N.C. State grads to be among first women on subs

Posted May 6, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT

— Two North Carolina State University students will be among the first women to serve on U.S. submarines.

The Navy last month ordered an end to one of its few remaining gender barriers.

The first group of women will consist entirely of officers assigned to guided-missile attack submarines and ballistic-missile submarines, which have the most living space in the Navy's fleet. They'll be assigned to two subs based at Kings Bay, Ga., on the East Coast and two others at the West Coast naval hub of Bangor, Wash.

After graduating from N.C. State next weekend, Megan Bittner and Karen Achtyl will be commissioned as Navy officers, and they have stepped up to the challenge of serving on a nuclear submarine.

"I think it's really a cool thing," Achtyl said about becoming part of history.

"My brother is actually studying right now at a college in New York to be a history teacher," she said. "He said, 'Oh, I can talk about you in history class.'"

They are among 24 women who will begin training this summer to be submarine officers, which takes at least 15 months.

Limiting women to officer slots lets the Navy, for a time at least, sidestep the more vexing and cost-prohibitive problem of modifying subs to have separate bunks and bathrooms for enlisted men and women. Enlisted sailors make up about 90 percent of a sub's 160-sailor crew. No time-line was given for integrating enlisted women onto subs.