Navy on Pace to Integrate Women on Submarines Despite Criminal Probe

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) approaches Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. (U.S. Navy photo)
The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) approaches Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy has not delayed its plan to integrate enlisted female sailors into the submarine fleet despite an ongoing investigation into an incident aboard the USS Wyoming where female submariners were secretly video-taped undressing and showering.

It is believed that as many as 12 Navy sailors could face charges in connection with the incident, which was first reported in December by Navy Times.

The videos, recorded over a one year period and then distributed, are believed to show at least three female officers while showering or undressing, according to a source who has spoken to one of the alleged victims. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, is investigating the incidents in question, Navy officials said. 

The USS Wyoming is an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine home ported at Kings Bay, Georgia. An Ohio-class submarine has about 140 enlisted sailors and approximately15 officers. The Wyoming was one of the first submarines to bring women on board in 2011, adding female supply officers to the crew. 

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus did not address or refer to the ongoing investigation into the video taping of female officers onboard submarines when speaking about integrating women on submarines Jan. 15 at the Surface Navy Association annual symposium, Arlington, Va.

There are currently more than 100 female Navy officers serving on submarines -- there are seven submarines and 14 crews integrated with women officers.

"We've got women officers now on SSBNs and SSGNs and the first women officers are now reporting to the Virginia-class [attack submarines]. We will come out quickly with a detailed plan of integrating enlisted women into our submarine force," Mabus said.

Senior Navy officials have said the service expects to have enlisted women ready to enter the submarine fleet by 2016.

The first four submarines to accept women officers were two nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, or SSBNs, the USS Wyoming and the USS Maine, and two guided missile or conventionally armed ballistic missile submarines, SSGNs, the USS Georgia and the USS Ohio.

Women officers were assigned to these boats after completing training, which consists of nuclear power school, prototype training and a submarine officer basic course.

Also, the anticipated retirement of existing Ohio-class submarines in coming years will open up more opportunities for women to enter into submarine commands, Navy officials said.

Mabus added that the plan to integrate enlisted women may take some time because it will require some structural changes to submarines.

The enlisted women will be placed, by design, on ships where existing female naval officers can function as role-models and mentors, Navy officials said.

The Navy first made the formal decision to allow women officers on submarines in February 2010. Overall, women make up roughly 15-percent of the Navy, service officials said.

The rationale for allowing more women on submarines is grounded in a Navy interest to widen the existing talent pool to include the contributions of many talented female members of the service.

In total, the Navy is working to bring more women into the fleet, Mabus added.

"We don't have enough women in the Navy. We're working on trying to raise the number," Mabus said.

-- Kris Osborn can be reached at

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