First women qualify as submarine officers

First women qualify as submarine officers »Play Video
In this Navy photo, Master Chief Rusty Staub congratulates Lt. j.g. Amber Cowan, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 in Bangor, Wash. Lt. j.g. Jennifer Noonan is seen at center.
For the last century all fully-qualified submarine officers have been men. But that all changed when two women were honored with their Navy dolphin pins.

The ceremony on Wednesday at Naval Base Kitsap was a graduation day of sorts with crowds, caps, and uniforms.

From a cluster of colleagues, two female crew members of the USS Maine ballistic missile submarine were called front and center for a designation that made them qualified submariners. The two junior lieutenants were among the first three women in the submarine force's 112-year history to get their dolphins.

"This is the mark where your command puts their confidence in you," said Lieutenant junior grade Jennifer Noonan.

Fellow submariner Lieutenant junior grade Amber Cowan also got her pin and said she was thrilled.

"I'm a little bit in shock I think," she said.

Cowan, a University of Washington graduate, and Noonan, a Boston native, each reported to the USS Maine nearly one year ago after completing 15 months of nuclear power school and rigorous training.

Now, they're officially part of the team.

"They really become like a family more than just the people you work with every day," said Noonan.

The next group of female submariners will begin arriving at boats in January. That's when they'll begin their training toward earning their own dolphin pins.