UPDATE: The Hill has since updated its post to say that they were mistaken in reporting that the USS Illinois would be crewed only by women. The Hill left unclear whether this mistake was made completely erroneously or because the Illinois would have more than the usual opportunities for seawomen seeking posts on nuclear submarines. Please enjoy the rest of this post, which is still otherwise about factual gender opportunities or lack-thereof in the U.S. armed forces and Command Sgt. Maj. Jane Baldwin and Col. Ellen Haring’s lawsuit against the mandates that restrict them.
Nuclear submarines have been some of the last holdouts in co-ed military integration worldwide. Long deployments and superlatively cramped and mostly communal living spaces kept most navies from being comfortable with bunking men and women together. The strict economy of space has kept separate bathrooms and sleeping quarters low on the priority list of technological innovations for new submarine classes.
However, in the past year or so, the United States increased the categories of women allowed to set foot on submarines from “female civilian technicians for a few days at most; women midshipmen on an overnight during summer training for both Navy ROTC and Naval Academy; [and] family members for one-day dependent cruises,” to allow women to serve in certain cases. But yesterday, Memorial Day, First Lady Michelle Obama sponsored and announced the creation of the USS Illinois, a Virginia-class nuclear sub
that will, when it enteres the Navy fleet in 2015, be crewed by women, exclusively.