The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

The Qualification of a Submariner

The last evening of our patrol started the moment I got off watch. My usual routine was to leave the Sonar shack, get something to snack and some coffee, and head for a quiet corner to study my notes, and from which to wander the boat, putting my hands on valves, breakers, panels, emergency lockers – anything to strengthen my memory of the working systems of the boat. For nine long months I had devoted every spare moment to learning every feature of this old boat, one of the S-girls, the USS Shark. As a part of a submarine crew, I had to be able to respond to any emergency that may crop up where I stood at any given moment. Should a fire start, or a pipe burst, or any of the intricate survival, power, or weapons systems go awry, there was not always time to assemble systems experts to discuss the problem. Action had to be taken immediately, and the person standing next to the emergency had to be able to respond intelligently. That person’s knowledge could be the only chance the rest of the crew had. In Russian Roulette, the empty chamber is the one that wins. In a submarine emergency, the empty head standing next to it is not just death for one person, but for a hundred. The last thing anyone wants at that moment is to be the guy that can only stand there in fear, with no clue what to do. To wear the coveted “Dolphins”, the insignia of the qualified submariner, is to bear the trust of a hundred men. Names were to be had for those who hadn’t finished the qualification process yet: Nubs, FLOB’s (Free-loading Oxygen Breathers), Non-quals. If you were behind schedule in your qualification, you were a Dink (Delinquent) and hounded mercilessly. A submarine crew has as much mercy for for slackers as the 400 feet of sea above us had for our tiny tube of steel. Any weakness would be crushed.


Tonight, however, my schedule was different. I had finished my qualification card, a series of interviews and signatures that I had amassed in the nine months since my arrival on the boat, interrogations given by qualified crew-members considered experts on their respective systems. I had been grilled about the air systems, the hydraulics systems, the electrical, the emergency equipment, the reactor, the propulsion, weapons, small arms, the waste systems, the atmospheric monitoring and maintenance systems…every aspect of the boat had been put to question to me. I knew about spaces on that old girl that made her blush. Any given interview had taken days to learn, and sometimes hours to finish an interview before a signature was given. I had failed interviews for lack of a single answer, given “lookups”, and another day’s studying before return. And I had done this all while also learning my job as a Sonarman, learning the acoustic traits of friend and foe alike, learning how to tease detection of those traits from an array of hydrophone sensors, connected to dozens of cabinets full of electronics, memorizing numbers representing the characteristics of propulsion systems and churning screws of all sorts of water craft, tuning my ear to hear the difference between mechanical and biological noise sources. And I had learned to repair this equipment when it malfunctioned, learned to maintain it on a prescribed schedule to keep it tuned and calibrated. For nine months, I had worked three jobs. But tonight I was going to rest.


I turned over to my relief, briefing him on the happenings of our watch so that he could, from the moment he took the headphones, be on top of any development that may come from the contacts we held. Tonight was a busy night, acoustically, but the traffic topside was all commercial. We approached our surface point, from where we would transit in to port soon. It was expected that we would pull in in the morning, and I planned to catch up on sleep, and be ready for going home to wife and children tomorrow. I took the five steps from the Sonar door and turned, sliding on my hands down the ladder rails and navigating automatically through the twisting path to the crews’ mess coffee pot. I had spent much of the last nine months in front of this machine, making and fetching coffee for the sonar watch team as the nub of the division, its most junior man. In under fifteen seconds, I hovered over the pot in a ritual stronger than the call of my rack, drawing in the strong brew’s aroma. I was jarred from my reverie by the 1MC announcing circuit crackling to life.

“Station the Maneuvering Watch” came a bland announcement. As sweetly as the anticipation of the luxury of sleep had come, it now departed with the snap of the release of the microphone over the speaker. I turned, and returned to my station in Sonar. A month at sea with endless weapons drills, engineering drills, fire drills, flooding drills, had made the dejection of another lost sleep opportunity almost automatic. I numbly accepted this new schedule, that in another hour we would tie up to the pier, and that I was on duty tonight. There would be no wife and children until later tomorrow.

The lines were thrown over to the pier by the last light of the day, and with brisk efficiency the boat was tied, secured, and the same bland voice finally announced, “Secure the Maneuvering Watch”. I knew the officer that made the announcement. I marveled at his ability to mimic a Being with no soul. I wondered silently if Officers’ training included this, or if he was truly a transformed hound from hell. Two-thirds of the crew were all ready to depart, lurking in various spaces between berthing and Control Room, the path to the outside. The past month’s exercises were behind us, and these men were ready to see their loved ones, to breathe fresh air, to stretch in every direction, and to think nothing of the sea for a while. I, on the other hand, as part of the remaining crew on duty, had to spend the night. I picked up my dreams of sleep, dusted them off, and put my plan for sleep back into action, securing the sonar systems and opening the thin, aluminum-framed door once again for my well-worn 80-step path to bed. My Senior Chief stood outside the door, hand on the knob I had just pulled from his grasp. He smiled the smile of a man about to exact revenge for a lifetime of annoyance and tribulation. Moses smiled this smile when he realized that the Israelites, after they passed through the parted sea before them, would be wandering through the desert wearing nothing but sandals.

“Qual board in 20 minutes, Roesener. Make me proud.” And then he disappeared through control, and out the hatch, following the exodus of men dragging sea bags up and to the pier.  He had a gift for brevity.

The Submarine Qualification Board: This dreaded and coveted interview represents the end of a long list of lesser interviews. A single, big interview, administered by an assembly of four crew-members, including one officer. These shipmates are designated by their reputation for knowledge of the boat. Every board is different, depending on which men are available to serve on the board. The length of the interview can range from a couple hours to several, depending on the proficiency of the candidate’s answers, and his attitude. If you’re certain of your answers, give quick, pointed, and complete responses, and show a respectful eagerness to take on more questions, they often keep the interview short. If you seem uncertain, they will probe you for your weakness, and exploit it until you fail. Get too cocky, and they will batter you just for the pleasure of it. Like sea pressure, they never stop.

I was already half-asleep, the rocking of the boat on the surface lulling me into a pleasant drowsiness, to which I had already half-surrendered. To come back from this point in the sleep cycle was going to take decisive, dramatic action. I lurched towards the coffee pot.

I spent my twenty minutes alternately blazing my way mentally through bits of anticipated questions, and devising ways of cooling coffee down enough to ingest more than my share of volume in less than my share of time. 4 cups later, I sat in the control room of the submarine, in the swiveled seat of the helmsman, with the hum of 400hz equipment providing background ambiance for four slightly irritated men who had also dreamed of sleep.

By the time the formalities of beginning the interview was over, I was beginning to feel the jittery effects of too much caffeine on too little sleep. The first question, posed by a machinist’s mate, was a classic question:

“You are a drop of sea-water. Make the light in your rack light up.”

I had prepared for this one. The question is simple – a nuclear submarine uses a steam turbine to generate it’s electricity. The answer, however, requires intimate knowledge of several subsystems. Intake valves, seawater pumps must be named by number and location. Piping needs to be described. The process through the development of steam from nuclear power must be explained both in theoretical detail, and described by location of equipment, safety shut-offs, control panels, etc. Once the generator has been turned, and electricity developed, then electrical systems, busses, breakers, panels, and wires are named by number designation and location until the generated electron has been pushed through the ballast of the small flourescent light inside each bunk, and in particular mine, and then passed through to ground for a complete circuit. I was ready. I opened my mouth, articulated my response at length, and then finally drew a deep breath, slouched back in my chair, still jittery from the coffee, and broke the ice.

“So…is that the best you’ve got?”

I’ve had better tactical moments. I sat in front of four men, all of whom were keenly attuned to the fact that we, returning sailors from a month at sea, still sat aboard our boat, unable to go home until the morrow. They had thought of their sleep as a means to while away the remaining time until they could go topside, to the fresh air and greater expanses of the world. I had just provided them with the one thing more appealing to a submariner than sleep. I had provided them a target.

8 pupils dilated slightly and focused on my face. 4 mouths curled wickedly into mischief. Four bodies bestirred themselves, shifting in their seats with the unspoken phrase erupting in unison from each one, “WELL now…”. As one, they all sat up and leaned forward in fresh anticipation.

And so it began. For six hours I sweated through questions regarding every imaginable point between the bow and stern of that submarine, inside and outside the pressure hull, and explored the connections and implications of all of them. I discoursed on procedures, on the history of those procedures, on the fate of the boats from whose history those procedures had arisen. I explained at least three quarters of the theories of modern physics, as they pertained to maintaining a submarine in the sea, providing life-support for it’s men, detecting it’s enemies and delivering it’s weapons. I answered obscure questions, convoluted questions, devious questions designed to generate the dreaded “Lookup”. My bladder filled and drained twice. On each trip to the head, all I could think about was the time I was giving the group to secretly consort and design new torturous conundrums into which to hurl me. I rued my words like I had never rued an act in my life. Oh man, did I rue. A deep and abiding rueing of the day, combined with caffeine overdose rush, is an experience never to be forgotten. I predict that at the end, my own death will be delayed by the time it takes to shudder, once again, as that last memory passes through my expiring mind and sends one last shiver of horripilation through my inert body.


And in the midst of all of it, I was finally asked one question I could not answer. That question remains as fresh in my today as it was that night 27 years ago.

Where, oh where do I recharge an expended PKP fire extinguisher. And yes. I know the answer.


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83 Responses to “The Qualification of a Submariner”

  1. Qualified on Shark in 87. And the 632 in 91.
    I remember the Capt asking me a damaged control question. Told him it was behind the Bats. He said we had Bats on board. I replied Yes Sir. He looked a little puzzled. I said the Big Ass Transformers Sir. He signed my card

  2. Steve Bode says:

    I qualified SS onboard the Simon Bolivar SSBN 641 blue crew in 1974. I still have my dolphins AND my qual card. I was a nuke MM and made 1st Class before transferring off in 1978.
    My 21 year old grandson just enlisted in the Navy. Of course, he won’t know if he will be on subs until he completes his schools two years from now. I would love to see him go to subs. But, I am proud of him just for serving his country.

  3. Dave says:

    Qualified on the USS Tecumseh and the USS Permit.

  4. Nick37 says:

    Qualified 1956 USS Redfin required archerfish SS311, requalid Growler and Gudgeon served one nuke the Scamp after the first quality all the rest only took a month or less,of course my being a A-ganger helped since the bulk of systems I worked on everyday, best job I ever had,thanks to my first chief a WW2 combat vet Emerson J Lang ENC SS it’s been 55 years and I still remember his teaching.

  5. Jermey says:

    Qualified USS HONOLULU 1993. Had to don, activate, and expend two canisters in an OBA for my board. Favorite question-I am am urine, take me off the boat, bring me back onboard and turn me into potable water.

  6. Darryl Manzer says:

    377, 610 for qual and first Requal. Too many other boats to list them all but every one was special in some way. .

  7. BOBV says:

    Qualified on USS Dogfish SS350 (DBF), Jun 1972, then re-qualified on the USS William H. Bates SSN680, 1973 and again aboard the USS New York City in 1979.
    Thanks to all of you – We all share a bond that can’t be broken.
    Remember – Marines a Few Good Men, Submarines, ALL GOOD MEN !!!

  8. Lou C. (Chizzy) says:

    I qualified on the USS Memphis SSN-691 in May 1979. I recall doing quite well (no lookups) and was getting a little cocky when Sr. Chief Vogulsang (Sorry Chief about the spelling) said “OK, for your final question what is the power source for the MX933/U?” I remember drawing a complete blank and had no clue what is was talking about. I was pretty sure it had nothing to do with the engine room so I spent a great deal of time reading as many manuals and all the nameplate data on as much equipment on the forward half of the boat as I could find. Since my searching sometimes involved dark spaces I was using a Navy flashlight where I suddenly notice the elusive MX933/U. It was the model number on the back cap of the gray Navy flashlight. I immediately found the Sr. Chief and informed him the power source was two “D” cell batteries. We both had a good chuckle and I still remember that moment today as I did 36 years ago. Thanks Chief V.

    • gkeller says:

      Ah…hahahha!!!! That’s hilarious. I remember having the same question posed at some point.

      • John Holden says:

        I only served on a diesel fast attack TROUT
        ss566, qualified on it 60-63 and you guys are using some jargon I do not remember, ie, what is a nub, a dink, and a look up? Of course I must take into account that I an 75 years old and do not remember everything

        • P Olivas IC1ss nuke says:

          nub = non useful body
          dink = delinquent in qualifications
          look up = during a check out or a qual board if the nonqual does not know the answer he has to look up the answer. This can be easy or it can be crawling in holes.

    • P Olivas IC1ss nuke says:

      We are all jealous that we did not ask that one. That is hilarious.
      Reminds me of Sr. Chief Drahos, the senior enlisted nuke on the USS Guardfish.

    • Edward Hammond says:

      Hey I served on the Memphis 80-83

  9. Great read – tnx! The comments are icing on the AC unit. Old home week. Like your “buddies”, I believe a checkout or board or an exam should be learning experiences. Once we establish that the nub has the requirements, it’s time to reach as far as possible, to teach and learn a lot more. Often we’d get to something neither of us knew, so the lookup was to educate us both. They say you learn more as a teacher than as a student. I learned more as a qual PO than as a NUB. And still today, neigh 50 years later, do the same. If I’m not reachin’ I ain’t learnin’. If ‘m not learning and teaching, I best have a glass of whiskey.

  10. Scott Gentry says:

    Qualified March 1986 USS Olympia (SSN-717)
    As a dink-nub non-qual in 1986 I went through a five hour qual board in the goat locker. I even bribed the cook to make me cookies for the event. The WEPs was the officer sitting in and made no bones about hating the goat locker. Two nukes on the board couldn’t give me lookups and it was actually the WEPs that gave me my only lookup. If you have a 3inch diameter hole (3 in launcher) open to sea at 200 feet, how long do you have to take action or lose the ship? what immediate action should you take?
    the answer to this question is a sobering reminder of the hazards of submarines and how quickly things can happen and come to a very final conclusion.
    38 seconds on a 688 with one watertight bulkhead.

    After being a rebellious nub I was considred heavy in sub knowledge and sat many qual boards after that.

  11. Jeff Stewart says:

    I qualified on the USS Chicago (SSN-721) 1992, My engineer made me put an OBA on, blindfolded, and I had to locate all the quick connect points from the torpedo room to the engine room

  12. Will Godwin says:

    Qualified on USS Haddock SSN 621 in 1977 on our transit from Honolulu to San Diego to offload weapons for a 19 month re-fueling overhaul in Mare Island. I spent a great deal of time DINK for the first six months of the process. Mostly because I was a lazy 19 year old punk with a bad attitude. My Chief, STSC/SS Paul Williams (Willy) had a “program” for lazy punks with bad attitudes. I remember doing Dink hours at liberty call and after which Chief Willy would have some “project” for me. I once painted the Sonar Equipment Space bilge three weeks in a row. Sadly, much of Willy’s program would likely not be permitted in today’s Navy. But the fact that he wouldn’t give up on me finally got through. I sat my board with the 2 senior Petty Officers on board who most hated Dinks. MM2/SS Dave Lester and FTG1/SS Stanley McCain. Chief Willy spent a whole week prepping me for it but I was still scared witless. A little over 6 hours later, I think I walked out of the board with only 3 lookups. And in one of the amusing twists military life can take, Lester’s became my in-port duty section leader. He put me through the most exhaustive and brutal below decks qual process imaginable but was totally unselfish with his time helping me complete it. Dave Lester gave me a great respect for what it takes to be competent at whatever task is set before you and it carried throughout my career and is still with me. Chief Willy I think it is fair to say was instrumental in turning my life around and learning to believe in myself and I look at him, even today, as one of the 3 or 4 most influential men in my life and will be eternally grateful for having had the rare privilege to have served with him. I have tried to emulate him in one fashion or another ever since then. He is at least partially responsible for the fact that I have achieved far more over the past 40 years than anyone who knew the 19 year old would have suspected. Except for Willie. I think he saw it all along.

    • Ryan says:

      “Life fixes it so that by the time a stupid kid grows old enough and smart enough to recognize who he should have thanked along the way, he no longer can.”
      – Bob “Dex” Armstrong

      • Greg Cotton says:

        That is so true and I keep proving it to myself, you’d think I’d learn. I miss new stuff from Dex too!

  13. Steve White says:

    Subsequently managed to qualify on HMS WARSPITE (VALIANT CLASS) and HMS OPPORTUNE (Type 22 Super OBERON CLASS (DBF)
    My only sadness was being unable to qualify in 1973 on HMS RORQUAL, a PORPOISE CLASS (DBF) due to injury and a change in direction. I came back into HM SUBMARINES after a 2 year stint in the grey funnel line and cracked it.
    We called it the Part 3. Part 1 was basic submarine course, Part 2 was your specialist courses in the submarine school and you put it all together in Part 3. Like the USN, non-quals were considered passengers. I still look upon my Dolphins with great pride. I also had the pleasure of serving and training with USN submariners when I did my AN/BRD-7 (and additional equipment) maintainer course in Groton in 1979, and am still close friends with one guy, who ended up as one of the top Master Chiefs in the US Navy. Great memories, great boats but even more importantly, GREAT PEOPLE

    • I got so drunk on the Swiftsure they tied a rope around me. When I went up the ladder in case I fell. Back in 87, or 88. They where great guys. But I couldn’t understand half of what they said. Lol

  14. Greg Cotton says:

    Classic question…”Line up to blow sh*t through the whistle”!

  15. Dave Emerson says:

    Qualified on USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) in December of ’08, got out as an STS2 (SS) in Nov ’12. Only one lookup, which was to teach the world’s dumbest individual DC, so he could pass his reboard.

  16. KC Ward says:

    I qualified USS Scamp in 1977. Being an A ganger, I was heavy on ships system. I knew more than most. My board was maybe two hours long.

  17. TMcGuire says:

    Great memories. Got mine in 73 on the Sam Rayburn SSBN 635 Blue by the Captain on the mess decks. Great Times.

  18. JW says:

    Qualified on USS Mackerel SST1 in 1972 and requalified on John Marshall SSBN 611 in 1976…

  19. Wizzle says:

    Hell yeah nice story!
    Got my fish on The First and The Finest 688. Also had all nukes as my board, some were surprised. Not sure if it made it harder or easier but, all I remember is my first question which is rather easy. “Name all locations of fire extinguishers.” I gave them all but gave an incorrect number of how many were on board. Everything after that is a blur until rushing to don the fire fighting ppe. Then, it was over as quick as it started.

  20. Ronald "TACK" Takacs says:

    Great Story, Only those who schooled the boat have an understanding and knowledge that follows you throughout your life. I’m an old Diesel Boat sailor, I qualified on the USS Spikefish SS 404 back in 1963. Nothing like being at battle stations for 3 days during the Cuban crisis. Ahaaa those were the good old days, “DIESEL BOATS FOREVER”

  21. Jon G says:

    I qualified on the USS Pasadena 752 back in 92. I had the hardest A-ganger MM1 and the hardest M div MM1 on my board. I was asked to make the boat go. My mind raced and I stared at the bulkhead for 2 minutes sweating trying to figure out where to start. There are so many places to start and all of them a trap!! 🙂 Finally the A-ganger MM1 breaks the silence with a booming laugh and asks me if I needed help with where to start. I said “Yes please.” He grinned real big and said to start with the primary. I made it through and felt like I could take on the world. 😀

  22. P Olivas IC1ss nuke says:

    I qualified in 1980 on the USS Guardfish SSN612, Permit class. The hostages were in Iran. The warm up question that we asked was similar. It went like this. You are an erg of energy in the core of the reactor. Get to the seawater. Take any path. This does not require describing as many systems but it can. I always loved the look on the face of the candidate when he hers the question. It was hard to hold back the laughter.

  23. John Holden says:

    I think submarine qualifications is the best way to prepare you for the rest of your life. Do any of you go thru life without a “plan”? Of course not! I did my qual on the TROUT in 61

  24. Eric Wachter says:

    Qualified on Shark in 1970 and was pinned by none other than D.L. Self. Proudest moment of my life. I was in the Brotherhood.

  25. MarkN684 says:

    Earned my fish in 94 on the USS Cavalla SSN 684 at Pearl! Great stories, bringing up old memories of times that were grueling but now held to heart with a fondness more than family!!

  26. Kenn says:

    Great memories! Got my dolphins underway while TAD to USS Los Angeles (SSN-688). Received them while pulling back into PH. Got them tacked on (ummm…no I didn’t) by LAs crew, then mine (USS Bremerton SSN-698). Then was told that the XO considered them to be grape dolphins, that there was no way I could have completed my quals properly in such a short amount of time (56 days underway). Soooo…he made re-do the entire qual card from scratch. Did I cheat? Hell no! But I had completed about 90% of my Bremerton qual card and they just asked questions and transferred the sigs. Then I completed what was missing. I hate that XO to this day!

  27. Greg Cotton says:

    Great story, thanks!

    I qualified on the USS Torsk SS-423 back in 1967, great times. Finished my tour on the Alex. Hamilton SSBN-617G.

  28. Richard (rick) DeLeon says:

    SSBN 602 (blue) Abraham Lincoln 1978-1979. Pearl Harbor ,fort island, fairy”, youngest on board, great experience ,great times!!!! San Antonio, Tx.
    Go Spurs Go!!!!!

    • Martin P says:

      I also qual’d on SSBN-602 Blue in 1970 and drank my dolphins in the Argyle Hotel Bar. The rest seems long gone from my brain. For me, the question of the walk through was: “You’re a feather in Ops, tell me how you get to the engine room.”

      Now if asked about a trim party I was a lock.

  29. Matt A says:

    Great story! Some of the nuances of submarine life escape me until I hear a trigger that brings back some memories. Not all the boards, but a number of them including mine, involved a bit of performance. I had the A-gang MMC. He took an SCBA and messed it all up. I had to fix it and don it while answering questions inside of a time limit. Some people applied patches to a pipe he had. One guy had to tour the boat in an EAB, utilizing every manifold within a time limit. I can’t remember if he had to do anything else during his tour around the boat or not. Those kinds of boards sounded scary to us NUBs but it ended up being a lot of fun.

  30. Pete Williams says:

    From across the pond…
    The RN did things a tiny bit different with me. My board was conducted individually by compartments with the relevant ‘expert’. When all this was completed and signed off, the card was handed over to the Cox’n who then arranged the ‘final’ board… in front of the person who held the knife to the slender thread holding the ‘Sword of Damocles’ above an aspirant’s head!
    The dreaded XO’s board or 1st Lieutenant or ‘The Jimmy’. It was he who would decide if you were good enough. It was he who would probe, cut and dig. It was he who was responsible to the CO for the efficiency of the ship and you’d better be up to the mark… or else!

    He had your qual card in front of him which had all the little notes on it from the compartment experts. IF you were a complete numbnuts they wouldn’t have let you get this far… if they thought you had it in you to progress they said so… along with comments like… as on my card, ‘needs more probing about electrical distribution, is very reticent with answers, treats examination like interrogation, it’s in there somewhere… it needs dragging out’! Once the Jimmy reads your card he then bases his board around your weakness. ‘I’m going to conduct secured for sea rounds… and so are you, go and get your steaming boots on… you’ve got five minutes’!
    Then you do a formal set of rounds with the Jimmy while he conducts an official set of ‘secured for sea rounds’ the boats’s been at sea for two months and he wants to make sure it’s ready for action stations should the CO decide to ‘make it so’!
    Aft to forward… every compartment, bilges to overheads… everywhere. Quite a bit of spares are secured by cargo nets, just in case the boat gets extended at sea (which is often the case) it’s like the ‘hanging gardens of Babylon’ back aft and indeed it is called just that.
    The Jimmy asks questions in a very matter of fact way and after a while he draws out the nervousness and quite soon you are discussing topics that are obviously tactics related. He’s telling you why this is done, why that is done and why, because it’s done this way , the CO can get a weapon in the water in the shortest possible time and why, because the RN lives by the ‘Sods Law’ principle, if it can go wrong it will and you shift easily to plan B asap!
    The RN is designed around one thing ‘fighting the ship’. ‘We are not here to practice reactor scrams or chloride excursions port side etc, we are here to reduce a target to attack criteria and sink it should Whitehall say so. Intelligence gathering is secondary although closely allied to the first reason AND we do all this whilst remaining undetected. IF we are detected then everything else becomes extremely difficult’. Says the Jimmy ‘I know you’ve been doing so but from now on, as a professional submariner (I knew I’d passed then) you will forever conduct yourself with that in mind, the Captain and I rely heavily on you doing your job to the best of your ability. You have the permission of the CO to ASK QUESTIONS at any time… if in doubt, shout out’.
    Those rounds took four hours… when I got back to the mess I was allowed to sit down and drink a cup of tea. My enjoyment was short lived…’Oi, “new qual” here’s your lower deck trot qual card, get on with it, I want you to be ready to sit a panel board and lower deck trot board by the time we get in, the Wrecker will shag my arse if you are not ready! Well done on passing your Part Three… life gets more difficult from now on because you are now responsible… You now have an opinion and will express it when asked… got it’!
    And with that I became a ‘steely eyed, lantern jawed, underwater killer’ in Her Majesties Royal Navy Submarine Service… and they were right… life DID get difficult very quickly… however I was ready for it because I was now a trusted member of the ships company.

  31. D Mowry says:

    I have shown coworkers these posts, they think I wrote them all. I find I work with non-quals even since leaving the Navy. It is difficult to understand them or have them understand me. Would love to find a civilian company with the submarine mentality.

    • gkeller says:

      Funny story, Don – when my wife and I went to our first Submarine Ball in Groton, on the way home afterwards she said she had thought I was the only person like me in the world, but that now she knew where they all were.

    • John Holden says:

      Way too much “it aint my job” in the civillian marketplace, thanks to unions

  32. Eric D (ET2/ss - Nuke) says:

    Got mine on the Honolulu (SSN-718) back in ’90. I remember being at the barracks and my Chief came up and told me to go back down to the boat for my qual board. Wasn’t nearly as long as yours.

  33. Tthomkatt says:

    For the last 15 years I’ve worked with morons. Yes thats right, I’ve been out of the Sub force for.. yes indeed, 15 years. I try to be patient with these idiots, and remember, that among my sub brothers, that often I WAS, the nitwit. When you fly with eagles, its easy to feel like a turkey.

    • gkeller says:

      I get accused of being arrogant and condescending from time to time. Once in a while, it’s all I can do to not reply that if they’d just smarten up it would help a lot. I miss never having to say that.

    • Jon G says:

      I totally understand your perspective…. I was just an average performer on the boat. Once I left the boat I couldn’t figure out why I ended up leading the push to get things done and had to fight with people to do things in safe and correct manner. After awhile I figured it out. I was qualified and they weren’t. They were skimmers, ground pounders, jarheads, or chair force. None of them had lived everyday for years in an environment of not coming home and having to depend on the guy beside you doing his job.

  34. Skip Kirkwood says:

    In the civilian world, the standard for “qual” seems to be so much lower….

    • gkeller says:

      I’ve noticed the same thing. Tried to institute a “qual” program at a sawmill I worked at. Guys had no idea – could not understand why I even thought it was important, let alone how to be serious about it.

  35. Skip Kirkwood says:

    I am a molecule of air. Bring me in through the snorkel, have somebody breathe me, remove my CO2 and use me to blow san #1. Much talking and drawing….

  36. ET1(ss) Young says:

    Well written. Good job.

  37. Doug Charette says:

    Great read! I did mine on the Darter in ’75. My board had the A-gang chief on it, and as an A-ganger myself, it was absolute joy to trip him up. The chief electrician on the other hand…

    • Jeff Buzard says:

      DBF. I got mine in ‘ 86 with the cob Master Chief Merrill. Best cob I ever had, he ate every meal on board (mighty fine Navy chow). He also knew every nut and bolt on that boat.

  38. Bruce Ricker says:

    did my qual board with the most hated and despised crewmember in the history of the John Adams gold crew. COB would ask a question and immediately look at me and say “shut up , cookie” and then look at the other guy and say”answer it”. best 4 hours I ever spent without saying a word

  39. Mike Baka, MM1(SS) says:

    You’re a glutton for punishment, that was just the warmup question! Nice job on this story, you nailed it Glenn.

    Had my board in the torpedo room of the Flasher underway on WestPac in ’85. The CO pinned my Dolphins on in Crew’s Mess, also submerged and underway. They’re hanging on my I Love Me wall looking back at me as I write this.

    Green board, shipmate.

  40. Lee Ledgerwood says:

    Great read, as a former ICman myself I spent many hours in the Sonar Shack and agree that the one thing bubbleheads like more than sleep is a new target.

  41. Jerry Hood says:

    Great read! Man that brought back memories…I qualified on the Jack (605) back almost 30 years ago and remember my time on board with fondness (once I got qualified 😉 ). I was in the IC team, and would love to go hang out in sonar while ‘constantly roving’ on AEF watch….good times…thanks!

  42. Doug Stevens says:

    Great read. Many memories of my board and boards I sat over the years. I qualled on Shark in 69. She was a wonderful boat!

  43. Dale Parker says:

    Great read. Now great memories (like so many other posters here, not so great at the time 🙂 ) of the qual process and the pride felt on passing the board. Qualified in ’83 on 617.

    • Robert Coe says:


      I had qualified on the 617G while underway in April 1990. and Decom’d her in Oct. 1992. Great Boat! I retired back in Jun 2009 with 20yrs.

  44. Greg Herlein says:

    Loved this. It totally took me back. I qualified in ’88 and got my Dolphins pinned on as we came under the Golden Gate – on the bridge (the only time I ever was on the bridge in transit). I sat a number of boards and still grin thinking about it. To this day, I trust those who earned Dolphins more than I can say… Thanks for writing this.

  45. Lee Ledgerwood says:

    Took me back to qualifying on the Gato-maru in 1975, and after I got my fish the real work started…thanks for the reminder!

  46. Charlie King says:

    Great read, brought back many memories sweeter now than they were at the time.

  47. Casey O'Connor MM2 (SS) says:

    Awesome read!!! I qualified in 1983 and never again have I learned so much so fast. I have many memories from the old girl. Reflecting back, it was a great experience and I must admit,,,,,,,I even miss it sometimes. Thanks

  48. Cullers says:

    Great read! Lots of lost sleep and good memories

  49. Robert Berry says:

    Memories, I qualifed on the Shark in 1979 in between our series of Med Runs. MUCH better being qualifed then not while deployed, or anytime as a matter of fact 🙂

  50. Jerome Jolly says:

    LOL… I was never on the Shark… but your description reminds me of a couple Qual Boards I sat on over the years.. Good writing.. nice memories..

  51. Bill S. says:

    WOW…. Major nostalgia going on. Great piece. With credits to you I will add to my submarine scrapbook for my grandkids to read.. As they say. thanks for the memories… Great site, looks like I have much reading to do…GBA/bs

  52. JamesBeasley TMT1(ss) says:

    I was sweating again reading this as if i was in front of the Qual Board again! Took me 2 years as the Shark was in the ‘Goula Yard for 3 years,so most components and locations were stripped,thank God for the piping manual!Great reading!

  53. ANGEL PLA says:

    Outstanding! It brought back the memories of times past that have shape the future. Although I am retired (23years) I would go back and do it all again!

  54. Jodie Christopher says:

    Bitchin’! Flat out rightious Bitchin’! Submarines Once!

  55. Mike Webb says:

    Great read!!!

  56. Allen Register says:

    Glenn, great job. I was able to visualize everywhere you were, and it brought me back to my own submarine qualifications, next the XO then the CO,and your done, until you start your belowdecks qual card and Sonar Supervisor the next day… Thanks for writing this piece.

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