US Navy sub's female crew making waves

Lieutenant Jennifer Charlton may be one of three women in the 170-strong crew of a United States Navy submarine, but it was the men who had to get used to having her around.

"At first, they were all like, 'Okay, let her through'," she said, hands raised while pretending to back up against a wall, drawing chuckles from her fellow officers.

"But now I'm one of them. Everyone gets along, so it's kind of like being with family," added the supply officer, 34, who takes care of the crew's day-to-day needs and finances.

The USS Michigan, a 170m-long nuclear-powered vessel, docked at the Changi Naval Base on Sunday for a port call. It first called here in 2009.

Lt Charlton, who mentors the two other female officers on board the USS Michigan, hopes to inspire other budding women submariners back home. About 60 women serve on some of the US Navy's 73 submarines. They were first allowed to do so in 2011.

She said: "I expected much worse before coming out here, but that was from a fear of the unknown. It turned out to be great."

The trio have integrated "seamlessly" into the submarine's operations, said commanding officer Captain Benjamin Pearson, 49. "They've expanded the window of who can become a submariner."

The submarine will soon head home after four months of deployment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, where it has been on patrol and carrying out missions such as intelligence gathering, he added.

It is one of four US Navy Ohio-class guided missile submarines, capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-cruise missiles and 12 anti-submarine Mark 48 torpedoes.

Capt Pearson said: "We're here as a Pacific nation to show that we're all part of the greater good here, to show our presence, and to show that the US is a good global partner in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."


This article was first published on August 13, 2014.
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