KINGS BAY, Ga. –
The 15 enlisted women serving aboard the ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming’s (SSBN 742) Blue Crew, homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, recently reached a milestone accomplishment for all women who serve.
These submariners made history when they became the first enlisted female crew to complete a ballistic-missile submarine “boomer” deterrent patrol.
Enlisted women currently serve aboard four guided-missile submarines and one ballistic-missile submarine. There are 70 active submarines in the fleet.
“I personally never saw myself being in the submarine force,” said Chief Logistics Specialist Samantha Mincey, who began her naval career in the surface fleet serving aboard an aircraft carrier. “When I joined, women weren’t allowed on submarines. I never thought women would start being accepted on submarines while I was in the Navy.”
Mincey, a Los Angeles native, joined the Navy 16 years ago, and is the senior enlisted female on the crew.
“Being the female chief, I love the fact that I have had experiences that can hopefully help strengthen and build the male and female junior Sailors around me,” said Mincey.
A patrol begins when the submarine leaves its home port and ends upon its return. The entire mission of ballistic-missile submarines is to deter attacks by potential adversaries through strategic deterrence patrols.
On average, ballistic-missile submarines spend 77 days at sea, followed by 35 days in port for maintenance.
Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class Kania John said she did not know submarines would be an option for her when she joined the Navy in December 2018.
“Sometimes the schedule can be draining,” said John. “But I love my job, and the people I work with make the experience that much better.”
Female officers have been deploying aboard submarines since 2011, but it was a few more years before the Navy began the process of incorporating enlisted women on submarine crews.
John said she feels honored to be a part of a milestone for women in the submarine force.
“As I learn more about women’s history, it brings me so much honor to be a part of this group,” said John. “This is probably one of the greatest things I can be a part of. My children and future grandchildren will be so proud.”
The completion of the deterrent patrol authorizes Sailors to wear a “boomer” pin on their uniforms. This pin signifies the number of patrols they have completed in the careers. Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 3rd Class Ashley Whitmyer is the first of her family to serve in the Navy, and said she was surprised to learn she would be one of the first women to get the deterrent patrol pin.
“I was shocked because I didn’t fully understand that there were no other female crews that had been on patrol,” said Whitmyer. “Just to learn that I was one the few was an amazing honor and a tribute to just how far women have come in the Navy.”
For Mincey, this achievement helps her relate to experiences she heard about from her mother when she was growing up.
“I remember being young and my mother telling me about the strides women and African Americans had made,” said Mincey. “I really didn’t understand pushing the bar and breaking barriers like I do now. It’s really just a blessing.”
John said serving aboard a submarines is not always easy, but hard work pays off.
“Although my first boat was challenging, I consider myself successful so far in my career,” said John. “You have to show up at the right time, in the right uniform and put 100 percent effort into everything you do. Be intentional and you will be successful.”
Each SSBN has two crews, Blue and Gold, which alternate manning the submarine to take it on patrol. Wyoming’s Blue Crew has 191 crewmembers. That means enlisted women make up about eight percent of the total crew onboard Wyoming.
Mincey says women should not let the fact the submarine force is male-dominated deter them from joining.
“Don’t get discouraged and stay true to yourself,” said Mincey. “We are still the minority and have so much to offer with just who we are. The work isn’t easy but, at the end of the day, who else can say they have done the things you have?”
The women of Wyoming, and the women who have served throughout the Navy and Department of Defense, continue to pave the way for all women who will join after them.
All future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and all Virginia-class fast attack submarines, starting with the USS New Jersey (SSN 796), will have enlisted women in their crews.