SANTA RITA, Guam - One of submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) Sailors is about to join the fold in making submarine history on behalf of women.
Ensign Brittany Saulsberry, the disbursing officer aboard Land, has been selected for the Women in Submarine Service program.
Women have served in the armed services since World War I. While women initially had major limitations on what kind of jobs they could perform, their roles expanded significantly over the course of the ensuing century.
The first women to serve on surface combatant ships came aboard in 1994.
Despite increased gender integration, female officers did not serve on submarines until 2011 with enlisted women following suit five years later.
Female officers are assigned to submarines in the same roles as male officers, joining as either nuclear-qualified or supply officers.
Nuclear-qualified officers must complete the nuclear submarine training pipeline, which consists of nuclear power school and "hands-on" prototype training.
Supply officers must complete the Basic Qualification and Department Head courses at Navy Supply Corps School.
Both sets of officers culminate their training with the Submarine Officer Basic Course. Around 50 female officers currently serve on submarines, and Saulsberry will soon be joining them.
"I am excited about my selection for the program," said Saulsberry. "My responsibilities as a submarine supply officer will be similar to my current duties on board Land, except I will be the one and only supply officer on board. I will have sole responsibility for all supply and logistic matters. It will be a challenge, but that's what I'm looking for.
I've based my entire career around finding new and greater challenges."
Female officers have had have had the privilege of serving aboard Ohio-class submarines since 2011.
On January 21, 2015, the Submarine Force began accepting applications for the Enlisted Women in Submarines (EWIS) Initiative, and on August 2, 2016, the first enlisted female Sailor earned her submarine "dolphins."
Saulsberry believes women serving aboard submarines showcase the Navy's shifting cultural norms and focus on maximizing gender integration.
"As time passes, more and more people are open to women serving in all the same positions as men," said Saulsberry. "With gender comes stigmas and stereotypes, but those are being eradicated as humanity progresses. The military is benefiting from breaking these social norms because women like myself say, "I can do this," and the Navy has afforded us the opportunity. Jobs aren't limited solely on gender anymore."
When women first started serving on Navy ships, many men weren't used to serving alongside women. Over time, this mentality shifted as integrated crews became the norm. Saulsberry sees the same progress happening in the submarine community.
"Women have now been serving on submarines for more than six years," said Saulsberry. "Some people still have the mentality that we are outsiders, but that is quickly fading."
Saulsberry, who enlisted in the Navy 11 years ago, is no stranger to volunteering for positions relatively new to women in the Navy. While there is still progress to be made, Saulsberry believes women's opportunities in the military are the best they have ever been.
"The mentality has always been changing, but it takes time," said Saulsberry. "As a [Hospital] Corpsman, women couldn't be field medics, but with persistence, I was one of the few women who became a field medic. Since I've joined, I've seen a lot more women become pilots, more women eager to go out to sea, and more women volunteering for boots-on-ground roles. Doors have opened, and many more will open. I remember when I saw USS Michigan (SSGN 727) come alongside Land, I was excited because it is one of the first subs to have women and officer ranks. When I saw woman after woman come topside, it gave me a chill. It was truly inspiring to see."
Saulsberry looks forward to her time in the Submarine Force as an opportunity for personal challenge and growth.
"I want to challenge myself and prove that I can do it; for me, no one else," said Saulsberry. "I'm looking forward to it as a new experience and learning opportunity. If I don't push myself and put myself out there, then I'm not learning. The only real failure is not trying - this is something I live by day in and day out."
The United States military has been shaped by those willing to step out of their comfort zone and do what hasn't been done before. Whether becoming a field medic or one of the Navy's few female officers on submarines, or even just challenging herself in her own personal development, Ensign Brittany Saulsberry isn't afraid to take the next step.
In 2015, the Navy announced the selections of the first enlisted female submariners. These selections marked a key milestone in the continued integration of women into the Submarine Force, and the Navy is pleased to announce the beginning of the third round of selections of female Sailors for conversion to Submarine Force ratings.
The Submarine Force is seeking high caliber female applicants from all ratings. Sailors from all communities are eligible to apply for submarine service as part of this initiative.