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Military Women and Men Share Bathrooms In Submarine, World Doesn’t End

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Even after making considerable gains in gender equality by opening up military positions to women, the U.S. Navy had long kept nuclear submarine posts as men-only, citing difficulties creating comfortable living spaces for both genders in such cramped quarters. However, the ban on women serving in submarines has since been overturned, and now the Navy’s first women nuclear submariners have gone on patrol and are doing just fine.

There are 25 women in total who are the first to break the submarine gender-barrier, 13 assigned to the USS Ohio and USS Maine, based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington state, and 12 assigned to USS Wyoming and USS Georgia, based in Kings Bay, Georgia. After graduating from the Naval Academy or ROTC programs in spring 2010, the women spent 12 months and 9 weeks in training (for a grueling 12 hours a day!) before reporting to their boats.

As it turns out, they’re adjusting to their new posts like any of their male colleagues would:  “You have to be a jack of all trades,” said Bittner, a North Carolina State graduate. “I’ve never worked harder, slept less or learned more than my first deployment, but I never thought twice about it because everybody’s in the same position.”

And as for the prospect of gender neutral bathrooms, one of the only barriers that prevented women from serving in this capacity? “It’s not a big deal,” Cowan, a University of Washington graduate from Colorado Springs, said. “There’s somebody always working, somebody always sleeping. You just go when you need to and there’s no issue.”

In fact, the only salient difference these women seem to notice between their experience on the submarine and that of their male colleagues is the scrutiny they are operating under. However, rather than worry about how it will impact their performance, they seem to be taking it as an opportunity to prove the value of what women contribute to the US military: “It is important we are talking about our experience, not so much to say look at us but to show this is not the big ordeal some people thought it was, that it hasn’t been the mistake some people projected it to be,” Bittner said.

We wish them well as they blaze a trail for future women submariners!

(via Independent Mail.)

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