The Ohio-class guided missile submarine Florida, at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, is the second U.S. sub to integrate male-female enlisted crew members. (MC1 Rex Nelson/Navy) The Ohio-class guided missile submarine Florida is the second sub in the Navy fleet to incorporate integrated male-female crews, according to The Jacksonville Florida Union-Times.
The Florida, of Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, follows the Michigan from Bangor, Washington, which welcomed enlisted women to its crews in 2016. This followed a deliberate integration process that began in 2011 with the addition of female officers. Since then, women have been breaking into the traditionally all-male submarine force .
The step-by-step integration process has contributed to the success of the operation, said Capt. Gregory Kercher, who leads one of the Ohio-class guided missile submarine’s two crews, which have about 30 total women in their ranks.
“If we tried to do this 15 to 20 years ago in a sudden manner, I think it would have been difficult,” Kercher told the Florida Times-Union. “We wouldn’t have been prepared for it, and it probably wouldn’t have went off as seamless as it has.” Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavedra, assigned to submarine Michigan, became one of the first female enlisted submariners in the U.S. Navy. (Kenneth G. Takada/Navy) Adding women to the sub crews required moderate modifications to berthing and bathrooms , which were low-level issues, according to The Florida Times-Union.
There haven’t been any problems with crew members getting along, according to Kercher, and the crew remains focused on the mission instead of any differences in gender dynamic.
“It remains an all-volunteer force. If somebody wanted to step up and say ‘I no longer want to serve on a submarine,’ they could have certainly done that,” Kercher told The Florida Times-Union . “We’ve had none of that.”
“We need that constant infusion of the best talent possible in order to maintain the submarine force as the best in the world,” he said.