Master Chief Rusty Staub, assigned to Submarine Group 9 Command, congratulates Lt. j.g. Amber Cowan, assigned to the Blue crew of the ballistic missile submarine USS Maine, for earning her submarine warfare officer device Dec. 5 in Bangor, Wash. Cowan and Lt. j.g. Jennifer Noonan, center, are two of three sailors to become the first female unrestricted line officers to qualify in submarines. (Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ahron Arendes)
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Lts. j.g. Marquette Leveque and Kyle McFadden, both of the ballistic-missile submarine Wyoming's gold crew, are pinned with their submarine warfare devices Wednesday at Naval Submarine Base Kings' Bay, Ga., Leveque is one of the first three female sailors to earn the submarine qualification. (MC1 James Kimber / Navy)
The Navy's first female submariners have earned their "dolphins."
In ceremonies on both coasts Wednesday, three female officers were pinned with their submarine warfare insignia, the gold chest device that confers their status as fully qualified submarine officers. After a rigorous process that consumed a year of training followed by a year at sea, their achievement signals that the silent service's glass ceiling has been shattered.
"Qualifying is a huge accomplishment for any submariner, and it feels no different for me," recipient Lt. j.g. Marquette Leveque said Wednesday, according to a Navy newsstand story. "I am thrilled to finally be a member of this elite community."
The women are members of the cadre of 17 officers who began the sub force's integration late last year.
Each of the three recipients has completed a strategic deterrent patrol in their year aboard ship, the Navy said.
Leveque, who's assigned to the ballistic-missile sub Wyoming (gold crew), had her dolphins pinned at a ceremony in Kings Bay, Ga., by her husband, Lt. j.g. Luke Leveque, himself a dolphin-wearer assigned to the ballistic sub Maryland.
The other recipients, Lt. j.g. Jennifer Noonan and Lt. j.g. Amber Cowan, are crew members with the ballistic-missile sub Maine's blue crew and received their insignia at a ceremony in Bangor, Wash., the Maine's home port.
Dolphins, the oldest of the Navy's warfare pins, are only conferred after a submarine officer has qualified as an officer of the deck and an engineering officer of the watch, passed a tough board and demonstrated leadership ability.
Just earning the pin is a life-changing boost, one recipient said.
"It is a monumental mark of the confidence my command and crew has in me," said Cowan, whose dolphins were pinned on by her husband, Lt. Adam Cowan, a naval flight officer. "And earning that respect and acceptance is a feeling that I will hold with me for my entire life."