The first woman to serve as an Executive Officer on a submarine- She encourages other women to apply to sub duty

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On Nov. 12, 2022, Lieutenant Commander Amber Cowan became the executive officer (XO) of the Gold Crew of the USS Kentucky (SSBN 737). Lt. Cdr. Cowan is the first woman to serve as XO of a US navy submarine. She was also among the first group of women to serve aboard submarines. [i]

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A submarine.Photo byalexlmx/Adobe Stock

Cowan attended Nuclear Power School in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Topics include physics, math, chemistry, and nuclear reactor technology. She then attended Naval Prototype Training Unit and the Submarine Officer Basic course. Following completion of the course, Cowan first reported to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741). [ii]

Cowan also served as the Engineering Officer aboard the USS Texas (SSN 775). She states that learning the differences between attack and ballistic missile submarine missions was one of her favorite learning experiences. Cowan has also completed the Submarine Command Course following her selection to serve as an XO. [iii]

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Lieutenant Commander Amber CowanPhoto byUS Navy

In 2010, the Secretary of Defense lifted the ban barring females from serving aboard submarines. Within a year, female officers began reporting to Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The Women in Submarines (WIS) coordinator Lieutenant Sabrina Reyes-Dods stated that,

The integration of women on submarines served to increase the talent pool available to the Submarine Force. Integrating senior women first was a key lesson learned from the integration of other Navy warfare communities. We decided to pursue a top-down integration process in order to provide mentors and role-models for younger women." [iv]

The first enlisted female earned her Dolphins in August 2016. Since then, the fleet has continued to welcome enlisted women to apply to serve aboard submarines, as detailed in NAVADMIN 159/19. [v]

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References

[i] Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly Crawford, First Woman to Serve as a Submarine XO Reports for Duty (Nov. 23, 2022)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cameron Stoner, Women in Submarines: 10 years later (Jun. 25, 2021)

[v] Id.

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