Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adora Okafor

BREMERTON, Washington – Two female Sailors assigned to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) were selected for the opportunity to be among the first enlisted women who will serve on an Ohio-class submarine as part of the Enlisted Women in Submarines (EWIS) program.

“They [announced the program] at quarters one day and I talked to the CHENG (chief engineer) about it,” said Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Rashel Oconnell, a John C. Stennis Sailor selected for the EWIS. “It interested me because it would be cool to be one of the first enlisted women to be on a submarine.”

Oconnell applied to the EWIS program because she loves a challenge. She also thought the submarine community might be a chance for better career opportunities, as well as more great relationships and camaraderie amongst shipmates.

“I was looking for something different,” Oconnell said. “I enjoy the carrier life, but I thrive in a small environment with a close-knit group of people. The submarines have great underway schedules, and I think it will be a great career move for me.”
Oconnell said the application process, which includes submitting a package with a NAVPERS 1306/7, Submarine Volunteer Statement, performance evaluations, physical readiness test data, security clearance and command endorsement, was not very difficult but time-consuming.

“I would recommend if you were putting in a package to start earlier than you think you need to,” said Oconnell.

Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Elizabeth Norman, the other John C. Stennis EWIS selectee, is a native of Bremerton, WA, and has been stationed onboard the ship since March of 2015. Norman also applied for the program because she thought it would be a great career move. She plans on making the Navy her career, which fuels her determination to explore the many facets of the Navy.

“I want to be in for the long term, maybe the first female MCPON (master chief petty officer of the Navy),” said Norman. “I’ve always heard that you should take all the opportunities the Navy offers.”

Oconnell and Norman will be converting from their current rates to the rate of electronics technician (ET) to fulfill the needs of USS Ohio (SSGN 726), homeported in Bangor, WA.

“ET was my first choice for a rate,” said Oconnell. “We had a little bit of ET training in “A” School and I was extremely good at it.”
The EWIS program has brought about great career opportunities for female Sailors.

“I think that it’s just a fresh avenue for women to take if they’re feeling more adventurous,” said Oconnell.

Oconnell also said the submarine community was not for everybody but for those looking for a challenge, it was a great opportunity.

Oconnell and Norman will leave for ET “A” School in early 2018, and after successful completion, they will attend a submarine training course. Oconnell is looking forward to the relationships she will build with her new shipmates, while Norman is excited for her first underway under the sea and the new experiences she will have while serving aboard the Ohio.

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