasts eight weeks, with new classes starting every other week, The Day reported. Capt. David Roberts, the commanding officer of the Submarine Learning Center, told the newspaper that only the first four women would start this week but that more would begin attending sub school within the next month or two.

To prepare for female students, the sub school in had to update the barracks to meet Navy privacy standards, as well as bring in female senior enlisted sailors to serve as mentors, The Day reported. The first female sailors will serve aboard the larger Ohio-class boats as-is, but new Virginia-class subs may be built with mixed-gender crews in mind, The Day reported.

Sub builder General Dynamics Electric Boat told the newspaper that several options are being considered, such as installing doors instead of curtains in the bunk rooms, rearranging chief petty officer quarters to allow for two private bunk areas, and lengthening toilet stall doors.