Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Lt. Cmdr. Maura Thompson on what it's like being one of the few women aboard a U.S. submarine
Angela Thomas, 710 KEEL, Apr 27
What’s it like being one of only a handful of women on a submarine? I had the opportunity to ask U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Maura Thompson that question. She’s a supply officer on the USS Louisiana.
“We’re underwater three months at a time. We will have a few people come on and off, but for the most part, it’s just 160 of us. We become very much like a family. We get very close and very weird,” Lt. Comm. Thompson said. “It’s very challenging at times. We are often tired, the mission always comes first. There’s always something that breaks, something that goes wrong, and we always end up having to come together to overcome those things. So it’s challenging, but fun at the same time.”
LCDR Thompson told me while she was at the Naval Academy, she got the opportunity to take a 24-hour ride on a sub, the USS Ohio, and thought she’d never be on a submarine. That changed 10 years later when she was a lieutenant.
“A supply admiral actually called me and said, ‘We’re bringing women on submarines. Would you consider applying to be one of the first?’ I had never even really considered it. My husband was on a submarine, I didn’t know if it was the life for me.”
She decided to apply and was accepted. A year later, she showed up to the USS Louisiana, and she said it’s been fantastic. She said the person who’s made the biggest impact on her in submarines is her chief, the sub’s cook.
“When I first came onboard the submarine…I was the first woman to show up, and everyone was a little bit hesitant about offending me or telling me when I was doing something that was wrong. And there’s a lot of cultural things that I didn’t understand about being on a submarine. It was great to have a CSC who was not afraid to take me aside and say, ‘Hey, Ma’am, we don’t do that” or “Maybe you should think about doing this,’ and I appreciated so much having people who could be honest with me. And after a while, the crew warmed up to me and now, gender’s just not a thing.”
Thompson said her favorite part about being in the Navy is working with the finest sailors she’s ever encountered.
“I always say, hey USS Louisiana, finest in the fleet. I don’t know if it’s true, I haven’t been on every boat, but it feels like it to me. Sailors are fantastic. They’re so young, I work with so many sailors that are teenagers or in their early 20′s, and they constantly surprise me with how ingenious and smart they are,” she said. “They overcome sleep challenges and work challenges, and are able to accomplish enormous tasks together and help each other. They are constantly surprising me pleasantly.”
Thompson will be all over the place during the week, and she’s brought three USS Louisiana sailors with her to share their experiences. Navy Week runs from today through May 3.