Weatherford Democrat

April 13, 2014

VETERANS’ CORNER: Women on subs? Navy exploring the possibility


Weatherford Democrat

— By JIM VINES

The United States Navy is surveying enlisted women and to gauge those interested in volunteering for submarine force duty.

Responses to an anonymous online survey, open to active duty and reserve Navy servicewomen, will be used by a 60-person Navy task force, headed by Rear Admiral Kenneth Perry, commander, Submarine Group Two, in Groton, Conn. 

The Navy is seeking input from professional women sailors throughout the Navy, even if they aren’t interested in serving abroad submarines. Responses to the survey questions will help shape future Navy policy and are key to getting the integration right. The ability to attract, recruit and retain quality female sailors is essential to the success of integration, while being a big challenge.

In 2011, the Navy began integrating women into the submarine force’s officer ranks. Today more than 40 women serve as engineers and supply officers aboard the fleet’s Ohio class ballistic missile and guided missile submarines. In addition, the Navy opened more than 250 coastal riverine force jobs for women last month.

Last summer, leaders from each service branch and U.S. Special Operations Command laid out roadmaps to begin moving female troops toward combat front lines. The process will proceed deliberately over the course of years and be accompanied by a host of studies. Despite criticism, each service has had success stories following the defense secretary’s rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment rule last year.

The Marines have opened more than 20 artillery, tank and engineer battalions to female officers and placed senior enlisted women into previously closed jobs as mentors for female Marines who might be assigned there in the future. Additionally, the Corps said last month it plans this summer to stand up a yearlong, 460-person experimental task force comprised of both men and women volunteers, in primarily ground combat-arms specialties to train and operate out of Camp LeJeune, N.C.

The Army opened up 33,000 jobs to women in 132 military occupational specialties supporting direct ground combat units, including medic, Black Hawk pilot, geospatial engineer and paralegal specialist.

The Air Force, which has fewer than 5,000 positions closed to women in special operations, says it is moving toward allowing women in all of them. The only roadblock is the service must work in consultation with U.S. Special Operations Command and the Army because of joint operations. The Air Force expects full integration sometime in 2018.

Now is an excellent time for women to serve their country while engaging in careers that are very meaningful to them. Check with local recruiters to find more detailed information on joining the elite U.S. Armed Forces.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.