Navy Picks Submarines That Will Carry First Women

By Anne Gearan | October 21, 2010 | 5:19 PM EDT

Washington (AP) - The Navy selected four submarines Thursday to carry the first women serving aboard what has been the last class of warship off-limits to them.

Twenty-four female officers are in training for submarine service and are expected to join their ships in December 2011. The Navy selected the USS Wyoming and USS Georgia, based in Kings Bay, Ga., and the USS Maine and USS Ohio, with their home port in Bangor, Wash. The ships are guided-missile attack submarines and ballistic-missile submarines.

The Navy announced in the spring that it was lifting the ban on women serving aboard submarines. Women had been barred from subs on the theory that the close quarters and long deployments common to these ships were unsuitable for a coed crew.

The initial class of women will serve in teams of three, all sharing a stateroom, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Rebecca Rebarich said. The lone bathroom for officers will bear a reversible sign _ letting men know that it's in use by women and vice versa.

They'll be divided up so that women are assigned to each sub's two rotating crews.

Limiting women to officer slots lets the Navy, for a time at least, sidestep the more vexing and cost-prohibitive problem of modifying subs to have separate bunks and bathrooms for enlisted men and women. Enlisted sailors make up about 90 percent of a sub's 160-member crew.