Female Sailors to Serve On Subs?


A couple of days ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to repeal the ban on women serving on submarines in the United States Navy.

Clearly, this guy has never been on a submarine. 

I served in the Navy on board an aircraft carrier, but I did consider submarine duty, and toured a sub having weapons off-loaded while I was in prototype.  This tour is exactly what made me decide to go surface.  I was on the fence since the Navy pays a premium to sailors who serve in submarines, as well as hazardous duty pay.  But seeing first hand exactly  how sailors live in subs made me decide not to go that route. 

There is no space.  For anything.  Subs that go out on long cruises stock up on food and everything else they need pierside to limit the time they would have to spend getting supplies.  If they are in port getting bug juice and creamed corn (or deviled ham), they aren’t patrolling their assigned areas of the sea. 

I mention this because the ship I was on was the first combat ship to sail with female sailors.  The berthing areas (crew living quarters) were updated all over the ship to ensure privacy.  It cost a lot of money.  But it wasn’t that big a deal on an aircraft carrier.  We had space.  We did underway replenishments often, for food, aircraft fuel, parts, and whatever else we may have needed, so we didn’t need to stock up with the idea in mind that we couldn’t get food later.  A retrofit like this isn’t practical on a submarine.  There isn’t room for areas to be divided so that the crew can have privacy.  There aren’t fifty showers on a sub like there are on a carrier, so that would be an issue as well.  The close quarters living and lack of privacy would almost certainly cause problems with the crew, and on a sub, the crew must pull together like no other unit in the Navy.  The lives of the crew and the safety of the ship depend on unity within the crew. 

Don’t think that I don’t beleive that women can man and fight a submarine.  I served with the first two nuclear qualifed electricians who were women.  These ladies were competent and good sailors.  You cannot integrate crews simply because it’s not fair. 

Here’s my solution.  Female crews.  All female crews.  Women want to get on a perfectly good boat and sink it on purpose, they can do it together.  This eliminates any appearance of impropriety due to differences in gender.  It eliminates the problem of a ship sailing with 150 women who aren’t pregnant showing up in port at the end of the cruise with 20% of their female crew pregnant.  Don’t laugh.  It happened on my ship.  And a pregnant woman can’t serve on a sub. 

I’ve told this story to my friends before, but it needs to be told here.  I was on a Mediterranean deployment in 1994.  I was waiting to go into the ship’s store, and there were a couple of female electricians (conventional) in line ahead of me.  One was telling the other how much she hated being underway, how she had been in the Navy for eight years and never been underway like this, and that she was going to get pregnant to get out of this kind of duty in the future.  I have a couple of issues with this.

There was no shore billet for me to go to.  All I could get after five years on an aircraft carrier was duty on another carrier.  The reason there was not billet was that the shore billets were being soaked up by women.  Does it seem fair that men are forced to spend six, seven, eight years on a ship when a woman doesn’t have to get her skirt wet at all? 

Second, if a woman wants out of a particular assignment, all she has to do is get pregnant.  If this came with a dishonorable discharge, I’d be okay with it.  But it doesn’t.  She has her baby, gets maternity leave, and then can get another shore billet.  Women sign papers that say they won’t get pregnant.  If they do get pregnant, they should be excused from military service.  And not in a good way. 

This is a phenomenally bad idea.  The sailors that man these ships will, of course, make the best of it and make it work.  But it will have an effect on these crews and the overall unity of the Navy. 

Ladies, we’ll give you your own boats.  Other than that, you can still work in independent maintenance activities, military police, or whatever billets you can take from a guy burned out on being at sea. 

It’s the only way it can work.

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3 Responses to “Female Sailors to Serve On Subs?”

  1. Wallace Says:

    I have hear abouth this subject for years and hear a saying when guys and gals in tight quarters, “there are no ugly women after 30 days!” I have never served in military, but you state, either all guys or all gals, but no mixing otherwise the submarine population will double the legal capacity.

  2. chad brewington Says:

    yes starting next year women will be on subs starting with officers then on down the road will be enlisted. they will only be allowed on the bigger subs. i also have a problem with the women getting pregnant in the navy. i am trying to get my shore duty and it is still hard for me to get orders. i can recall that right before my last cruise there were at least half the women on the boat getting pregnant so that they can miss the deployment. that makes me wonder why did they join in the fist place if they did not want to go?

    • babaje2 Says:

      As sailors, its not supposed to matter. But as human beings, we all understand that it does matter. I was raised to respect women and hold them in high esteem. Open doors for them, watch my language around them, etc. It’s not something we can just unlearn.

      I hope things are going well with you. Hang in there, and thanks for your service.

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