Long and hard and full of seawomen: Pentagon ok's women on subs

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Hope the title is satisfactory. :)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61M6LW20100224

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to lawmakers notifying them of the decision by the Navy, which could see the first women on nuclear submarines next year.

"This is fundamentally a Navy initiative, which they recently briefed to the secretary of defense. (Gates) supports it and he notified Congress of the Navy's plans," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Women account for about 15 percent of the more than 336,000 members of the U.S. Navy and can serve on its surface ships. But critics have argued that submarines are different, pointing to cramped quarters where some crews share beds in shifts -- a practice known as "hot bunking."

A likely scenario would see female officers becoming the first to join crews on the Navy's fleet of 71 submarines, since officers have separate accommodations, a U.S. defense official said.

Congress has 30 days to provide its official comment on the Navy's decision.

Nancy Duff Campbell, an advocate for expanding the role of women in the U.S. armed forces, applauded the decision and said she did not expect any opposition from lawmakers.
Nice to see. :)
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
1,183
5045 feet above sea level
As an ex-submariner, I couldn't disagree more - sorry to see it happening :(
I agree with you

This is just politics without thinking at all about the effects

Never mind the complete and utter PITA that this will have on logistics and staffing of subs

It will be more of a hassle then you think and will cost the Navy millions upon millions to make these accomodations...not to mention taking subs offline to do it

I will bet my bottom dollar that women will only serve on Ohio class subs
Since they serve on other ships, there really is no reason why they can't serve on subs.
Being a submariner is quite a bit different than being surface
 

Dont Hurt Me

macrumors 603
Dec 21, 2002
6,056
6
Yahooville S.C.
This throws a wrench into the whole sub force, kind of stupid but politics are most the time. This will cost a fortune and create more problems then it solves.
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,040
111
Canada, eh?
As a civilian and outsider to the whole military world, I just don't understand the resistance.

Is it because of issues relating to hormones being bottled up (literally) for weeks, months at a time?

Is it because a bunch of guys think they won't be able to bond as well because there are women around?
 

Beric

macrumors 68020
Jan 22, 2008
2,148
0
Bay Area
Very poor decision, IMO. Clearly a PC one.

Every square foot of a sub is important. Having to make separate women's quarters, restrooms, and the like, and suddenly thinking about privacy, can only hurt the sub's effectiveness and morale. And just think about having people cooped up for months at a time. Let alone retrofitting every single sub. Subs take mental toughness (which I certainly don't have).
 

JNB

macrumors 604
In a perfect, gender-neutral society, women should be able to serve anywhere they desire to regardless of any other considerations.

Trouble is, it isn't, we ain't, and they won't.

I"m sick & tired of agenda-driven decisions made for their own sake by folks that have not clue # one what they're talking about. I doubt most of the leading proponents of this (Nancy Duff Campbell, for example) have ever been on a sub, or any warship for that matter.

I've served in both single-gender and mixed crews (having been AOIC on the latter), and the biggest problem is that in our society, what we altruistically want and how we still react and behave are light-years apart. Just shoving them in there isn't going to solve it, executive decisions to the contrary.

Kara Hultgreen didn't die for our sins, she died for our stupidity.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
As a civilian and outsider to the whole military world, I just don't understand the resistance.

Is it because of issues relating to hormones being bottled up (literally) for weeks, months at a time?

Is it because a bunch of guys think they won't be able to bond as well because there are women around?
I'd like to see them give it a try. However, I think a big part of the concern people raise is that even the largest nuclear subs are incredibly small on the inside. Aside from officer's quarters, they're built with very little personal space, including in the bathrooms.

If the Navy thinks its a good idea, though, I'm all for letting them give it a try. We're not in or immediately likely to be in a war where submarine power is crucial, so now is as good a time as any to let them experiment.
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,040
111
Canada, eh?
Every square foot of a sub is important. Having to make separate women's quarters, restrooms, and the like, and suddenly thinking about privacy, can only hurt the sub's effectiveness and morale.
Aha. I hadn't thought about that. See, it's pretty obvious I've never stepped foot on a sub. :p

So how about an all-female sub crew? :D
 

MoleSkine

macrumors member
Jun 30, 2009
60
0
New York!
U know, I'm a girl and I really can't stand all this B.S. about women having to be equal to everything a man does. This is such PC B.S. that it actually angering me :mad:

Like it or not oh "fair and equality for all" ones, men and women are made different in every aspect FOR A REASON.

I feel sorry for the awesome men in the subs who now have to deal with this NONSENSE and have women on the subs, just so we won't hurt their pretty little feelings. :mad:

This is just beyond, beyond dumb. It's not about being with the times. Be witht the times all you want, you're not ognna change the physical and mental wiring of a man and woman no matter where you try to stick that woman. Morons. UGH this is so retarded, sorry.
 

Lord Blackadder

macrumors G5
May 7, 2004
13,521
2,557
Sod off
We often accuse the military of being incredibly conservative, but it is impossible to deny that nuclear submarines present unique challenges to mixed male/female crews.

Space-saving design means very little privacy, hot-bunking and so forth. The attack subs in particular are really close quarters, and would demand a level of professionalism on the part of the crew that is simply unprecedented in peacetime, before you begin to think of the pressures of combat operations.

I don't think it's impossible but it will lead to an increase in "incidents", at least until the system becomes better at getting men and women to work in extremely close proximity, in highly stressful environments, 24/7.

I am not a fan of "separate but equal", so I'm not convinced that an all-female sub is a good alternative. But I'm also not sure how the challenges to integrate a sub will be overcome.
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,484
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
Two thoughts:
1) to all those who are critical of this initiative as "politics" and "PC" gone wrong.... please note that this is the Navy informing the politicians of a decision made at the military level. This is not politicians telling the military what to do.
2) if it is too difficult to put mixed gender facilities on a submarine... then as someone else noted, create an all female crew. Or is the argument really that "little girlies can't play with the big boy's toys?" In which case, grow up.
 

Lord Blackadder

macrumors G5
May 7, 2004
13,521
2,557
Sod off
Why don't the women just stay in the men's quarters? Not as though they actually have to sleep in the same bed at the same time. Just the same bed, at different times. Would be an accepted part of sub service considering the space requirements.
Well, the pilot program only includes officers, who have separate quarters. But, assuming the program extends to the crew, they would presumably all hot-bunk together. Doing otherwise would require extremely expensive modifications to the subs along with sacrifices in tactical capability (reduced crew/storage/performance). subdividing the crew compartment for privacy will increase cost/weight/size and decrease speed compared with a sub that does not do this.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,141
13,987
What is the big deal here? Why would different accomodations have to be made? Ever hear of co ed bathrooms?

This is part of the armed forces, if you can't be professional in service then don't ****ing serve, simple as that.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
1,183
5045 feet above sea level
Aha. I hadn't thought about that. See, it's pretty obvious I've never stepped foot on a sub. :p
I have been on PCU MISSOURI and boy, that thing was cramped inside.
What is the big deal here? Why would different accomodations have to be made? Ever hear of co ed bathrooms?

This is part of the armed forces, if you can't be professional in service then don't ****ing serve, simple as that.
Obviously you have NEVER been around sailors

"Professional" and "sailors" don't go along in the same sentence in most cases
Two thoughts:
1) to all those who are critical of this initiative as "politics" and "PC" gone wrong.... please note that this is the Navy informing the politicians of a decision made at the military level. This is not politicians telling the military what to do.
Are you really this naive?

2) if it is too difficult to put mixed gender facilities on a submarine... then as someone else noted, create an all female crew.
That would be the easiest solution
Or is the argument really that "little girlies can't play with the big boy's toys?" In which case, grow up.
Who is bringing this up besides you?:rolleyes:

I assure you that this is NOT the reason for people not liking this idea.
Well, the pilot program only includes officers, who have separate quarters. But, assuming the program extends to the crew, they would presumably all hot-bunk together. Doing otherwise would require extremely expensive modifications to the subs along with sacrifices in tactical capability (reduced crew/storage/performance). subdividing the crew compartment for privacy will increase cost/weight/size and decrease speed compared with a sub that does not do this.
Exactly and taking ships offline to do these mods which is
1) very expensive
2) time intensive
3) takes resources away from new construction

All for a "need" that isn't there. This isn't society, this is the military

As the saying goes for sailors and other armed services, "We are not here to practice democracy, we are here to protect it"
 

Lord Blackadder

macrumors G5
May 7, 2004
13,521
2,557
Sod off
I don't think anyone is arguing that women can't serve on a sub as effectively as men (I certainly am not), but I think it's fair to say that it will present new challenges. I certainly support the idea in principle.
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,484
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
Two thoughts:
1) to all those who are critical of this initiative as "politics" and "PC" gone wrong.... please note that this is the Navy informing the politicians of a decision made at the military level. This is not politicians telling the military what to do.
Are you really this naive?
Even as a non-American, I have a great deal of respect for the professionalism of the US military. When the politicians tried to sweep under the carpet the investigation into the friendly fire incident that killed a bunch of Canadians soldiers in Afghanistan, the Pentagon went to unprecedented lengths to keep the investigation open and transparent. When the US Navy says it believes it can integrate women into the submarine crew, then I believe that they have probably given the matter some thought. Probably a little more than the armchair admirals posting here.

2) if it is too difficult to put mixed gender facilities on a submarine... then as someone else noted, create an all female crew. Or is the argument really that "little girlies can't play with the big boy's toys?" In which case, grow up.
Who is bringing this up besides you?:rolleyes:
It's not being said outright, but I think the sentiment is there all the same. Why else the passionate arguments? Do people really think that adding 200 pounds of wall in crew quarters is going to affect the speed of a vessel whose weight is measured in thousands of tonnes? And yes, I know that the problems of integrating women into a crew are a bit more complicated than just a wall... but I was using that previously posted point to make my point that some arguments are not really about the technical issues... it's about the gender issues.
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,040
111
Canada, eh?
Or you could just say, "Hey women, if you want to sign up for sub duty, understand that the quarters are cramped, you'll be sharing the bathrooms, you'll be sharing the bunks, the guys are probably boors, you'll probably hear things and see things you didn't want to see, but if you can handle that, and still want to serve, then come on in."

I don't see what the big deal would be, if they want to serve and they're willing to put up with the reality of sub duty.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
1,183
5045 feet above sea level
Even as a non-American, I have a great deal of respect for the professionalism of the US military.
My comment was not about the professionalism about the Navy as a whole, but rather the professionalism and behavior exhibited by young enlisted men who hadn't gone to school for a variety of reasons for the most part

When the US Navy says it believes it can integrate women into the submarine crew, then I believe that they have probably given the matter some thought. Probably a little more than the armchair admirals posting here.
Armchair admiral? Because I disagree with your point of view?

The fact is that the Navy relies on tax payer money dibursed by the government.

Other than politics, why would the Navy willingly adopt such a program that will be
1) costly
2) take ships offline

For a need that really isn't there. This is a political necessity, not a military one

It's not being said outright, but I think the sentiment is there all the same. Why else the passionate arguments?
No the sentiment is not there at all. I have no issue with it. I have an issue with going out of the way to make unneded modifications for warships that wil cost the tax payer a pretty penny

Do people really think that adding 200 pounds of wall in crew quarters is going to affect the speed of a vessel whose weight is measured in thousands of tonnes?
Its a lot more work than that:cool:

And yes, I know that the problems of integrating women into a crew are a bit more complicated than just a wall...
You think?
but I was using that previously posted point to make my point that some arguments are not really about the technical issues... it's about the gender issues.
Once again, it has nothing to do with women or gender

It has EVERYTHING to do with the logistics, and the modifications (mega millions and mega time) that will need to be done for a "need" that isn't there

Or you could just say, "Hey women, if you want to sign up for sub duty, understand that the quarters are cramped, you'll be sharing the bathrooms, you'll be sharing the bunks, the guys are probably boors, you'll probably hear things and see things you didn't want to see, but if you can handle that, and still want to serve, then come on in."

I don't see what the big deal would be, if they want to serve and they're willing to put up with the reality of sub duty.
True but I doubt it will be that way

Will be interesting to see how it plays out.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,141
13,987
Obviously you have NEVER been around sailors

"Professional" and "sailors" don't go along in the same sentence in most cases
Well maybe its time that instead of just preaching about how great our armed forces are, we actually hold them accountable. To me it seems like we slap an "honorable" front onto our forces then just accept when **** happens as the status quo. If we can't find a way to make our service people act in a fitting manor then perhaps our country is already in the *******. We can't just accept these things because they have been going on for years.
 

Lord Blackadder

macrumors G5
May 7, 2004
13,521
2,557
Sod off
Or you could just say, "Hey women, if you want to sign up for sub duty, understand that the quarters are cramped, you'll be sharing the bathrooms, you'll be sharing the bunks, the guys are probably boors, you'll probably hear things and see things you didn't want to see, but if you can handle that, and still want to serve, then come on in."

I don't see what the big deal would be, if they want to serve and they're willing to put up with the reality of sub duty.
To a large extent I agree with you. But it's also true that nuclear submarines have a reputation as being among the highest-stress and most dangerous postings in the navy; there is far less room for error than with a non-nuclear or surface ship. Carriers, the other major nuclear ship type, have much larger crews and lots of space per person in comparison with subs. Which is why it has taken so long to reach this point.

It's not as easy as "everyone just needs to get along", it's "everyone needs to work together professionally and we cannot afford any mistakes". Besides, it's just as stereotypical to assume the men are boors as it is to assume the women are helpless. The reality is not so much that men are boors as that putting people in close proximity and under stress pushes people to the limit - nuclear subs are famous for this - and adding women to the mix makes it undeniably more complicated for everyone.

Again, I am by no means against it. But it's simplistic to think it's something we can "just do", just like that. We need to come up with a system that works, and we don't have it in place yet. The pilot program linked by the OP is probably designed to identify issues regarding mixed-gender crews, to help develop future rules and so forth.

If you read memoirs by submariners from WWII onwards, you get a sense of just how claustrophobic sub duty is, and the issues with having mixed crews become immediately obvious. I'm not saying they're insurmountable, but it's not easy either.