The first female US Naval Academy graduates who will be able to serve as officers aboard submarines said they feel ecstatic, thankful and blessed by the chance to break one of the military's last gender barriers.
So far, 11 female midshipmen have been accepted into the Navy's training programme.
"I didn't want to get excited yet," midshipman Abigail Gesecki recalled when she first heard a policy change to allow women to serve on subs was under consideration.
"And then it happened, and I was like, 'Wow! I'm in shock'. It was a little bit of a feeling of shock that everything that I really wanted I got. It doesn't always happen that way in life."
A total of about 20 women will begin training this summer to become submarine officers in a programme that takes at least 15 months.
They will report for duty aboard a submarine by 2012. The first group of women will consist entirely of officers.
They will be assigned to guided-missile attack submarines and ballistic-missile submarines, which have the most living space in the Navy's fleet.
Three women will be assigned to each submarine's rotating crews.
That will allow all three women aboard a sub to share a single stateroom for sleeping. A single bathroom shared by the vessel's 15 officers will have a sign to show if a man or woman is inside.
The change is the latest generational leap at the academy. One student noted that her father graduated in 1971 - five years before women were admitted to the academy.