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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

what the heck do those "Dolphins" mean?

i was bouncing over at the Musings of an Old Man blog (listed in the bubblehead bloggers list) and he posted a copy of his qual card. 1963. he was so proud of that distinction that he kept the qualification checkout card for 43 years. think about that.
a couple of years ago, there was big flap in the submariner community about awarding silver dolphins to midshipmen. it was a recruiting tool used by the navy as a means to hook young pups into the submarine and nuke pipeline. the issuing of silver dolphins fired us up like few issues, and it was resolved after enough of us raised a big enough ruckus to get noticed. but during that time, i posted a rant on the now defunct seawolf website i was running, and a buddy of mine Master Chief Sid, who is also linked, but in the news section, snagged it, posted it, and saved it long after my original was sent off to the ether.
here is a big chunk of that rant, from here. i killed the dolphin issue, and saved the pertinent stuff about earning dolphins. when you read it, you may come to understand why they are so important to those of us that earned them. you can read the whole thing at the link
bo's Quals
I reported to the USS SEAWOLF (SSN-575) at the end of August, 1974. I'd been in the Navy for just over two years. Boot camp and Machinist Mate 'A' School in Great Lakes, Nuclear Power School at Mare Island (Class 7304), Mechanical Operator and Engineering Laboratory training at the A1W reactor plant prototype at NPTU Idaho Falls, all of that time and all of those schools were behind me. It was time to really put everything that I learned to the test.
I mess cooked for the first couple of months on the boat, time spent underway. Mess cooking, for the uninitiated, is the submarine service's answer to KP....up at 0400, set up the crews mess for breakfast, get the cook whatever he needs, play waiter to a bunch of sleepy (read grumpy) squids, wash dishes, tables, and decks...well you get the picture. I started on my qual card a month after coming aboard. During the time I worked on my qualifications for Ship's Quals, I also worked on my Engineering Quals.
Every system on the card was traced, drawn, technical manuals and ships information books referred to and studied, and finally a check out from a qual petty officer or chief. Eventually, the checkouts were walkthroughs with officers, culminating in a final walkthrough with the Qualification Officer that lasted about 17 hours over a three day period. In this instance, his name was Lt. Budzik, and he was one hard case, hard nosed SOB, mainly because he didn't want his name on the card of some dirtbag that didn't deserve dolphins. The boat later instituted qual boards for the final signature. I thought that they made a huge mistake by doing so. I really don't think there is any way you can adequately test a person's knowledge in an hour, no matter how in depth the questions. The skipper signed my card on the 6th of November, 1975, 14 months and change after I reported onboard.
I worked hard for my dolphins. But during the entire time I worked on my Ship's Quals, I also "participated" in field day, qualified Engineering Laboratory Technician, Engine Room Lower Level, Engine Room Upper Level, Feed Station, Diesel Operator (the nuc's owned the diesels on Seawolf, both operations and maintenance), Basic Engineering Qualification (the nuc's version of ship's quals as related to the engineering plant), and i had most of the signatures required for my Engineering Room Supervisor qualifications. I even spent a big piece of time laid up in OakKnoll Naval Hospital after wrecking my motorcycle. Hard to get into a submarine with a full leg cast that took 4 months to get rid of.
I served for 8 1/2 years, 6 1/2 of them onboard the Seawolf. I busted my ass, as did every other crewman onboard, to earn my dolphins. I sweated blood getting the diesel fired up during a reactor scram, I cleaned oil out of the Lube Oil bay bilges, I delivered uncounted breakfasts, lunches, and dinners while mess cooking.
I did all of those things while working on my qualifications. And so did every other qualified submariner. Our dolphins didn't mean that we studied systems enough to bull our way through a checkout. Our dolphins meant that we went through our apprenticeship, that we stuck with it through everything that living on and operating a submarine had to offer.


i still have my card. maybe i'll post the picture when i dig it out of the dusty hole it's hiding in.

edit: posted my card here

8 Comments:

Blogger Vigilis said...

The midshipman thing appeared to "cheapen" dolphins, for sure. Did we ever here who the genius was behind that effort?

3/7/06, 11:42 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

Great post. You included a lot of things I forgot about. I'm going to put a link on this posting. I forgot a lot about the Nuc quals but I hadn't gotten that far yet. My memory works in steps? Excellent job.

3/8/06, 4:46 AM  
Blogger Redneck Nerdboy! said...

Yeesh. Last time I saw my qual card it was running through an industrial shredder to be "buried at sea".

I'm not the sentimental type, though. Glad to be around here again Bo-man.

3/8/06, 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Giving out silver dolphins is nothing new. From 1977 to 1979 Uss Casimir Pulaski SSBN633 CO gave 'em out like candy to middies and latecomer enlisted that were close to retirement. Torqued my jaws! If I really cared enough about it, I'd put his name on here but quite frankly he was very forgettable himself.

3/8/06, 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Major415 said...

I Qual. aboard Rock SSR274 1958.
One of the proudest moments of my life. I still have the Dolphins,
I drank out of a fifth of Seagrams V.O.

3/8/06, 9:54 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I still have my original qual card around somewhere. And my original fish, which I didn't drink (recovering alcoholic) but which were pinned on and bent all to hell and back on the day I qualified. I managed to get the pins back on 'em and I still wear 'em on special occasions (sub ball, for example). No shiny, new, out of the box fish...my old, solid pewter, scratched, pitted, worn dolphins are the ones I most remember, the ones I earned all those years ago.

And I still try to teach the nubs that it's more than a card to finish...it means something. Hard to describe (Bo, you did a great job of it), but I remember the day I qualified I had an experience that drove it home in a simple but profound way. I had to go aft shortly after the pinning ceremony to relieve someone for a piss call and ended up round-robining the guys out until I was the AEA for a short while. I was touring back in ASW bay (where our boat's smoke pit was) and passed by a TM2(SS) who was not, to put it mildly, one of my pals. We didn't get on well at all...simply did not like each other. As I walked by, he said "hey, f*ckin' nuke f*cker!" in his usual tone. When I turned around he was standing behind me, hand out. He shook my hand and simply said "welcome to the brotherhood."

Coming from someone who never before (or after) had a decent thing to say to me was better than all the congratulations in the world. It told me the fish were really meaningful, and that despite our differences or likes/dislikes, we were all brothers.

3/9/06, 10:40 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

earning my fish was a ggreat achievment for me... but now i see so many nubs abusing the system... the level of knowledge certainly has dropped... so many people just view their fish as a 'movie pass'

3/10/06, 3:39 PM  
Blogger Anthony Sayo said...

Lt. Budzik retired as a Captain. He is now living in NC and summering in Florida. He is quite a knowledgable fellow and a gentleman.

9/17/16, 3:43 PM  

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