The military's march towards gender equality could see a big improvement in the coming years as plans are unveiled to allow enlisted women to join female officers on the US Navy's Ohio-class missile boats and Virginia-class attack submarines.
The move, which has been a rather long time coming, will see women account for 20 percent of the enlisted roster on boats that host female officers. There are currently 60 women serving on 14 subs across the fleet, although the enlisted force will only be assigned to 11 boats (seven Ohios and four Virginias). Thanks to the sheer size of the SSBN/SSGNs and the fact that most of the attack subs are still under construction, the total cost of modifying the boats for the necessities of female sailors should be minimal.
"The Ohio-class subs were so big that it really wasn't difficult to set up sleeping quarters for women only and make sure lavatories have proper signage," said US Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut. As for the newer Virginia-class, the necessities of female sailors won't require large-scale redesigns or changes to the boats currently being built.
"I think this is just the next step in a process that started a number of years ago to tap into a talented part of the Navy to help run very sophisticated vessels, and to me that's a real huge advantage that the Navy is capitalizing on," Courtney told Military.com.
The first female enlisted sailors will begin serving on the USS Michigan starting in 2016.