First woman to serve as submarine XO

| December 2, 2022

Lieutenant Commander Amber Cowan poses for a photo at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. (Brian G. Reynolds/U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Commander Amber Cowan is serving as the first female executive officer onboard a US Submarine. She joined the Navy in 2010 hoping to get into aviation. However, her eyesight did not qualify her for that field, so she opted to serve on submarines. She sees the submarine community as a challenging community, one that relies on teamwork for success.

From the Military Times:

A woman is serving as the executive officer of a submarine for the first time — just over 10 years after the Silent Service opened to women.

Lt. Cmdr. Amber Cowan, who joined the Navy in 2010, reported for duty to the ballistic missile submarine Kentucky, based out of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Washington, as its executive officer Nov. 12.

Although Cowan, a Colorado Springs, Colorado native, planned to become an aviator after graduating from the University of Washington, her eyesight prevented her from pursuing that ambition. It prompted her to attend Nuclear Power School to become a submarine officer, which was barred to female officers until 2011.

“It’s 2022 and women are still doing the ‘first’ of things?” Cowan said, according to a Navy news release.

She first served aboard the ballistic missile submarine Maine, working as the main propulsion assistant, damage control assistant and tactical systems officer.

“I started in the engine room, which is where we build our foundation,” Cowan said. “It teaches officers to trust their enlisted counterparts and also have ownership of and in a watch team.”

Cowan was subsequently assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine Texas as the engineering officer, U.S. Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet, as the force radiological controls officer. She said her experience in these roles has taught her that all submarine platforms require exceptional teamwork to succeed.

“A lot of submarining is communicating with others and understanding the people-to-people dynamic in a stressful environment,” she said.

Her advice for anyone considering joining the submarine force?

“I, we, need smart talented people like you. If you are good with team success, the submarine force is for you as well. It’s going to challenge you in ways you won’t find anywhere else on the planet,” Cowan said.

Military Times has additional information.

Category: Navy

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That haircut, it looks…familiar.


I’ll pass on making an “I’d like to speak to the manager joke” here.


Young men and women in a steel tube for sixty to ninety days in close quarters, what could go wrong.


It’s not like an air craft carrier where there are miraculous conceptions everywhere. Lot more to do to keep sailors busy and a lot fewer places to sneak off too.


She’ll be removed for getting pregnant and/or having a affair with someone she shouldn’t because she was “lonely” in short order, don’t worry.

Call me a cynic.

Hubristic Hubert

OK. Another “first”. So what.

Becoming the “first” female XO of a submarine was not a foot race or a competition that this female officer won. She was simply in the right place at the right time to get this “first” assignment as an XO.

The “first” this, the “first” that. Blah Blah Blah. Getting fed up with all of these “firsts”. Being the “first” in cases like this does not imply achievement or exceptional qualifications.

But OK, being that she is the “first” female XO of a submarine, I am sure that today’s woke Navy will quickly set her up for deep selection for command and promotion and eventual promotion to flag rank, regardless of actual capability or performance.

This is, after all, all about the current Department of Defense woke narrative.

Combat capability be damned.


You forgot about “The Glass Ceiling” that was broken or shattered.


You are sure eh? That doesn’t sound even the slightest bit hatey and resentful.


HH, the only FIRST that counts for anything anymore is the EARNED (Never Awarded) Coveted Title of FIRST on the TAH Friday Weekend Open Thread. Unprecedented Skills, timing, dexterity, and the ability of flogging away at an F5/Refresh Key cannot be bestowed by Appointment or an Act of Congress. A hot inherwebz connection with a modicum of luck can help. And no matter how many other Firsts of things happen, the achievement of FIRST Commentor is open to anyone without reference to age/sex/rank/education/race or any other Titles that one may have or aspire to.

Truth be known, Ms Karenesque may have picked the submariner service cause she really wanted to be torpedoed, or have a deep dive done.


Depth charged?

jeff LPH 3 63-66

I read the article in Navy Times and the XO is almost a double to a Palm Beach County Fire Rescue LT. I ran into with her crew while in Publix. Had to be 6Ft + and in great shape. Of course I had to show her a pic of myself with rolled down boots, bottom of coat just below waist, New Yorker Cairns Helmet minus the “Bronx” bend but missing the FDNY Mustache on my face.. This was before we were issued Bunker gear.

Forest Bondurant

What? Not the first transgendered XO?

Navy needs to step up its game.


As a 22 year Navy Submariner, and having served on 4 boats (2 boomers, 2 fast attacks), having seen the crap that the girls/women serving on tenders and shore support facilities had to endure from their male shipmates, she deserves respect, and I hope she continues to earn it. Roger all this is a quick look article, she may be a whiny snot in real time. I did not care if a person was black, white, pink, or plaid, or if you squat to pee, if you work hard and work together, welcome aboard. Fair winds, XO, and don’t take any crap!