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"Dive! Dive! Oooogah... Ooooogah... Dive! Dive!

" the general announcing system

blares on the nuclear-powered submarine as it descends into the deep. For the next six

to nine months, the submarine will be underway for western Pacific deployment. The

149-man crew will participate in eighteen-hour days, experience consistent periods of

sleep deprivation, cease communications with home, and give up almost every ounce of

personal privacy to ensure the accomplishment of the mission with which they are

tasked. This is a small sample of the endless everyday challenges for Navy

submariners at sea. The submarine is an unforgiving, stress-filled environment,

complicated with tight quarters, limited shower and bathroom usage, and personnel

berthing so scarce, that men must time-share racks in order to sleep. Yet, recent

observations put forward by pentagon officials suggest they do not believe the

submarine environment is challenging enough. Consequently, they have put wind into

the sails for support in placing women aboard American nuclear submarines to serve

alongside their male shipmates— a decision that is detrimental to the missions and

goals of the submarine force.

First, there is the matter of retention and training costs. The United States Navy

is currently at a manpower of 331,000 active personnel serving abroad. The submarine

force is only comprised of about six percent, or 19,000 sailors. Since such a small

portion of the Navy's sailors are performing duties aboard submarines, personnel

manning is always a difficult issue. Across the navy, the current trends for retention

signal that seven out of ten males who enlist in the Navy will decide against

reenlistment or continued service. A more devastating blow to retention, however, is the

rate among women. Current trends demonstrate that approximately fifteen percent of

women previously enlisted decide to continue their naval service. This is a costly

problem for the military, as training a single applicant for the Navy may exceed costs of

$200,000. Attrition rates for submarines are even higher than the previous figures: it is

expected that only fifty percent of the given personnel will be retained; consideration

must be given to those who normally would be retained in order to get the most efficient

usage of the training expenses. If fifteen out of one hundred people leave the nuclear

program, the Navy will incur almost $3,000,000.00 a year in wasted funds. Training

women alongside men is largely a waste of American tax dollars. This type of spending

is unjustified and irresponsible.

Another factor to consider, women bring new medical issues to submarine life,

one of the most obvious being the chance of pregnancy. Senior Naval leadership

continues to assure that nothing will come from the integration of men and women; they

continue to boast that the sailors are professional enough to handle it without problems.

To uphold these statements, when a female sailor finds out that she is pregnant, she is

immediately pulled from duty aboard the ship and placed on shore until her child is born.

Afterward, the sailor is declared fit for full duty and returns to a sea command. A

pregnant woman onboard poses numerous possible dilemmas. For example, there is

the threat of radiation to the unborn child and the mother. For the most part, the effects

of radiation on the child are largely unknown. Submarines also have no licensed

doctors aboard. The vessels operate with what is known as a Submarine Independent

Duty Corpsman (IDC). The IDC is a Navy corpsman that has undergone somewhat

special training in order to be in charge of the medical readiness of a submarine crew.

Supplies and tests are very limited for a deployed ship, and care could become a

problem if a female required exams or special equipment normally performed or

supplied ashore by certified doctors. For these reasons, it becomes apparent why a

pregnant woman would require immediate departure from the submarine.

Due to a submarine’s assignment, operations normally take place in areas not

accessible by a surface vessel. As they have for many years, submarines continue to

conduct intelligence operations, tactical strikes, and special operations from within the

enemies' territorial waters. The need for a sailor to be evacuated while the submarine is

actively on mission is a quandary that could bear serious ramifications for United States’

security. A vessel may be operating in areas from where it is unable to immediately

depart. The current mission could be vital to national security, and straying away may

cause deployed units to miss key intelligence information opportunities. Submarines

also have very little to assist in removing a person from a ship; they are mostly limited to

boat transfers and helicopter transfers, both of which pose safety threats to service

members since they are commonly executed in the open ocean. Sailors have been

killed and injured during submarine small boat transfer operations, and during this

procedure, the safety of a woman's child can't be guaranteed. It's a risk that does not

need to be taken.

Privacy is also a grave concern. As one might expect, living space is

exceptionally limited aboard U.S. nuclear submarines. This doesn't allow for much

flexibility to separate the men's and women's berthing or shower areas. Showers are

shared by most of the crew. Currently, on an attack submarine, five showers are present

for the crew of roughly 130 men. These showers drain into sanitary tanks that collect
and store the wastewater until a time when it is tactically feasible for the ship to

discharge the water overboard. Often, the submarine is not able to discharge the

waste, and it is not uncommon for one or two bathrooms to become unusable as the

tank levels rise to a level of overflowing. In these instances, men must transit and utilize

the other showers and bathrooms. This is not possible if women are present since a

bathroom would have to be designated male or female only. Because of this, one sex

or the other at some point would lose the ability to access the bathroom when


Submariners already have a difficult time while deployed. The additional stresses

that a mixed gender crew faces are even more daunting. Submarine life thrives on

trust, being confident that each and every sailor is fully capable of executing any task

required at any time, no matter the circumstances. The job must be accomplished, and

the Navy must have the manpower to execute these jobs in a timely manner while

maintaining safety and security of the submarine and those who live therein. Adding

women to the submarine will do little but raise tension, destroy unit cohesion, and

deflate morale. Meanwhile, it would add a swarm of medical issues and potential cases

for fraternization and sexual harassment. The current platforms and crews are not

designed to support women and the numerous concerns they could bring with them. At

this point in time, it's plain to see that the addition of female sailors to submarines would

cause more harm than good.