(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photo by Ensign
Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
The submarine community opened its doors to female officers a few years ago and is now looking for enlisted women to become submariners.
The Enlisted Women in Submarines (EWIS) task force hosted a “roadshow” Nov. 2 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Eligible E-6 and below female Sailors from all communities and rates are being offered a cross-rate opportunity, if rating eligible, or conversion into the submarine community.
Chief petty officers within the logistics, yeoman, information technology, culinary and hospital corpsman ratings are being offered conversion to submarines as well.
With Lt. Jennifer Carroll, one of the first female officers to serve in the community, and Force Master Chief Wesley Koshoffer of SUBLANT leading the discussion, Sailors were able to learn about exciting new opportunities.
U.S. Pacific Fleet Master Chief Susan Whitman was a member of the panel for the initial selection board to bring female Sailors aboard submarines, and she was on-hand during Tuesday’s brief.
“I think having women on submarines is fantastic,” said Whitman. “This is just one more avenue for female Sailors to excel and, more importantly, have a larger role in today’s Navy.”
Aircrew Survival Equipment-man 2nd Class Christina Gonzalez from Marine Aviation and Logistics Squadron 24 was interested in the submarine community as soon as she saw the Navy administrative message, which was released in August. She currently is working on a package to convert and wants to be part of history as one of the first enlisted female submariners.
Gonzalez was enthusiastic in the challenge of becoming one of the first enlisted women to wear the coveted silver dolphins. “The more people that question why I want to do it is what makes me want to do it more,” Gonzalez said.
Sailors like Gonzalez will be led by both female officers as well as chief petty officers, such as Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavadra. A former CPO aboard the USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), Saavadra said her prior command was “100 percent supportive” when she expressed interest in conversion.
“It’s really great to see other people interested [in the submarine community] as well,” she said.
Currently, Ohio-class guided and ballistic missile submarines are being integrated with enlisted female Sailors, one crew at a time. Integration of female crew members aboard fast-attack submarines will begin in 2016.
Force Master Chief Russell Mason, senior enlisted advisor for the Pacific Submarine Force, spent time underway with the USS Ohio (SSGN 726) while four female officers were serving aboard, and he said he was impressed with the exemplary professionalism the women displayed.
Other Sailors also seem supportive of the change. Electronics Technician 2nd Class Robert Pegg of USS Buffalo (SSN715) said, “It doesn’t matter who it is, it matters the quality of the person.”
Though it may be surprising, her answer was a straightforward and confident “no.” “It was not being a female, but rather being a junior officer [and trying to earn qualifications] that was most challenging.”
The Enlisted Women in Submarines Roadshow continued as the team made their way to San Diego for additional briefings on Nov. 5. Next month they will be visiting the Jacksonville/Mayport area.
(For more information, visit the EWIS website at http://www.public.navy.mil/subfor/ewis.)