October 18, 2005

36M-4R: Women In Submarines

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:16 pm

Yup, it’s that time again…in between “bring back the battleships” and the next round of “USN buy diesel subs” is the “women on subs yes or no” issue. Looks like Vigilis is filling out the check in the block for the schedule this time, quoting such luminaries as Phyllis Schlafly and a couple of people arguing the same arguments we heard last time about “upper body strength” and other such things.

Ohbytheway the Army these days…never mind.

You want my two cents? Didn’t think so.

Instead let me talk about how to do it right if the force ever does it.

Leadership Is Key. If you wish to not look like a fool, lose a ship, or get people unnecessarily ruined due to stupidity, then you need leadership committed to doing it right. The first boats to have women need to have upper leadership (COB, XO, CO, Commodore) that clearly understand what they are about to do, what the stakes are, and exactly what will happen if they do it wrong. Hand pick to select out leaders who cannot adapt to the cultural change. Change routines to minimize possibilities of hurting junior people because a critical mass of drunks had no adult supervision or the A-gangers decided hazing was okay if it happened in lower level. Ensure those leaders have proper top cover, and enough families and retired senior enlisted/officer “on board with the initiative” to ensure that the wives don’t maintain themselves in Advanced Freakout Mode and the people who used to go down to the sea in ships don’t spend all their time opposing your every action (like many are doing now vis-a-vis women on subs).

You know as well as I do that when you put a different person in a homogenous culture there are pitfalls to avoid. You don’t want people to squawk about the upcoming change and get all panicky beforehand; you don’t want to allow accomplishments to be dismissed overall because of the special status, and you don’t want failures to be whitewashed because of that status. Fairness, and perceived fairness, to both the new guy and the old guys already there is a challenge to meet to be able to succeed.

Don’t Do It For Just One Time. Frankly the biggest problem from a Big Navy perspective isn’t going to be the hijinks or the medium-sized bumps on the road to success; it’s sustaining the personnel flows to the ships. If you want any underrepresented demographic on submarines then you need them to be able to join and interested in doing so.

How many officers on a submarine do not have engineering or hard science degrees? Not many. Submarining is applied engineering in a high risk environment; you need fire control techs and nukes and sonar techs and people who know which end of a soldering iron is the hot one. If you want to succeed you cannot do so by putting one woman aboard and declaring victory; you need enough women on board to not make it harder on the “special” person–and that means that you need lots of young women with that kind of background.

This demography imbalance is why, for instance, Admiral Bowman went to Howard University (an HBC, historically black college, with good engineering) with hat in hand and some new ideas. We can’t just recruit from the existing pool of folks and expect the skewed demographics of the engineering schools to magically return the proper checks in the quota block; if we want to adjust demographics we have to influence who goes to engineering schools. In this case it’d mean a lot more women engineers–which would also mean you’re directly competing against someone who needs the Numbers for their affirmative action report or their PR and would pay more to hire who you’d like to hire, all other things being equal.

Man The Boats Correctly. If you wish to succeed, like I said before, you cannot just put onesies-twosies on the boat. That will only result in those people being “special” and either appearing to be treated special, or appearing to only be there for politics. This is not only not fair to the boats; it’s unfair to the women who take the risk of doing the job. You need not just junior enlisted but also senior enlisted, you need department-head and junior officers, and you need hard chargers who can deal with every good thing they do being treated as “only because she’s a girl”, getting harassed (sexually or otherwise, remembering that harassment is part of being a bubblehead) until the culture shifts sufficiently, and in the case of more senior folks on the boat a more vertical learning curve. Man more than one boat, but if you only have enough for including one just one, then choose the larger integration on one boat rather than spreading three at a time around the fleet. Don’t put all the women in the “special women place” where you can avoid it because there are officers and enlisted who need their space to complain about the other ranks and not given the impetus to unnecessarily fraternize, and kicking department heads out of their stateroom just isn’t going to win converts automatically.

Don’t Be Like Air Force Pilot’s Public Affairs. Do. Not. Publicize. Until. After. Nobody. Cares.

Publicity only raises the stakes and adds pressure that isn’t needed. There is no need to have some schmo put out a press release on “First Woman To Buy Cheese Dip At The Ship’s Store” or whatever. Don’t raise the profile of the ship or squadron, keep the mouth shut as much as possible (but the wives’ network becoming the spouse’s network will cause pain in this area). What you want is to have people eventually say things like “Yeah, they’ve been doing this for a while.”

Make sure the boat isn’t doing wimpy stuff, either. The minimum is “just like the rest of the fleet” and the harder job is better.

Those few things will make it easier to succeed if Congress decides to break the logjam and force the submariners to put women on subs.

31 Responses to “36M-4R: Women In Submarines”

  1. Bubblehead Says:

    One thing I don’t agree with is putting women in a department head role for their first tour (except, of course, as the Chop). The DHs are supposed to have the one sea tour under their belts, and I think that’s a good thing. Similarly, you don’t really want to be bringing them in as LCPO of one of the real, warfighting divisions. I agree we need senior female leadership on board if it’s going to work, so let’s make them the MSC (or I guess CSC now), SKC, YNC, etc. Doc would also make sense, but I’m not sure that would go over too well. (Actually, it probably would, except among the aforementioned wives.) Bring them in as JOs, sure, but you don’t want officers who are supposed to have some submarine experience under their belts with none; that would be the recipe for disaster.

  2. chap Says:

    There are ways to do it. For example, a surface CHENG might well be a better department head than many submarine guys I’ve met. Or a grizzled LDO. Still worried? Have ’em do a boomer patrol and then SOAC. We do worse to our own DHs, particularly those who spend their JO tours in the yards and then become navigators.

  3. Skippy-san Says:

    You guys need to watch what happened in aviation. First they said that they would only access women LT and below so they would “pay thier dues” and in the doing of earn some sort of respect ( except from die hards like me, who can respect the hell out of them, but still not want them in my wardroom). Well the 13XX LCDR’s whined like you know what, the Navy of course caved. So you get the case of the woman pilot who screened for command of a C-2 squadron without having ever done a Department Head tour. When us self respecting men bitched bou the obvious double standards, they made it even worse, made her MO who fleeted up to XO then CO of the same squadron. They Navy will do the same in submarines I can assure you.

    Then of course comes all the obvious baggage when sailors start dating sailors and sleeping with their shipmates when in port on criise . Its wrong I tell you and not in the best interests of men or women in the Navy. Just say NO!

  4. Carol Says:

    Maybe it’s because I live in England, but the dating and sleeping together part – not just hetrosexuals are up to that kind of thing ya know.

    Had dinner with an ‘Iraq war’ tank guy/officer last night, who had women in his group. They were engineers and cleared mines like everyone else, if so ordered. The whole thing didn’t sound very sexy I have to say, and there’s no sleeping naked because of the camel spider horror stories.

    I don’t mean to be rude because I really like this blog, but the thinking that just having a woman around is going to be a mad turn on is the rationale for burkas. That thinking is, frankly, demented.

    Or are you saying there could be no trust? Here’s a quote from my guy last night:

    “If you’ve lost mutual trust the end result is people end up dying. You need a bit of quality control. by the time you get there you should have people you trust.”

    “If I hadn’t had faith in a corporal I would have asked for him to be replaced.”

    Very very best wishes you guys

  5. CDR Salamander Says:

    Chap, you are right on target…..mostly….I think…..

    One of the best warfighters I had on early OEF was an E4 who looked like Malibu Barbie. The only enlisted person I had to pull back from combat duty was a macho-man E6 with ~18 yrs in who refused to put himself in harm’s way.

    Can they do it? Sure. Just know what you are getting yourself into and make sure fair-is-fair and you plan and train right. Skippy has some good points and warnings as well. Flag direction and personal interjection in selection boards is skewing results. People are pushing females, good officers and all, simply because they are females. Community bulls trying to make points in DC will push an individual just to make the numbers they want. A female peer, a good officer BTW, had this happen to her. She watched CO, Commodores and Flags tell her “XXXX, we have to get you this set of orders because you are our first chance to get a command billet out of our females….” It bothered her because she was being pushed ahead of officers who had better records and backgrounds than she did – just because she was a female. It made her feel bad, and causes everyone to look sideways at her. Sure, she got a command….not a front line command, but enough to get her to the O6 board. That very public exercise smeared her every female that EARNS her place. I don’t want to hear the “sanctity of the board” crap either. I have been on boards, and, ahem, know my way around Millington. Heck, it isn’t just females. There is a minority flag officer who on a recent command screen board “shopped” a list of officers he wanted selected – they were all of his same minority group. Totally out of bounds, unethical, and perhaps not all that IAW UCMJ and other goodies. It wasn’t for reasons like you hear in precepts about being hand selected to be minority recruiters etc; no these guys had your standard issue record. They just happened to be of his minority group – well mostly – a few of the guys were mixed race. Anyway, same thing. I knew personally about a third of the guys on that flag officers list – they didn’t need his “help” to be a player on the board – but the fact some of them were selected they are tainted because everyone knows XXXXX shopped their name around personally with the board members. And one of the guys selected, well, as they say, we see all colors of folks who screen that everyone says, “What in the hell!!!!!! They better get that command a good XO…”

    One sad sidebar with this is that the “old bull” O6 community COS/Commodores present/former and a few flag officers were talking amongst themselves about “what do we do about this…” In the end they did nothing, because they are well aware that there are some issues that you just cannot discuss or raise – and there are people who if you go against you can count on zero support. The flag officer in question already had two IGs against him, proven, and he still got a second star. That is fairly clear I&W to avoid that guy.

    Anyway, I went on a tangent. Women? Sure, just don’t be afraid about an honest discussion about pregnancy, sex on ship, and prostitution. All three are being dealt with to varying degrees of success in the fleet right now – though not with much transparency. It was easier to get the MIO SOP translated into Arabic than to get the details of the prostitution ring on the Connie during her ’01 TRANSPAC.

    Also, the ability to do the job. If a job requires the strength of two people – unqual everyone male or female that can’t handle being one of the two. Don’t make it 4.

    If it is good enough for TACAIR (Yukon was first to drop a bomb in ODF), good enough for surface ships, good enough for CVN V1 and V2 Division – then it is good enough for subs.

  6. badbob Says:

    What about the existing berthing/head/medical configurations. Have adequate facilities been designed into the newer hulls? If so how many less fish can you carry because of that extra head? What is it, about a 2 million dollars a sq/ft for a sub?

    Have these issues been ameliorated already? Are the appropriators and taxpayers willing to fund another “experiment”? During a time of war?

    As a dinosaur, and Tailhooker to boot, I’m not a big proponent of women in the military (sorry). I may have been raised in a different era but I am smart enough to observe that some of these F-18 and other pilots we have nowadays are pretty good! As a numbered fleet staff officer I have also known some black-shoe officers that did well in surface command. Finally, as a tech type myself (NAVAIR), I also have known many super sharp woman engineers, even nucs, who are smart as snot.

    In all the communities above it’s the enlisted rates that I worry about. Can they close that valve? Can they fireman carry me out of a burning space?

    So I know for a fact, “some” could do it, but is it worth the expense? You have to know that to pay for it we”ll end up with less subs in the end…

    Re all the sociological shi…: Pregnancy, OOW birth, relationships at sea…….man- I’m glad I’m not on AD now…..


  7. Xopher Says:

    Couple comments,

    I got out 14 years ago and we were 10 years from having women in subs, or so they told me. Can women do the job, sure. But..

    Upper body strength-there are some physical demands, but we had some pretty unfit sailors when I was in. But there are times when it’s needed. Test-Go or No-go.

    As for Carol’s comments-there will be some problems. When you put young people together, even screening for the best, some will misbehave. Saw my share as a training officer at prototype. This will add a dimension of problems no one wants (Of course, no one wants more problems).

    And don’t forget privacy issues. People will get embarrased (I seem to remember sailors making it a point to embarras others, it was called amusement.)

    The question is: Will the sub force gain more than it looses. We need quality people. With a draw down in the force (subject of numerous other blogs) do we need to allow women on board to get the quality we need? Of course, you can ask by excluding women are we excluding quality we need. I served with 2 very good to exceptional women officers while on a shore tour (non-nuke).

    Let’s not do this because its politically expedient. And if we do it, let’s do it right and with eyes wide open. Women can crew submarines, but it will mean new problems. We ought to be able to discuss them frankly without fear and we better think through the answers to hard questions ahead of time. What do you do with a pregnant sailor? Getting her off the ship on patrol better have a SOP before the ship leaves port. If you are ready for the worst, then you can handle the job.

  8. chap Says:

    Ehh, the arguments have been bounced around back and forth for decades. I have a well-worn groove where my own position is; others have theirs.

    I’m focusing on how to make it work if directed to do so. If other groups can make it work, and they do, then submariners can. But the really hard part isn’t toilets or kids screwing around or any of the other things other people have found solutions for with varying degrees of success.

    It’s getting enough young female engineers who want to be submariners.

  9. Carol Says:

    Yeah, that is a problem, I did civil engineering and I’ve ended up in a foreign country and in advertising.

  10. Vigilis Says:

    Chap, 36M-4R is the code for maintenance done every three years or as required….Actually, the topic will self-recusitate wih each new POTUS (48M-4R?). Know this will come as a shock to him, but Skippy’s concise explanation embodies the simplicity of Occam’s razor, and I must agree with this observant aviator. Several key factors are also totally missing from the forgoing arguments, including real esprit realized by men in defense of women (that would be sacrificed) in a mixed theme. Women are not men, and the ones who lack women’s emotional assets can be considered by psychiatrists as the most suspect of their gender.

  11. chap Says:

    I figure it’s a little more often, so it’s a 36M. You could put in a change card to NAVSEA.

    Like I said, everyone’s got their preworn, set arguments, and I’ve got mine.

  12. Subsunk Says:


    Good arguments and reasoning all over the comments and this post. I think all of you have hit it on the head. As XO, I had several underways with civilian and Navy females onboard for at least a couple of nights on short ops (Scientists, Undersea Medical Officer candidate, some PR flack, and a couple of others who escape me right now). The long and short of it is that it can happen. Probably will happen. Your suggestions are all good, probably should happen on Tridents first because you can get enough junior enlisted to fill a 9 man bunkroom and that will suffice. They must have CPOs and Officers onboard, not living in the 9 man, so this means at least 13 women at a time to begin with. Agree with most of your suggestions on this.

    As a Squadron rider, I rode the tender numerous times and all the stereotypes about infidelity, sex onboard underway, fraternization, and sexual harrasment are all true. Sad, but true. It must be suffered because we can really do nothing else once the decision is made to go this way.

    The underlying argument in all these comments which goes sort of unspoken (except in a few comments) is that of why must we load more problems on a Navy that already has tremendous pressure to handle problems which do not add anything to military readiness? The bottom line of the War in Iraq has been that the US public will accept female casualties because everyone has been indoctrinated since birth (like good little Komsomolets children listening to the Hollywood movies and Captain Planet and He-Man cartoons) that women are equal to men and therefore deserve no slack when they get hurt in the same proportions as men in combat.

    If this premise is widely accepted, then women in submarines is an assurance. If combat effectiveness in a Navy war against the Chinese over Taiwan rights is the major issue (and as a Navy war, I think this one is the most likely), then why broach the additional heartache and discontent of adding women to submarines at any time? For that matter why did we ever add women to surface ships and aviation squadrons? And they have most certainly learned how to do this, survive and even, in some cases, thrive.

    Because we can’t man the Navy without them. And male sailors doing back to back sea tours without shore duty is a major impediment to keeping trained sailors in the Navy. Women restricted to only shore duty billets caused this retention problem when I was a pup. In spades. So this will happen, it will be painful, it will be achieved successfully, and the Navy culture will be changed. We need to accept this and move on.

    Failure to accept change defeated Napoleon, the Spanish Armada, the German Navy in WWI and WWII, and the Japanese Navy in WWII. Although women in subs is not considered “major” changes in this warfighting regard, it must be managed and handled to the best of our ability. Handling it while also fighting increased OPTEMPO, horrible PERSTEMPO, out of this world maintenance requirements for our ships, and chewing up and spitting out our young folks to get the jobs done is unfair, but is inevitable. Do your best. Suck it up and drive on.

    And so, what RPPMS schedule did you check this PM off on? Personally, I think it had to be a “noseconer” PM schedule, but many well respected “f… nukes” assured me it was a Reactor Plant PMS schedule which generated this PM. After all, who but a nuke would revel in creating this much paperwork, heartache, and discontent? But I repeat myself……

    Laugh it up guys. When you do, the world smiles with you.


  13. badbob Says:

    OK Mr. Chapo. I’m definetely not going to get into any intellectual arguments w/y’all BB-heads. I learned long ago y’all are a whole lot smarter than us brownshoes….but what about the habitability/sppace issues? Have they been implemented?

    Let me change hats from “resistor” to implementor. If I got the task I’d do this:

    – Officers- You need female engineers with some nautical experience, right? Mids in training w/requisite grades, let ’em do summer duty on subs- you will have to make arragements ASAP. Concurrently, recruit cadre of extremely qualified OCS ers to apply if they have necessary credential physics/engineering. For short term implementation of task and to prime the pump, entice eligible female officer shoes who have demonstrated leadership and technical competence to apply. Choose the best and send to modified sub schools. Break out m-project for phasing and figure 10-14 year tweaking until 1st group of females is ready for command.

    – Warrants & LDOs?- you’re going to have to wait until you grow a crop.

    – Enlisted- again highly qualified lateral transfers and regular pipeline. Maintain high standards.

    And finally, the most important of all. Do not allow Commodores and rest of hi-altitude leadership define “success” (for fitrep purposes) other than the sub standard metric now in effect. Otherwise you will have Hultgren episodes and one big unmotivated sub force. Good luck senor.

    Original hat back on.

    re Subsunk- “Because we can’t man the Navy without them…” If this is really true God help us all. As you know- it doesn’t have to be this way. Personally, when I read a link like this every couple weeks it affects my gut:

    I respect their service and their heroism, but I still “feel” it’s just plain wrong.


  14. chap Says:

    The extra leverage you might use is from the other communities, and you don’t have to start at the mids or ignore LDOs. I guarantee you’ve got women who’ve been in combat and are good leaders with engineering experience from the shoe Navy, for instance.

    That’s how we used to get submariners, and how surface ships got commanders, until Rickover killed that off and made the force more insular.

    Airman Jacobson deserves the respect earned any of our fallen, fighting an enemy who would kill any or all of us if they could. Her service was worthy, and I would have been proud to serve alongside her or any of her comrades.

  15. badbob Says:

    re “Airman Jacobson deserves the respect earned any of our fallen, fighting an enemy who would kill any or all of us if they could. Her service was worthy, and I would have been proud to serve alongside her or any of her comrades”

    Whoa- hold on a minute pardner. B2 won’t be pushed into a box. I agree 100%. I said so. No doubt it was her “choice” and a voluntary and honorable one, not taken lightly during this time of war.

    OTOH, she could have been a mother is all……. I may view things through a different lens, but I won’t doubt what I see- reality 2005.

    re- “Rickover killed that off and made the force more insular.”

    Interesting. Did that decision have anything to do with the advent of the nuclear fleet. Aboard a CVN we all know who really “runs” the ship- the engineer. Does command of a sub demand a Nuc engineering degree? Is mech eng OK? What about Aero? EE? Is this sub warrior propensity you seek measurable via test or other means? Y’all need to define that or you will receive something different from what you need.


  16. chap Says:

    “I agree 100%…but”? What, one of the guys couldn’t have been a father? Sounds like I ain’t pushing you into a box so much as describing where the box is…

    Stopping senior submariners from returning to the surface force was partially a function of billet pressure as the Navy expanded.

    The skills needed to be a nuke are pretty pre-set. The four star personally interviews each candidate for power school after his engineers beat on the kid for an hour or two. They’ll take a nontechnical degree in rare cases (with additional classes) but most are math, mech E, nuke E, EE, even aeronautical E. Already defined…but not many women get those degrees.

    Also, even fewer go to college for those degrees and drop out of school, which is one way we get enlisted nukes.

  17. submandave Says:

    I agree with Chap that hashing over the privacy and habitability issues is ignoring the real elephant in the living room of change management. Leadership and making the change mentally is the challenge, the rest is just plumbing. Not to discount that how one chooses to go about the plumbing (special head vs. designated shower times, grouped berthing vs. kicking DH out of staterooms, etc.) will affect how difficult the change management is.

    There are certainly some areas in senior enlisted where prior submarine experience is not as much of a disadvantage as others (e.g. ET (esp radio-side), nuc rates). I would propose manditory sub school as well as, for E6+, a qualification tour prior to permanent assignment.

    The DH jobs, however, pose a different problem. While a female nuke who completed engineering tours on a CVN might even be a better ENG than a sub-grown DH, the DHs all play a vital part in the operation and fighting of the whole ship. A DH that cannot stand OOD, doesn’t understand TMA and has never taken a boat to PD is less than half a crewmember. The basic submarining skills learned during the JO tour are essential and would be sorely missed, to the detriment of the whole boat.

    If I were in charge of making this work, I’d concentrate on ensuring there was command support from the senior (DH+) wardroom and developing adequate female presence in the senior enlisted ranks to keep an eye on the stuff that stays hidden from the wardroom and home-grow our female sub officers as JOs.

    As a side item, while a lot of emphasis is placed on illicit affairs between crew members and the family stress this potential creates, it does cut both ways. When I was on the boomer pig I don’t think we came back from patrol a single time that someone’s wife didn’t runn off with some guy. If the spouse’s club includes lonely husbands as well, they don’t have to run that far for comfort.

  18. badbob Says:

    re- my “I agree 100% ….but”

    To paraphrase, you said-

    deserves the respect earned

    Her service was worthy

    been proud to serve alongside

    I agree 100%. It still ain’t right, it’s just the way it is- now.

    I hate to argue over cultural issue I have zero power to influence. Let me jump back in my ‘box’.


  19. submandave Says:

    OK, second try.

    I agree with Chap that the traditionally raised (an admittedly real) issues of privacy and habitability are just side shows to the elephant of change management. Leadership and changing people’s attitudes are the main challenge, everything else if just plumbing (while admitting that how that plumbing is run can certainly affect the difficulty of the leadership challenge).

    There are some senior enlisted positions for which lack of submarine experience are less of a handicap than others (e.g. ET radio-side, nuc rates). For others (FT, A-Gang) it is more critical to success. One of the biggest operational problems I see is with watchstanding competency. Unlike the surface world a First Class or Chief reporting to a submarine is expected to be able to fairly rapidly support the watchbill, often as COW or DOOW.

    On the officer side, things are a little different. While I have no doubt there are female nucs with CVN experience that could probably do the engineering part of the job better than many serving ENGs, that completely ignores the fact that DHs serve a much more important role in operating and fighting the ship than many understand. Regardless of how great a nuc someone is, if they can’t stand OOD, have never taken a boat to PD and don’t have a firm understanding of TMA they’re only doing half their job, if that much. The basic submarining skill slearned as a JO are essential to being a competent DH.

    OK, if I were saddled with this albatross, I’d place a great emphasis on the enlisted side. For E5 and below, I’d treat them exactly like any other new submariner, go to sub school, report aboard and better not get dink. For E6+ I’d follow sub school with a qualification cruise before permenant assignment. This not only supports keeping operational standards high, but also helps the senior enlisted female crewmembers hit the deck plates contributing to the mission, removing much of the stigma of being a FLOB Chief. I’d place a time-limit (four to six years) on the latteral accession of E6+ so we don’t continue this long after we should have competent female submariners that have come up through the ranks. For the officers, I’d restrict entry to JOs only. The operational, warfighting and safety responsibilities placed on more senior officers (DH+) demand a firm understanding and basis in submarining. The existing wardroom can more easily be aligned to the challanges of change, but I believe senior female enlisted leadership is essential to keeping a pulse on what may otherwise intentionally be kept from the wardroom.

    As a side note, while an often expressed concern is about shipboard romance and the negative effect this potential has on families, this can cut both ways. I can’t remember a single time on the boomer pig we came back from a partol and at least one person didn’t come home to an empty house. How might the presence of understanding and equally lonely husbands in the Spouse’s Club affect this dynamic and the related stresses on crewmembers?

  20. Subsunk Says:


    You and I are probably of the same school and upbringing, son. It feels wrong to me, too. I don’t want my daughter, wife, or mother to serve on ships at sea. And truly, we could man the Navy without women if we really had the will to do so. It might require drastic measures and Men would have to agree their place in life is to make sure women don’t have to fill out the ranks to adequately defend us. If we quit pussyfooting around with the press and made it seem like real men should be honored to serve their country once again we would not need our women in uniform as desperately as we currently do.

    But the press, Congress and political correctness has eliminated our ability to feel that sending the fairer sex to war is just not something Men should be accepting. The Jinn is out of the bottle, and it will take more than twelve men and a small boy to put him back in it again. Given today’s political and sexual climate, we must learn to change ourselves and accept that our daughters will die, horribly, in every war we fight henceforth.

    My personal opinion is that this is wrong, it is dishonorable, and it is something that us folks who believe in the gentlemanly character of warriors such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, and Douglas MacArthur, just to name some famous ones, find to be wrong. But we can do nothing about it. We (as a people) have agreed, through our failure to stop the manning of the military with women, that this must happen. All that is left for us now, is to try to regain our honor through the noble and difficult process of trying to shoulder any additional burdens thrust upon us by this set of circumstances (and I believe they are many), to do the honorable thing by protecting these fair ladies of the deep from our baser male interests, and to allow them to serve with the honor they deserve from volunteering to assist the male warrior in his battles, however they find themselves able to accomplish that, all the the while, doing OUR duty without complaint.

    One extremely interesting passage on women in World War II has stayed in my mind for a long time. By the 1st of May 1945, a Task Force of the German 9th Army, retreating westward towards the American and British Armies from the Oder River, and under relentless attack from the Russian Army, had been fighting and retreating for several days. They knew that their only hope was to keep the Soviets as far east as possible to allow their civilian population to escape the butchery and rape which had already befallen the civilian populations of Germany as soon as the Russian Army entered a German town. (To be fair, the German Army had similarly raped and pillaged its way through many a Russian town three years earlier). The men were exhausted, sick with dysentery and disease. The civilians were aware that these men were their only hope of survival in the face of the Russians who had slaughtered entire families upon entering Germany, raped every woman they could get their hands on from age 11 to 86, many of them raped repeatedly as revenge for German atrocities on Soviet soil. There had been few casualties among the civilians as they were retreating, protected by the rear guard actions of the German army. The retreat had begun with 20,000 troops. After 10 days of running combat, the heavily reinforced 32nd SS PanzerGrenadier Division had been reduced to 400 men.

    Their commander could not rouse his men from the ground, they were so fatigued. So he told a group of women “If you want to get out of here, you’ll have to do it yourselves.” They picked up the men’s weapons and headed west, carrying the young German soldiers with them. Just before dawn on 1 May, they were overtaken by the Russians. They ran through the woods until they came to a river, ice cold and 25 ft wide. The soldiers improvised rafts, stripped off their clothes and towed the women across. Some made it across before the Russians attacked those left on the far bank. There was hysterical screaming and shooting. The soldiers who ferried the women acorss were so exhausted they urged the women to run, but many stayed, covering the naked soldiers with their coats and rubbing their limbs to recover from the freezing water. The Russians appeared on the bank of the river and took the women, with a few benevolent exceptions. Many were ferried off to the East never to be seen again. Some of the soldiers survived, but their comrades were mutilated, castrated, noses and eyes gouged out, and left as carrion for the dogs.

    Elsewhere, one armored German task group, with only two tanks left, and a mission to break through the Russians and allow the retreat of an encircled Army Group, fought through the night. The tank barrels were red hot. The exhausted infantrymen fighting through the Russian lines were followed by hundreds of girls and women traveling with them for protection, carrying extra machine pistols, ammunition, and rifles. They reached their assigned objective against tremendous odds, and found the retreating 9th Army had not yet reached them. So their commander had them wait through the night until finally the bedraggled survivors of the 9th Army found their way through the lines, — and collapsed.

    To me, this shows that women can do the job when required or when they wish to — however the circumstances fit. The question which we should have asked and answered long ago is — why should they HAVE to? I agree the Airman is a Hero of the first degree. My question, and I think yours, as well, is — why should she HAVE to be?


  21. badbob Says:

    Exactly Subsunk! Thanks.

    As a father, brother, husband, son and warrior of a slightly different era, I have different view is all. Like you.

    That being said, I do understand the policy and what goes for the status quo, and I have empathy for those still on AD like Chap who have issues to resolve and tasks to execute. It’s just that sometimes I think my former peers (now 3 stars & above) have, just possibly, influenced the folks to reflexively resist the past- well some of it-sometimes.

    On the task above you sub warriors who have come to assist Chap have great ideas and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a Chap article on that exact subject in Proceedings. I like a guy that that plans ahead. If any Navy community can do it right, the sub community can.

    Personal anecdote- About 15 years ago a whole bunch of 0-5’s from every operational level staff in CONUS were tasked-personally- by a 4-star CINC (old term) to come up with a plan to conduct realistic and rational joint training and take a critical look at rotational deployments. The O-5s came from fleet staffs (all communities), 8th/12th AF, 18 ABC, 24 Mech, II MEF, SOCOM you name it, The 4-star wanted “options”. He then left in his NY Mets baseball jacket….. Eight hours later the group had not come up with one decent idea for all the “right” reasons. At that juncture an 0-6 came in and basically told us we weren’t leaving and to think out of the box…..After 30 minutes of more grumbling an ex-SSN CO started throwing out some ideas. Shrewd, that guy. We left at midnight, but we had something! That 0-6? He was a sub dude too and went on to become a CINC.



  22. Carol Says:

    “Given today’s political and sexual climate, we must learn to change ourselves and accept that our daughters will die, horribly, in every war we fight henceforth.”

    Good point, well made. Just like slavery and voting rights strictly for the elite, the lack of rights for women made sense at the time, but no longer.

    The downside of equality is women have to pull their weight in all sorts of areas they avoided in the olden days. I’d rather some women I know fighting for what is right, rather than the tiny boys forced to it in some of the more horrible places in the world.

    By the way, Antony Beever, author of ‘Stalingrad’ and ‘Berlin 1945’, said about the rapes that went on at the end of WWII: “A man with a gun and no retribution will rape.” Key word there – retribution. He also said “the Americans didn’t have to as they had chocolate and other food to offer and the British, well, everyone thinks they must have just been too busy making cups of tea.” It did get a laugh.

    I don’t think you can single out submarines as special environments that should be men only. Or, I haven’t read anything here that explains the very unique nature that makes it so radically difficult for women to perform well there. I know there is a lot of logic to the idea that men can be more ruthless and single minded when women aren’t around, but if you wall off women into their feminine little areas how is that different to having women cover themselves modestly in public and all that Sharia law rubbish.

    I keep checking back to see if an argument’s been made – that I can understand. Still checking.

  23. Zoe Brain Says:

    A couple of semi-random but connected points.

    I used to teach Computer Science at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

    B2, I can understand your feelings about Airman Jacobsen. I feel exactly the same way about Lt Matthew Goodall RAN.

    You know he was one of my 3 best students?

    Another of the 3 was a Female Midshipman whose ambition was to one day command a sub. I think she’ll make it too. I’ve seen the type over at the SWSC (Submarine Warfare System Centre), the ones who you know are going to pass the “Perisher” in the UK. The leaders.

    Such people are rare.

    To deny her the opportunity to serve her country in a way that vanishingly few people could, only a few in every generation, to make use of her rare talents, that would be unbelievably cruel to her, and worse, damaging to the country.

    Very few women have the guts and determination to be different from their peers. You think decent, patriotic boys in the ROTC have it tough in liberal colleges, well, take it from me, girls who want to join the military have it far, far worse, at least here in Australia. Not that I was ever in that position myself (long story) but I know plenty of women who were. They’ve already paid their dues before they join up. Some make it, others don’t, but that’s true for everyone.

    Never, ever, underestimate the power of the Maternal Instinct. When a woman decides she needs to protect not juts her kids, but her country, better get out of her way if you know what’s good for you.

  24. badbob Says:

    Carol & Zoe,

    Ladies, I respectfully decline to argue this, specifically. It’s not an issue. Re- read the posts. Rather, it’s just the status quo.

    Subsunk and I hold a common opinion that has been supplanted with another now in effect via policy. You’ll not change my opinion, but you probably will outlive me if that gives you succor. ; – )

    re- “When a woman decides she needs to protect not juts her kids, but her country, better get out of her way if you know what’s good for you.”

    Yep. Conditions.


  25. K Newman Says:

    I’ve been to sea for a period of about a year, with the same two women engineer riders when my boat was conducting the combat system TECHEVAL/OPEVAL. They would ride the boat for several weeks, get off with the rest of the riders and meet us a few days later at the next port. Nice ladies, attractive, educated, they tried to stay out of the crew’s way.

    Sorry folks, it didn’t work. Despite their best efforts, they were still in the way and were still a distraction. And I don’t believe they were too comfortable either. Space IS an issue. Those who have never done time on the boats just wouldn’t understand. Several weeks underway turns what a civilian tourist would call ‘cramped’ or ‘small’ into ‘sardine can.’ On the boomer patrols I did, guys are really testy by Week Eight, with an occasional call-out or scuffle.

    What we have in the boats now works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The politically correct set decided to ‘fix’ the surface, aviation and other sides of the Navy and what a mess we have now. The comment above about tenders is a good one. Tailhook is another good reminder.

    This just needs to be left alone. And no, I do not think that women in submarines is inevitable. Why? Because I’ve spoken to too many enlisted and civilian women who have taken tours on boats and said ‘no way.’ Except for a few ‘progressive’ politicians and some female officers with an agenda, there’s no pressure to do so.

    Oh, did I mention the wives? When former Clinton SECNAV Richard Danzig pushed this issued back in the 90s, the Submarine Wives Club went berserk. The wives were NOT happy. And as we all know, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy….and in this case that would include the Navy. Because if Secretary Danzig’s plan had gone through, the Submarine Force would have been gutted. The wives would have made sure of that.

  26. chap Says:

    Boomer? Small? Heh.

  27. K Newman Says:

    Yep. Small. Not as small as a 688, but small. Compare the amount of space available for the crew to move around in on board a T-hull with that on board a DDG. And a DDG displaces 2,000 tons less than a surfaced SSBN. A T-hull still doesn’t have enough bunkroom space for the entire crew, which is why the junior guys sleep in portable racks in Missile Lower Level. And they have an on-crew of only 150 or so, a DDG has twice that number.

  28. chap Says:

    Heh. Try a PC or PHM or MCM–clear difference in that they have a fantail with which to look at the sky, but they’re not that big. BNs ain’t exactly hot racking the first classes. And big, like on a carrier, has its own special kind of problem because there are lots of hidden spots with which to do interesting things.

    In any case the space thing wasn’t the point of this post and I’ve already stated that everyone has their well-worn grooves for their arguments. This is more about how one could implement a policy, not whether or not to do so.

  29. Mkane Says:

    Hi Chap,

    Googled up your site while looking for information about battleships.

    As an officer in the army since 1983, I’m not sure what you meant by “ohbythewaythearmy is”?

    The army is coping with the fact that the average white female does not complete her 1st four year enlistment.

    The army is paying for a mountain of cost associated with unwed mothers and custodial single parents.

    The army is coping with a record number of nondeployable for combat females, althought the exact number you won’t find out because the army officially at least “does not track those statistics”.

    The army has dropped standards at numerous schools (Pathfinder, Air Assault, Airborne) to accomodate females. The two man litter carry has become the four person litter carry.

    The army has awarded a silver star and several bronze stars for valor to females. They’ve done the same for males over forty. They’ve done this in a war against an enemy who can fairly be classified as a souped up version of the Keystone Cops. Does that indicate it is a good idea to send females or men over forty into combat or register them for the draft? I don’t think so. Not unless a war against a tough enemy is out of the question.

    Guys like Mikey Boorda were all for women in combat. Guys like James Webb are not.

    I’ll go with Webb.

  30. Chapomatic Says:

    […] a 36 month periodic maintenance item…and it’s sad to see I used to add some okay writing to this website every once in a […]

  31. Chapomatic » And I say Unto You, Heh Says:

    […] offer advice from previous iterations of this periodic issue. Comments […]

Trackback URL for 36M-4R: Women In Submarines:


Powered by WordPress (c) 2002-2009 Chap G.