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Navy women earn their stripes; fill many crucial slots

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"Female phone talkers" exist in the Navy, as well as in civilian life -- and some will soon be busily engaged in communications duties aboard ship in the Indian Ocean crisis area.

When the USS L. Y. Spear, a submarine tender, sails shortly from here with the next relay of warships for the Indian Ocean, 94 of its complement of about 1 ,100 will be women.

The newest deployments of women, including 60 out of 850 aboard the repair ship USS Vulcan, just returned from the first feminine Navy deployment to the Mediterranean, indicate how far the 533 women now serving aboard 25 Navy ships have come since Nov. 1, 1978.

On that date, the first Navy women reported for sea duty --board other than transport or hospital ships.

On the long voyage home before passing the helm to a new commander, the Vulcan's Capt. Harry Spencer Jr. recalls how we weathered an Atlantic storm in his bridge chair "with a female helmsman, a female quartermaster-navigator, a female phone talker -- even a female officer of the deck -- and I was as comfortable and at ease with them as I have ever been in a storm with any ship."

The Navy's present attitude toward women at sea seems to be gratitude that they are there and concern to get on with the job.

"The women themselves, their male counterparts, and Navy officials up and down the chain of command are anxious to stop focusing attention on them," reports Lt. comdr. John alexander, the US Second Fleet's public information officer. "Only when sailors reach anonymity without reference to their sex can the integration of women into the armed services be called truly successful."


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