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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Congress allowed the US Navy to lift its ban of assigning female sailors to submarines. NBC's Ann Curry spent a night underway with the crew of the USS Maryland (SSBN-738). The first female submariners will serve on ballistic nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs) as officers due to them having slightly bigger space than their fast-attack (SSNs) counterparts. All sub officers except the supply officer (or "Chops", scroll down to see some well known "Chops") are nuclear powered trained. The nuclear power training pipeline for officers is approximately a year. So, these pioneers will not hit the fleet until at least 2012.

I will say this: A submarine is a VERY unique environment. I was a surface nuke so I cannot really comment. The closest I ever got to a submarine was a diesel sub that is floating at Patriot's Point in Charleston, SC and the nuclear power trainer MTS-635 at Prototype.

Even though these ships are no longer in active service, it gives you an insight of the type of people that are needed to man (NOTE: I use the term loosely) them. These sailors have to be highly knowledgeable of their boat. They have to have a certain amount of mental toughness in order to operate in high pressure situations. Everyone has to work together AND make the right decisions or everyone dies. Case in point: fire and flooding are the two worst casualties on a ship. On a carrier, we had our own fire and dewatering departments (I can still remember them calling away the Gold Eagle Flying Squad). On a sub, the crew IS the fire department AND the dewatering department.

And, once again, gender, religious belief, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc., etc., etc., does not matter to a person's character.

Women have served in every major conflict that this nation has been involved in. Despite the Navy allowing women to serve on surface ships in a "non-combat" role in 1994, they have served in combat whether directly or in support of operations. A ship at sea on deployment, if faced with an external conflict that threatens the life of the ship, guess what? That is combat. Those lines of combat are blurred even more now in the Post-9/11 world that we live in.

They were allowed to officially enlist in the service in 1916. The first computer code was written by a WAVES officer after World War II. She would go on to be the first female Rear Admiral, Grace Hopper. Women were allowed to enter the service academies in 1976. Even though the official policy is that women will not be assigned combat roles, women are serving in such roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am looking forward to the day when I encounter female sailors with their Dolphins. (Silver worn by enlisted; gold worn by officers.)


In closing, I will offer this criticism of the policy. Very interesting that women are allowed to serve on subs without any congressional fighting and/or dissension in the ranks, and YET…. YET… there is one group of American citizens that have and can serve their country, but there is this HUGE political battleground on Capitol Hill that claims if we let this group serve, it will erode "Morale and Good Discipline."

Take it away, Dr. Rachel Maddow (If you are interested, her Wikipedia page. Pay close attention to what her father did.)

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