Qualifying Submarines

Recently I was asked to compare diesel boats and nuclear boats qualification processes. Having never qualified on a diesel boat, I can't compare them. Maybe somebody else can do this, and email it to me. However, I can describe nuclear submarine qualification.

When you check on board a submarine, you're given 2 documents. These are your qualification progress sheets, or, "Qual Cards". One is called your "Ships Quals" and the other is "Watch Station Quals".


Qual Program

How you got in this mess

Your objective


Submarine, also called "Ships"

You volunteered for submarine service

Familiarity with the ship, its controls and equipment.

Entitles the person to wear the submarine insignia on his uniform. This process is about the same for everybody.


Watchstation, also called "In-rate"

(Enlisted only) Happens because you selected a rate, a job position.

Likely you chose this rate in a recruiter's office, far away from the "sea-going Navy", without much knowledge about what these jobs actually require.

Or worse, were assigned a rate based on the needs of the Navy after boot camp.

Familiarity with a specific job. Your occupation.

Whatever job you hold in the Navy, and on the boat, it contributes to the overall ships mission (going to sea).

For example, Sonarmen need to learn about their gear so they can maintain the sub out of everyone else's way, and detect who those other guys are. Similarly, Electricians need to learn about the battery and electrical panels, etc etc.

Young 'uns need to pick careers carefully, because onboard the sub you may spend months learning about gear and procedures before you're allowed to touch it. Unless you're a cook.

Sorry, couldn't resist that one.


It's worth mentioning that officers undergo both of these qual programs (Ships and Watch Station). I was never an officer, and therefore can't describe their Watch Station quals. . Maybe somebody else can do this, and email it to me.

Hi Tom-

My name's Gaylon Kent. I liked your site. I qualified USS Blueback, SS-581, in 1984. I was a QM. The process is eerily similar to that on a nuke, though somewhat shorter, probably. It took on average, about seven months to qualify. We also got watchstation qual cards too. All new non-quals started out on the helm and spent about nine months in the Seaman Gang before going to ther respective divisions.

If you have any questions, feel free to write.





My (TUNNY) Ship's Qual card - Click on it to see larger image


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