First enlisted female sailor qualifies in submarines

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Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavedra, assigned to USS Michigan is pinned with her enlisted submarine qualification during a ceremony at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Saavedra the first female enlisted Sailor to earn the "dolphins." (Kenneth G. Takada/U.S. Navy photo)
Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavedra, assigned to USS Michigan is pinned with her enlisted submarine qualification during a ceremony at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Saavedra the first female enlisted Sailor to earn the "dolphins." (Kenneth G. Takada/U.S. Navy photo)

First enlisted female sailor qualifies in submarines

by: Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash. | .
Tribune News Service | .
published: August 04, 2016

BANGOR (Tribune News Service) — In a first, an enlisted woman has qualified to work aboard a submarine and is preparing to deploy on the USS Michigan.

Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavedra, of Los Angeles, was pinned with silver "dolphins" during a ceremony Tuesday at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Though assigned to the Michigan, which is undergoing maintenance, she embarked aboard the deployed USS Ohio to earn her basic, advanced and underway watch qualifications.

"I couldn't be more proud to wear the dolphins," Saavedra said in a Navy news release. "To have earned the respect of my fellow submariners is more rewarding than expected. I am honored to serve as a qualified member in such a prestigious community."

The Michigan, an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, is conducting a major maintenance period at the shipyard. Dry dock work has been completed, and the boat will wrap up its stay this summer. The project includes modifying living quarters to accommodate female chief petty officers and enlisted crew members.

"Chief Saavedra's accomplishment reinforces the fact that there are very capable women who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force," said Capt. Joe Turk, the Michigan's commanding officer. "Drawing from talented individuals like Chief Saavedra helps us maintain the world's best submarine force."

In June 2012, the first female supply officer earned her submarine qualification. The first three unrestricted line officers earned their gold dolphins the following December. Structural changes to the submarine weren't necessary to accommodate three officers. Because they bunk in three-person staterooms, their living space already was separated from the common areas of the ship, the press release stated.

Since the first selections were made in 2015, female enlisted sailors have attended the Basic Enlisted Submarine School at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. Many of those selected had to be retrained.

Thirty-eight sailors were selected in the second cycle announced in May and have entered the training pipeline. They'll be assigned to USS Florida, based out of Kings Bay, Georgia.

The third application window for enlisted women on submarines will be announced in an October. They will serve aboard the Ohio, homeported in Bangor.

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