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Navy’s Submarine Service Wants More Women

This post has been updated to include an additional statement from the Commander, Submarine Forces staff.

The Navy’s silent service is making some noise about wanting more female enlisted sailors to earn their dolphins and serve aboard submarines, according to the chief of naval personnel.

Vice Adm. Robert Burke extended the deadline for female enlisted sailors to apply to convert to the submarine force. Applications are now being accepted through June 1, and selections from this round of applications will be part of the initial female integration of USS Georgia (SSGN-729) or to fill openings on previously integrated submarines.

The Navy is aggressively promoting itself as a career choice for women, and pushing out messaging detailing the multitude of jobs available to female sailors, Burke said last week while testifying before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.

“We’re really trying to highlight the situations that women can see themselves,” Burke said during the hearing.

Currently, 18 submarine crews include female officers, and four of these crews have female enlisted sailors. By the end of 2024, the Navy will have 21 crews with female officers, and 14 of these crews will include female enlisted sailors, Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, a SUBLANT spokeswoman, told USNI News on Wednesday. The Navy rescinded its males only on submarines policy in 2010.

Not everyone agrees with the Navy’s continuing effort to integrate women into submarine service. After the deadline extension was announced last week, several online commentators posted derogatory comments to the Commander, Submarine Forces Facebook page.

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

“So glad I am retired and not involved with this social engineering experiment,” one commenter posted.

In response, the command posted, “Integrating women aboard submarines is not a social engineering experiment and it is not something new. Women have been serving aboard submarines in other nations since 1995. The U.S. Submarine Force requires the best and the brightest America has, regardless of gender. Glad you are enjoying retirement.”

Vice Adm. Joe Tofalo, the commander of Submarine Forces, didn’t actually type the responses to Facebook, but approved the messaging posted on his behalf, Self-Kyler told USNI News.

“We feel it’s important to be a part of the conversation with our followers,” Self-Kyler said. “When we feel our policy is not understood, we do our best to inform our readers using our most current policy and perspective on the topic.”

The submarine service is extending the application deadline because there was some concern the original announcement did not provide enough time for everyone interested to apply. The submarine force has received a good response so far from interested female sailors, Self-Kyler said.

For ranks E-6 and below, submarine career fields open for conversion include: Yeoman Submarine (YNS), Culinary Specialist Submarine (CSS), Logistics Specialist Submarine (LSS), Sonar Technician Submarine (STS), Fire Control Technician (FT), Electronics Technician Submarine Navigation (ETV), Electronics Technician Submarine Communications (ETR), Information Systems Technician Submarines (ITS), Machinist’s Mate Weapons (MMW), and Machinist’s Mate Auxiliary (MMA), according to the Navy.

“It’s an operational imperative for the Navy to increase our numbers of women so we are frankly targeting them in our recruiting efforts and our messaging because that’s where the talent is,” Burke said during the hearing. “Our new ad campaigns prominently feature women. Our most recent one, has a female submariner earning her dolphin.”

  • Ed L

    Sounds good to me but I wasn’t a sub sailor

  • Scott Minium

    Great to keep moving forward with this, but there are still waaaayyyy too many sexists out there, including some COs who are not helping this effort. The only way is forward, not backward. There may be some fields where physically women will have a difficult time, but submarining is almost 100% mental, so no ‘lifting’ limits are involved. Medical-solved, privacy-solved, sexism-mostly solved. Keep up the great work!

  • DaSaint

    At one time it was minorities who were excluded. Now they’re not. That has worked fine, as it should.

    Women were excluded. Now they’re not. Just today, heard about that great Southwest pilot who brought that 737 back safely, despite the unfortunate loss of 1 passenger. She’s a former Naval aviator, F/A-18 to be exact. And at one point women weren’t allowed to fly them. And I’m sure there was much noise from many former servicemen.

    Progress is good. It’s difficult, but in the long run, it’s good.

    • Rocco

      Agreed! Kudos to the pilot! I just watched it on the news today. Her friend that served with her also female praised her. BTW are you a woman?

      • DaSaint

        ROFL! Rocco, that is the funniest question I’ve been asked in my 50+ years, but understandable considering this is an online forum. Nope, I’m 100% male.

        • Rocco

          Lol just checking.

          • DaSaint

            No prob!!

      • 02144pomroy

        I can see it now…..USS AMAZON.

        • Rocco

          Don’t make me gag!!😝

        • Scott Ferguson

          There was already an HMS Amazon. 😉

    • Jane Fughs

      Prior to President Truman’s order to desegregate the services the navy had strict rules which prohibited integrated facilities and bunking. That is why blacks could not serve on subs during WW2, it was not that there were no open positions for them, it was just that the subs could not afford the space for two separate bunks and lavatories. When the integration order came in 1948, nothing changed except for the fact that blacks would not be on subs, i.e. the facilities and bunks become racially mixed, no changes needed. Is that the case for gender integration? Today, certain valves are being loosened to accommodate females turning them. Was that needed in 1948. Again, racial integration needed no changes, gender integration, total redo.

      • DaSaint

        Rules and biases are often harder to change than physical structures.

        • Jane Fughs

          Yes but what I was saying is that racial integration was not the same as gender integration. The 1948 racial integration required no changes to subs except for their acceptance policies. The gender integration requires logistical changes. If they are the same, which people claim, then why need structural changes. In 1948 bathrooms were racially segregated in half the country. While the naval facility in Norfolk, VA did not segregate berthing and lavatories after 1948, if sailors went off base they had to comply with State law so if a white sailor and black sailor took went on leave together they could not eat in the same bar, use the same bathrooms, or stay in the same hotel. So if you claim gender is the same, you don’t need to have separate berthing or lavatories.

          • FooBar

            That’s a weird claim. First off, there ARE integrated sub forces that just have women and men use the same birthing and heads. Secondly, there are women CURRENTLY on VA’s and boomers. They are doing just fine. The navy has decided to make modifications to subs but so what? That is a choice the Navy made but it wasn’t made because it was required for women to serve on a sub. You have this really weird fixation that it’s somehow a big deal but it really isn’t.

      • Bafford Lewellen

        Actually, the Navy [but not the sub service] had already begun to racially integrate with black sailors included among replacements. There is a memo from Claude Swanson to FDR talking about how this process had created no problems. FDR, as a northerner, decided to start the process on the sly. Truman, as a southernor, did not have the same political concerns.

        • Jane Fughs

          My point was that people were saying that racial and gender integration were the same, both with their initial segregation and then integration. My point is they are totally different. No expenses and modifications were introduced for racial integration as opposed to hundreds of thousands of dollars, per sub, for gender integration plus the expense of separate bathroom time.

          Actually Truman should have thought about the ramifications. It was his executive order on military integration that prompted South Carolina Democratic Senator Storm Thurmond to run for President as a Dixiecrat. While Thurmond knew he could not win, his goal was to win enough electoral votes to deny the two main candidates a majority (then 268) which will then force the House (per the Constitution) to vote for the President amongst the top three, Truman, Dewey, and Thurmond. While the Democrats controlled the House, Thurmond’s plan was to tell the Democrats from the South (about 1/3 of the Democrats in the House) to vote for the Republican Dewey, giving him the election, if Truman did not rescind that and other Civil Rights laws. His plan failed when Truman won the electoral college. That was the same tactic done 20 years later by the former Democratic governor of Alabama, George Wallace. He failed too when Nixon received the majority.

  • NukeItFromOrbit

    Space is at a premium on a sub, far more so than on a surface ship. So I ask what gets cut in order to put in female restrooms? Those other navies “since 1995” are but a small fraction of the US Navy, why should we be following their lead? Those other navies can’t even meet their NATO target defense spending percentages.

    • Rocco

      Nothing! female quarters will be in their birthing area & off limits to men.

      • Duane

        Did you actually write “birthing area”? LOL!

        Apparently you’ve never been in a submarine. The SSNs are, or at least were, designed with a single main crews berth (in the 637s I served on, that was the bow compartment) an auxiliary berth perhaps (on the 637s it was the “six man berth”), and a chief’s berth otherwise known as the “goat locker”, and an officers berth. Then on spec ops when the SSNs carry a lot of spooks, the torpedo room also served as berthing space, and the junior sailors might even have to hot rack. For sailors berthing in the torpedo room, there is zero privacy.

        The older boats like mine had only a single crew’s head with shower and head. The chiefs had one head in the goat locker, and the officers had one in officer country, while the captain had one in his cabin. Plus one urinal back in the engineering spaces.

        No possible physical separation of the sexes was available on the old boats … perhaps the larger Virginia boats are more accommodating today.

        Bottom line, to put both sexes on a submarine requires some kind of physical redesign of berthing spaces, as well as heads.

        • Rocco

          Yes I have! Ones that are museum’s. Auto correct did that! FYI new subs have been already set up for females!

          • D. Jones

            What about gender-neutral heads?

          • Bafford Lewellen

            Just like home.
            No big deal.

        • FooBar

          Women have riding subs for years now. Typically, when I’ve been on a sub, they just stuck me in a nine man (and yes, I’ve hot racked in torpedo) and I’d use the officer’s head/shower. Virginia’s and boomers currently have female officers and are getting enlisted without redesigns so having women on subs is absolutely doable. And honestly, I’m not even sure separation of sexes is even necessary.

          The only separation I’ve ever had was a sign that said “women’s head in use” and that never stopped guys from accidentally walking in. Some boats in foreign navies don’t even do that, they just do full integration. You get over the privacy thing real quick on a sub, whether you’re a woman or a man.

    • Stephen

      Tridents were built to accommodate females. ‘O’ country had separate berthing & heads w/o urinals. Even the CPO Quarters had a partition option. The ships had a Crew’s Lounge next to a Head w/o urinals; also had a berthing area that had a partition option.

      • Bafford Lewellen

        PLEASE – when referring specifically to humans, use ‘women’, not ‘females’. ‘Females’ sounds like a biology experiment.

        • Stephen

          Really? That was your takeaway? How do you respond to gender on a form? It doesn’t say; Man or Woman. Simply Male or Female. BTW, did you attempt to correct the author of the article; referring to female sailors?

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    You have to look past some cold hard realities of having men and woman in very close quarters. We all know how it has worked out in the surface fleet, we just don’t want to admit it… Truths are hard.. Feelings are not always logical..

    • Rocco

      As long as we don’t have a stand down situation a-la Crimson Tide we should be fine!

  • MDK187

    “Female Sailor” – the ultimate Hole In The Boat, if there ever was one. Well these holes ought to be plugged with the flag-ranks promoting them and the resulting duos then fired from the torpedo tubes.

    • Rocco

      Wasn’t your mom one in the Russian Navy!!

      • PolicyWonk

        LOL!

        • Rocco

          Lol notice no response!!

      • MDK187

        Couldn’t have been : no cvnts on russkie boats. You see, women in the Navy was a Soviet idea for American consumption. So when did your momma join the Communist Party?

        • Rocco

          When she cut your head off!

          • MDK187

            You mean your momma’s muslim? Oh, poor dear…

          • Rocco

            If she was my name wouldn’t be Rocco!!

          • MDK187

            And it’s just “Rocco”? Not “Muhammad Al Rocco Bin Talal Hamedi”? Or something like that…

          • Rocco

            GFYS!!!

  • Western

    OK there, Irene, sorry, we cannot let you aft because the radiation is not good for your ovaries. That is why you cannot apply to be a machinist mate nuclear or a reactor operator. So, if there is a fire or flooding back there, well, just stay here in the forward machinery space. We’ll find someone else to do it. Now, for your final sub quals, we are simulating a flooding incident. Your task is to lift me off the floor, throw me over your shoulder, and carry me up the two ladders and into the escape hatch. This is exactly how my father was saved back in 1945, so this is important. You have three minutes….go.

    • Rocco

      Stupid comments!! Jackwagon!! 1st of all in an emergency situation that’s the last thing anyone is concerned with. 2nd it would be prolonged exposure for radiation to have any effect on the female body!

      • Duane

        If you actually knew anything, you would not comment. Radiation exposure IS a special concern for females, and always has been, because radiation is more damaging to a developing fetus, as well as young children, than it is to adults. With female crew, it is impossible for naval authorities to know if a sailor is pregnant (the sailor herself won’t know until weeks or months into the pregnancy) until the sailor informs them. The first trimester is actually the most dangerous for fetal radiation exposure.

        So the DOE and NRC and NR have a special challenge dealing with female sailors who will knowingly be exposed to ionizing radiation. This is an issue in the civilian nuke world too. Except that in a civilian nuke job, if the worker reports a pregnancy, she is immediately removed from any work with radiation exposure. But on a sub at sea, on a 60 day spec op, what effect does that have on the crew and the mission?

        Note that none of the approved enlisted ratings are nukes. I wonder how that works for the female officers. Normally all sub officers are nukes except for the supply officer.

  • JohnByron

    A. You’ve come a long way … and so has my submarine force
    B. The Navy has obligation to reflect the values of the society it protects…
    C. Sexist pigs, like racists and anti-semites and other lower forms of life, have a right to free speech … and we have the right to judge them for what they are.

  • Michael Altieri

    When are they opening up the Submarine Nuke billets for enlisted women? I was a prototype instructor back in 95 when they reopened the pipeline back to women. After 23 years there should be a good dispersion of women throughout the ranks and rates. Are they having trouble finding volunteers to transition from the surface fleet? I am sure the guys would love the extra support for the watch bill.

    • Stephen

      We had female nuke instructors serving on rotating shifts in the ET, EM & MM rates. They were evaluated on the same scale as all members of the staff. At that time, we did not have any female commissioned officers. The biggest issue was where they could serve. Tender or Shore duty, that was what they had for options. Unfortunately, they were taking billets from the sea/shore rotation for submarine/surface nuke sailors.

  • James Bowen

    This is good news. There was never any good reason for women not to be on submarines.

    • Rocco

      Not true!!

      • James Bowen

        Why not? Submarine duty is almost all work that requires thinking or skilled labor, something that women are every bit as capable of performing as men.

        • Rocco

          The key word in your post was never!!! Think about it!! Today yes!!

          • James Bowen

            I think what you are getting at is pregnancy. Sure, that is a complication, but I don’t think it was ever really that big of obstacle to women being able to serve on subs.

          • Rocco

            Ah no!! ……But that is an issue on all ships especially carriers & amphibious assault ships that are large! All female personnel get pregnancy checked before deployed & during. If it is found that a female is pregnant during development she is restricted to duty & the father………..!!.
            My point was back in the day from WW- 1 & 2 especially through the cold war subs were not a place for women.
            Operation Petty coat!! Lol

          • James Bowen

            What was it about subs in World War I and World War II that made it so women couldn’t be part of the crew? I can’t think of any. The only major shortcoming that women have compared to men is upper body strength. I can see how that would be an issue in infantry, but not in submarines.

          • Rocco

            Phycological! Dude seriously! I think anyone else would would get get it but you. It was a man’s world back then!! Number 1 !! Not a place for women!!! Why I used operation Petty coat as an example!!! You probably never saw it & are too liberal to get it!!

          • James Bowen

            I have seen Operation Petticoat. The “man’s world” you speak of was an artificial construct. Women were crucial in the setting of the American West where that artificial construct was an unaffordable luxury. As I said, there has never been any real reason that women could not be on submarines.

          • Rocco

            Then you obviously are an Idiot!! Conversation over!!

          • James Bowen

            A “man’s world” or any other kind of unfounded prejudice was never was a valid reason to keep women off of submarines. Women were never incapable of submarine duty.

          • Duane

            Women were forbidden by military regulation, and/or by Federal law (until very recently) from serving in any combat roles in the military. It was the social norm in the USA and most western nations until just a few years ago.

          • James Bowen

            Yes, but it was a law and social norm for which there was no logical reason, at least in naval combat.

          • Jon Tessler

            I guess you never served with females…..newsflash….they DON’T get “pregnancy checked” before a deployment, nor are they “restricted to duty, & the father….” if it does occur. I know because I served with females onboard ships during Desert Storm, and plenty of times the female weapons type ran circles around “the big strong men”.

            Also we are 20 years past “the cold war”, and woman can do EVERY JOB, a male can do. It’s only backwards thinking men like yourself that keep holding them back.

          • Rocco

            Number one 🖕!!!! Who the F…..Do you think you are!! No I never served with women aboard ship OK !! I go 3 Carriers & 2 shore stations under my belt. The only ships women were aloud on were tugs & tenders & tankers!! Females only flew the COD!! Yeah they came aboard!! I never said a woman couldn’t do the same job???Did I!! So who the 🖕are you to make this assumption?? I completely support women . Especially the woman who saved the 737! If you could F..In read I mentioned this here. It’s only backwards men like you think that men like me who paved the way so don’t ASES like you make false accusations!!! Have a good day!!
            Oh by the way…. Newsflash!!! Yes they do get checked!!! And I saw a documentary on The military channel about the Carl Vinson & it was mentioned that females get checked!! Though this may have changed I don’t know.

          • Rocco

            No response!!!

    • Michael D. Woods

      I think there was good reason when subs were tiny and cramped and there was no space for separation. Maybe things have changed. Or maybe not…

  • Duane

    You sound like Donald Trump, declaring that you alone know more about defense than all the generals and admirals.

    You quite obviously know nothing about submarines, nuke power plant operations, or the Federal laws and regulations that govern radiation exposure that specifically treat males and females differently, or the human biological effects of ionizing radiation, which every nuclear qualified US Navy sailor has been trained and certified on ever since Adm. Rickover began work on Navy nukes back in 1948-49.

    Far better to avoid commenting when you clearly know not of which you speak.

    • Rocco

      I hate Trump! FYI! I only comment on what I know about nothing more… Unlike yourself which you have been proven wrong by others here & on BD!!!

  • Rocco

    Stupid comments!!

  • muzzleloader

    Yes, I have realized that the editors at USNI are a rather squeamish bunch.

  • Billy Bobby

    Did you all read the article? They are having a hard time getting females to join the Sub force. It’s a volunteer force. If the females do not VOLUNTEER then they do not put them on the subs. I swear to god some of you all can not comprehend a single thing.

    • Bafford Lewellen

      Women.
      ‘Females’ is not exclusive to humans.

  • CaptainParker

    Gotta love the snarky response approved by Vice Adm. Joe Tofalo to the critical letters from several former submarine CO’s. Too many Obama-era sycophants remain in responsible positions and continue to ram their “progressive” views down the military’s throat. Also gives pause why any sane person would recommend becoming a military officer to any intelligent young person looking for a career.

    • Jane Fughs

      Why do you think the military has recruitment issues?

    • Galutunous

      Officer, what about enlisted. They think technology will let them run smaller crews so everyone can do three rates while we have 3 ships sitting around with holes in them that had full crews. Then you get to what the Army did to people during the draw down. I just read an article where food service poisoned some Marine recruits and they discharged a couple that were injured. It’s not feeling like a solid choice like it used to. As for this story, there are going to be enough low testosterone women really disillusioned with being stuck on a boat with men for 6 months that I see them starting to force assign women when enough don’t volunteer.

  • Michael D. Woods

    The way the article is written, it appears not that the Navy wants to be open to women, but that it wants to recruit women just because they’re women, and not for any skills or abilities. That’s discrimination too.

  • Carl Seitz

    Jane Fughs During WW2 Blacks had many duties aboard the boats. At Battle Stations Gun Action they could be part of the gun crew, at any other type of Battle Stations they preformed what ever duty was required of them the same as the rest of the crew. Their other duties were to serve the Officers food in the Wardroom, also wash and iron their Uniforms and make their bunks. The blacks slept wherever the Chief Of The Boat assigned them which was among the rest of the crew. Race relations among the crews were both good and bad. They were expected to become qualified Submarine Sailors same as the rest of the crew, you had to draw out all the many systems of the boat and then go thru with a Chief and then an Officer who would ask you so many different questions you would think your head was going to explode. And as “Edith Ann” from “Laugh In” said “that’s the truth”.

    • Jane Fughs

      During actual combat, all sailors, regardless of race, were expected to fight. That policy is the same today with gender. It is just that naval personnel on board ships have not performed actual combat, I am not talking about marines and seals on shore, since WW2. That is why men in the sixties wanted to enlist in the navy, relatively safe versus land combat in Vietnam.

      Blacks for the most part were not on subs due to blacks and whites (especially from the South) did not want to be in close quarters. Regardless of the WW2 status, once Truman’s order came through in 1948, nothing was changed on subs, except their assignment policies. It was just as much of a “social” issue for racially integrated facilities in 1948 as it is for gender integrated facilities today. Just that the Navy is spending hundreds of thousands of dollar refitting subs for women while in 1948 they spent nothing for the racial integration. Note, while bases in the South in 1949 did not segregate bunks/lavatories, in a lot of States once off base white and black sailors were subjected to racial segregation, i.e. Charleston, Pensacola, Norfolk. In other words they could not eat at the same bars, use the same rest room, use the same brothels. All of that was State law and approved by the Supreme Court.

      • Duane

        Jane, you are perpetuating a lot of myths and conjecture in your several comments here in this thread.

        First of all, all or most submarines in the World War Two era featured black Americans in sub crews, since all the fleet boats had officers and wardrooms (typically 6 to 8 officers in the wardroom, including CO) and the majority of stewards of the day were black. There is no such thing as a “non-combat” billet on a Navy warship, especially submarines. US submariners suffered the highest casualty rate of any type of unit in any branch of the US military in WW2. Most of the 52 boats lost in the war went down with the loss of all hands.

        Every sailor in the crew must qualify as a submariner, and every sailor in the crew is assigned a battle station, including the stewards.

        As for your statement of Vietnam service, you are ignoring the service of a great many US Navy sailors in that war. Including the “brown water Navy” (riverine and coastal patrols), who performed exceedingly dangerous work and suffered high casualties … and special forces which included Navy SEAL Team members … and of course US Navy aviators who did very dangerous work penetrating deep into enemy territory, and suffering high casualties.

        And submarine duty by its very nature is hazardous. During the Vietnam era we lost 2 nuke SSNs with the loss of all hands.

        • Donald Carey

          Don’t forget the Hospital Corpsmen who were out in the field with the Marines!

          • Duane

            Yup … them too!

  • RobM1981

    “Navy’s Submarine Service Wants More Women”

    Interesting choice of wording.

    Say it in a pirate voice, and you’ll hear what I mean.

    • Scott Ferguson

      Yar!

  • Jane Fughs

    Because of the small force the USA has now relative to what is needed, we have used sailors for land combat. That is relatively new as before, we had a draft to booster our land force. Naval combat was historically at sea so it was ship against ship or later ship against plane attacks, or sub attacks. Those sea battles have been fairly limited and even the USS Cole which was an attack lasted a few seconds as there was no follow up.

    • Duane

      You need to do a lot of boning up on naval history and practice. It was customary in the age of sail for the crew if a man of war to participate directly in both amphibious assaults on forts and ports, along with Marines, not to mention land bombardment through all wars and military actions as of a week and a half ago.

      In WW2, naval warship crews also participated in land attacks and insertions of special forces (called UDT, or underwater demolition teams), ship watchers and radio station teams. Naval ships (especially subs) also performed ISR missions for ground forces planning amphibious attacks. And of course all those landing craft in both the European and Pacific theater amphibious invasions were manned by sailors, with heavy naval casualties in many of the landings.

  • JohnByron

    If you’re not a submariner … shove off.

  • Kim Chul Soo

    Blah, blah, blah. You know what’s going to happen.

  • Lawrence Trevethan

    This subject is about more than sexism. In 1965, an informal Navy survey of ships crew indicated that, whatever policy was adopted, there would be problems. Sexually integrated crews would have a different mix of problems from sexually segregated crews have. But there would be problems either way. Some of the problems in 1965 have disappeared: we lived 80 men to a birthing space, with a single “head” (bathroom in civilian parlance). A personal locker was a two foot cubic affair; all else must be in one seabag put in storage place so hard to reach one normally had access only when transferring to a different command. Present day ships have private or semi-private rooms. But the problem of women crew being pregnant was non-existent, and the incidents involving triangles (inevitable with mainly young people) were entirely ashore matters. Even in 1965, no one doubted women had the intelligence to perform any rating. But life on a ship (particularly a small ship, and especially confined to a submarine where one cannot go take a walk outside in the average week), is very different from life ashore is. To pretend there are no issues is perhaps unwise. It appears that only political correctness prevents an honest discussion of the impacts of women on ships crews generally, and women on sub crews in particular. One suggestion we made in 1965 appears to have been entirely ignored. Based on an observation by historian Fletcher Pratt, and practice in PRC and other countries, one might consider all female units. These tend to have very high espirit de corps, and to usually outperform their male counterparts, while not having the internal problems of sexually mixed organizations.