First female enlisted sailor earns submarine qualification

Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavedra, assigned to USS Michigan (SSGN 727)(Blue), is pinned with her enlisted submarine qualification during a ceremony at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Photo: US Navy

One of the first enlisted women to serve aboard a Navy submarine earned her submarine qualification, or “dolphins,” Aug. 2 and is preparing to deploy aboard USS Michigan (SSGN 727).

Chief Culinary Specialist Dominique Saavedra, a native of Los Angeles, became the first female enlisted sailor to earn her silver dolphins in a pinning ceremony held at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on Tuesday.

Though assigned to Michigan, Saavedra embarked aboard USS Ohio (SSGN 726), which is currently deployed, to earn her basic, advanced, and underway watch qualifications.

“I couldn’t be more proud to wear the ‘dolphins,'” said Saavedra. “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.”

USS Michigan is currently conducting a major maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where it is being modified to better suit female sailors. The submarine completed its time in dry dock and is wrapping up the maintenance period later this summer.

This will bring the ship one step closer to setting sail for the first time with female submariners. Work accomplished during the maintenance period will include the modification of living quarters for female chief petty officers and enlisted crew members.

In June 2012, the first female supply officer earned her submarine qualification and the first three unrestricted line officers earned their gold dolphins the following December. Structural changes to the submarine weren’t necessary at the time. Because officers bunk in three-man staterooms, the new female officers’ living space was already separated from the common areas of the ship.

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 cross-rate, which also included retraining in their new rating.

Thirty-eight sailors were selected in the second cycle announced in May 2016 and have entered the training pipeline; they will be assigned to USS Florida (SSGN 728), based out of Kings Bay, Georgia.

The third application window for enlisted women on submarines will be announced in an October 2016 Naval message, or NAVADMIN. The selectees for the third round of selections will serve aboard USS Ohio (SSGN 726), home ported in Bangor, Washington.

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