Breaking with a tradition that spans more than half a century, the Navy is in the final planning stages to integrate female Sailors into its submarine fleet.
Long considered one of the most elite communities in the U.S. Navy, the small, secretive force has been comprised entirely of male officers and crew in large part because of the small living spaces and long endurance missions.
The service had examined assigning a small number of females on subs over the last ten years, but found the tight confines and lack of a well-defined career path for female submariners too daunting to change.
According to a senior commander in the Navy's submarine fleet who spoke to Military.com on condition of anonymity, incoming Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has charged the service with overcoming past objections and assigning females to subs -- breaking down one of the last barriers in the service to female assignments.
"We have now received a signal from the secretary of the Navy that he's ready to move out on this. We have never had that signal before," the senior sub commander said. "So now it's time to do some detailed planning to ensure that this is executable."
The official said the submarine fleet would likely not see female crewmembers for at least two years, but he said it was a change whose time had come.
"There is no job on a submarine that a woman can't do," the official said during a Sept. 25 phone interview. "We have a vast pool of very talented young women out there who want to serve on submarines."
Read the rest of this story, including how the Navy plans to start this program, at Military.com.