Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Puget Sound shipyard converting USS Michigan as first sub to carry enlisted women
Ed Friedrich, Kitsap
29 September 2015
The USS Michigan entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard last month for modifications to allow it to become the first submarine to carry enlisted women.
The $2.8 million reconfiguration will provide living space for 29 women. Two chief petty officers will share a living space and washroom. Twenty-seven from
lower ranks will split into nine-person bunk rooms and all share a head, said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, Submarine Group Nine spokesman.
The work is part of a major maintenance period that is scheduled to be completed next summer.
The Michigan is a guided-missile submarine with two crews of 15 officers and about 140 enlisted sailors based at Naval Base Kitsap. Blue and Gold crews take turns manning the boat. Its Bangor sister, USS Ohio, will be the next local sub to convert, probably starting late next year, Badura said.
Ballistic-missile submarines USS Maine and USS Louisiana, which are from the same Ohio class as the Ohio and Michigan, will follow. Three boats from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, the East Coast equivalent of Bangor, also will be modified.
Ohio-class subs will add about 550 enlisted women by 2020, comprising Phase 1 of the process, Badura said. The total cost to modify the seven boats is estimated at $25 million. Over the ensuing four years, about 115 women will join crews of new Virginia-class fast attack submarines in Phase 2.
“It’s certainly a big milestone, but we’ve already been down this road a bit with women officers,” Badura said. “We think we can do this successfully as well.”
The Navy issued a request in January for female sailors who wanted to join the Michigan’s two crews. It received a strong response. Finalists were chosen through a competitive process. After they cleared medical screening, they were sent to Basic Enlisted Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut. Those who applied to change ratings (jobs) were provided technical training through “A” or “C” schools.
The same four Bangor boats had already brought aboard female officers, which didn’t require structural changes. There are 27 now, three per crew. The Ohio was the first to welcome them, in November 2011. Three women share one of the five staterooms. All 15 officers, men and women, share a head. It has a sign saying whether it’s in use by a man or woman.
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