Change, it is a comin’: Part Deux

In what is sure to set the dolphin wearing world a-tizzy, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, he of the seersucker suit, made a statement yesterday once again making the push for women on submarines.

Women should be allowed to serve aboard submarines, and the Navy is “moving out aggressively” to make it happen, according to the service’s top civilian.

“I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday in a statement to Navy Times.

Not to be left out in the cold, SECNAV has the support, although tentative, of CNO…

“There are some particular issues with integrating women into the submarine force; issues we must work through in order to achieve what is best for the Navy and our submarine force,” Roughead said in a statement. “Accommodations are a factor, but not insurmountable.”

I think the accomodations are the least of our worries should this come to pass.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think women will be on submarines. Maybe not soon, but they will. And that’ll be fine. I think they are more than capable of the work. In fact, I think in some cases they’ll be better as your average 19 year old female is *slightly* more mature than her male counterpart.

However, there are some serious concerns in this issue, the least of which is folks getting glimpses of others’ unmentionables…

1) Pregnancy and Nuclear Power: I know in the surface fleet women are allowed to stay onboard ship while pregnant for 20 weeks. What I do not remember clearly enough to quote is the policy regarding exactly when pregnant women are no longer allowed in nuclear spaces. “Women serve on carriers and they’re nuclear!” you say? On a submarine, EVERY space is nuclear to some extent. There’s no running from the zoomies when you’re only 150 feet from the core. So how long will women be allowed to stay onboard the boat once they’re determined to be pregnant?

The question this leads us to is, are we going to increase manning for subs to allow for the loss of crew members due to pregnancy? If they’re not allowed on the boat for several months, that’s a huge blow to the morale of the crew because people will have to suck up that lost watchstander. In a world where most people are 3 section as it is, you can imagine the hate and discontent that will be generated because someone is missing for several months.

2) Fraternization: I don’t think this will be as big of a problem as others imagine because submariners ARE professional. That being said, kids are kids and surface ships don’t go almost 90 days with no contact from the outside world. When you’re THAT isolated, things ARE going to happen. Stand by for heavy rolls.

3) Submarine Wives: I think the biggest groan on this topic is going to come from the wives clubs, in all honesty. They don’t get to see their husbands very often. We’re gone out to sea a great deal and even in port the hours are extremely long. But I think, to a certain extent, the wives take comfort in the fact that their men are at work in an all male environment. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak. Now we’ll be introducing the apple into the Garden of Eden. I can understand the consternation.

4) Harrassment: As I said before, submariners are a professional lot. However, we treat each other pretty roughly. Any bubblehead can tell you that the atmosphere is extremely competitive in the sense that we constanty poke/prod/jab and essentially conduct verbal warfare. Some may call it harassment. We call it fun. The first group of women that are selected are going to come into this environment and I hope they realize that this is just what we do. It’s not personal.

All of this being said, and this list is surely not all inclusive, women will end up on submarines someday. It will not be easy, but I think the force will benefit in the long run. The only contstant thing in life is change, so we’re going to have to embrace this change if we want to survive.

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4 Responses to Change, it is a comin’: Part Deux

  1. virgil xenophon says:

    “….I think the force will benefit in the long run.”

    I’m amazed that you made that statement, Fast. Exactly HOW do you foresee this happening? I see only downside, no upside–most of which you yourself have outlined above–or at best a neutral trade-off. Isn’t that a whole lot of thrashing around, disruption and no little dollar costs–and for no discernible improvement? ‘Splain it all to this dumb ex-zoomie if you would, kind sir.

  2. fastnav says:

    I think the submarine force, as an organization, can benefit from having a diversity of opinions in it.

    right now it is dominated by male, type a, engineers. So, although we joke about creeping nukisms and how everything has to have a critique and a root cause and corrective action, there’s some truth to it.

    Having some fresh blood, fresh eyes, and fresh ideas can’t hurt.

    That being said, this isn’t going to come about quickly. And although everyone is screaming about costs to convert subs, that’s not going to happen. You’ll see some disruption to how we organize the ship, but there’s not going to be any shipyard installation of female heads or some weird stuff like that.

    I think you’ll see this happen on SSGN/SSBN first, and later SSN’s will be designed with this in mind.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I work in software development, and the two cultures sound very, very similar. Do you think the real issue is finding enough women with the required engineering backgrounds? They seem very few and far between on the ground.

    Also, do you think it will be extra difficult for men to relate to women in their work environment, when that environment has been all male for so long? It’s the same problem in software development. Though, thankfully, no one gives us weapons.

  4. Niall says:

    That previous comment is mine. I just forgot to log in.

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