Marines prepare to disembark the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN-727) during a small boat exercise in Apra Harbor. U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy announced Monday that it has selected the first group of 38 female sailors to be included in the country’s nuclear submarine crew. The Navy said that the selection is only the first step in a long-term plan to integrate the submarine force and provide more opportunities for women to serve in all missions.

According to the U.S. Navy, applications from women were received to fill four chief petty officer positions and 34 rating conversion positions across the two crews of the USS Michigan (SSGN 727), the second Ohio-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine in the U.S. Navy.

“These fully qualified Sailors have been placed on the alternate list and will automatically be considered when we select the next group in continuing to grow opportunities for women to serve in the submarine force,” Captain Rod Hutton, deputy commander for the Enlisted Women in Submarines Task Force, said in a statement. “We look forward to reviewing their records again, as well as those of Sailors who want to add their names to the mix this summer and fall.”

The authorities also said that the second group of female sailors will be assigned to another Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, USS Florida (SSGN 729), based in Kings Bay, Georgia.

In 2012, Pentagon lifted the ban on employing women in combat jobs, but allowed the military services to use a gradual process to integrate women in male-only positions.

In January, the U.S. Navy opened its submarine service to enlisted women officers. The full integration of women from the enlisted ranks is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2016 after the necessary training process is completed.

“Today, many of the people who have the technical and leadership skills to succeed in the Submarine Force are women. We will need them,” Vice Admiral Michael Connor, commander of Submarine Forces in the U.S. Navy, said at the time. “Following our successful and smooth integration of women officers into the Submarine Force, the Navy's plan to integrate female enlisted is a natural next step.”