Wanted: more enlisted women for submarine service.
Enlisted women will begin to join the crews of the guided-missile submarine Michigan in 2016. The Florida's integration will come in fiscal 2017.
With Round Two now open, Navy Times talked with Rear Adm. Randy Crites, commander of Submarine Group 10 as well the man in charge of the task force integrating women into submarines.
Crites says the Navy's approach has been careful from the start.
"Our target was to have an even distribution of ratings and paygrades with females ultimately comprising 20 percent of a given crew," Crites said in an Aug. 13 phone interview. "This cohort size and composition was informed by a Center for Naval Analysis study on integration of women in submarines."
Seeking the best
But the plan all along has been to integrate women into submarines from the top down and started a few years ago with integrating the wardroom, first.
And in the end Many more of those from the first round could end up in other crews, too.
"All secondary selectee candidates will be considered in this application cycle if they so desire," Crites said.
"It wasn't easy to narrow down the tremendous choices of highly skilled and talented women to fill a fixed number of billets," Crites said. "Every single one of the sailors who applied were the best of the best within their communities."
"The submarine community always seeks high-caliber applicants from all ratings and ranks regardless of race, gender, religion, rank, etc.," he said.
"The question I would ask all candidates is why they want to be a submariner," Crites said. "We are looking for motivated, technically competent, professional Sailors who are passionate about committing their absolute best toward excellence in the submarine force."
As with changing ratings in the enlisted force, it's easier, officials say, to convert earlier in a career than later — but with the sub force looking to find females from E-1 through E-8, some exceptions are being made.
"For chief petty officers, the goal was to accept them into the submarine community with minimal additional training required," Crites said.
"We didn't receive as many applications from undesignated Sailors in Professional Apprenticeship Career Tracks as we initially anticipated," Crites said. "We learned that the information we were putting out about the selection process made many junior undesignated Sailors think they wouldn't be eligible for selection."
Now, he says the new NavAdmin specifically includes a mention these sailors can apply, if they meet the eligibility requirements.
But one cadre of current enlisted women aren't being considered for conversion into the submarine force — those from the surface nuclear power ratings.
What's not clear is why, and officials haven't explained said publicly their reasons. But sources tell Navy Times, it's a function of the current manning in the surface ratings — they're all critical and net large bonuses to re-up -- somethin.
"Based on the accession and retention rates of nuclear-trained female sailors, allowing female nuclear trained sailors to transfer to the submarine force would have further challenged the Navy's ability to develop a sustainable cadre of senior female leaders within the nuclear trained surface community," Crites said.
Navy nuclear power ratings are among the service's most critical and net sailors the highest re-up bonuses, due to the high demand for their skills on the outside.
But apparently this won't be done for enlisted females due to and rating manpower concerns as well as retraining times in the surface force were a major consideration in that decision, sources say.
Current plans, officials confirmed, is to have six nuclear-trained female sailors will be reporting to each integrated submarine.
"These sailors will include one graduate from the initial nuclear training pipeline representing each nuclear enlisted classification and two junior staff instructors," he said.
These junior staff instructors serve for two years as instructors at the nuclear training command following their own initial nuclear power training, so they are slightly more senior and thus more experienced in both the occupation as well as in the Navy and will be able to help fill some of the mentorship roles being asked of the non-nuclear petty officers.
"Through this process, the Navy will begin to develop a sustainable cadre of female nuclear-trained sailors for the submarine force for the long term and continue to support a sustainable cadre of senior female leaders within the nuclear trained surface community," he said.
Crites added that intrust was high in going subs among female students and junior staff instructors already in the training pipeline.
"The training pipeline for all nuclear sailors, surface or submarines, is the same and is roughly two years in length," Crites said. "The selection into submarines for female nuclear-trained sailors will occur at the same time as their male classmates — UUpon selection for submarine service upon conclusion of their nuclear training, female nuclear-trained Sailors will have a relatively direct route to USS Michigan in Bangor, Washington — they will not attend Basic Enlisted Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut."
"There was some uncertainty as to how other communities would perceive this effort or whether there would be sufficient interest on the part of women who would eagerly request conversion into the submarine force," he said. "In the end we had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from both the leadership ... and from the quality female sailors who are excited about joining our community."
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.