If you son has been assigned to a boat aka submarine sooner or later you will begin hearing strange new words in his vocabulary like "nub", "dink" and "quals". Once you understand the requirements and effort needed to earn his "dolphin pin" - you will have a whole new respect for your sailor.
The Submarine Warfare Insignia (usually known as "dolphins" or "fish") is a uniform breast pin worn by enlisted men and officers of the United States Navy to indicate that they are qualified in submarines. The Submarine Warfare Insignia is considered one of the Navy's three major warfare pins along with the Surface Warfare Badge and the Naval Aviator Badge. To earn the right to wear the pin, prospective submariners complete an extensive qualification process that lasts about one year
Basic enlisted submarine qualifications
Upon reporting to his first submarine the unqualified submarine sailor, or "nub" (short for "Non-Useful Body"), completes a few days of indoctrination and is then assigned a Qualification Card, a qualification due date, and a Sea Dad (officially known as a "command sponsor"). The Sea Dad monitors the non-qual's progress during the qualification process and his adaptation to life aboard the boat.
No one is exempted from the qualification process and no concessions are made to rank or rate.
Although submarine qualification methodology has changed throughout the decades the basic goal has remained: 1) to provide the submarine sailor with a basic knowledge of all systems on board, their uses, operations, and interrelationships with other systems and 2) to ensure all personnel can operate effectively under pressure in shipboard situations. Submarine damage control techniques are stressed throughout the qualification process.Progress is tracked by the Chief of the Boat. Each item on the qual card is worth a specified number of points; unqualified sailors must obtain a predetermined number of points per week. Failure to achieve the required number results in placement on a "delinquent list" (also making the sailor being referred to as "dink") and the assignment of additional study, monitored by the Sea Dad. Each system signature is weighted and each phase has a maximum number of points.
The qualifications process aboard the boat uses publications, training videos, computer programs and hands-on training with qualified personnel, but the principal focus is on the actual operation of the damage control, atmosphere control, weapons, countermeasures, reactor, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, and electronic systems on that particular submarine. Once the qualifying sailor feels he has the requisite knowledge for the system he will ask a designated Qualification Petty Officer (QPO — an expert on the system in question) for a "checkout". The QPO will ask prepared questions concerning the system. He will also ask the sailor to draw a line diagram and explain the system in various states and configurations. If the QPO feels the sailor has met his expectations, he will sign the sailor's qual card and those points will be included in the sailor's weekly point count. If the QPO isn't satisfied with the sailor's knowledge level he will require the sailor to study further and return for another checkout.
The qualification structure can be broken down into phases. The example listed below is only a basic guide and is not the rule for all submarines. For most phases of qualification, knowledge of basic rather than elaborate equipment operations is required, with the exception of damage control equipment and procedures. Among the most important goals of submarine qualification is providing each member of the crew - regardless of designated specialty - with the training to combat casualties anywhere on the submarine. In case of fire, flooding, or other casualty, each submarine sailor must be confident that he can trust the man next to him to know the purpose, location, and proper use of each item of damage control equipment, as well as the location and operation of isolations for each electrical/air/hydraulic system.
 Indoctrination/Damage Control Phase
This phase emphasizes the construction and support systems for the specific submarine to which the sailor is assigned.
• Internal Communication Circuits
• Sound Powered Phone Circuits
• Emergency Alarms
• Damage Control equipment location and proper utilization is stressed.
 Propulsion Phase
• Ship's Propulsion Plant
• Electrical Plant Systems
• Primary and Auxiliary Propulsion Equipment
 Auxiliary Systems Phase
• Ship's Main, Service and Plane Control Hydraulics Systems
• Potable water systems
• Ship's Air Systems, Including High Pressure, Ship's Service and Salvage Air Systems.
• Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
• Atmospheric Monitoring Systems
• Depth Sensing Systems
• Sea Water and Ballasting Systems
• Chemical Holding and Treatment (sanitation and waste water)
 Electronic Equipment and Navigation
• Electronic Sensor Monitoring Systems
• External Communications Systems
• Navigation Systems
 Combat Systems
• Torpedo and Tactical Missile Fire Control Systems
• Ballistic Missile Fire Control Systems (SSBN's only)
• Torpedo Tube Systems
• Sonar Systems
• External Countermeasure Systems and Launchers
 Block Reviews and Walkthroughs
Each phase (or "block") of the qualification card has an overall "block review" where the qualifier ties in all the phase's systems and is verbally tested for his level of knowledge.
After completion of all blocks, the qualifier must complete compartment walkthroughs, where a senior, qualified sailor quizzes the qualifier as they walk through the submarine. If all walkthroughs are completed successfully, the qualifier's chain of command recommends that he be examined by a qualification board.
 The "Qual Board"
This is the most dreaded part of the New Qualifier's qualification process. The board is made up of a Submarine-qualified Officer, a Chief Petty Officer and a Petty Officer. Submarine Damage Control is the biggest factor discussed during the Board.
During the Board, the examinee may be asked to draw and explain any of the systems he has learned about during the qualification process. After the Board the examinee is dismissed and evaluated by the members of the board. If the examinee passes the Board, he is then recommended for qualification to the Commanding Officer of the Submarine.
The Commanding Officer reviews the Board's recommendation and upon his concurrence, the newly-qualified individual is presented his "Dolphins" by the Skipper and designated as "Qualified in Submarines". The Dolphins presentation is considered an important event as it means the newly qualified submariner will be treated as a full member of the crew, instead of an object of scorn and ridicule.
Appropriate annotations are made in the new Submariner's service jacket to reflect his qualification. Submarine Qualified Personnel are designated "SS" after the rate, such as FT1(SS) or MM2(SS).
 Post qualification life
After the sailor is designated "Qualified in Submarines", he is now looked upon by the rest of the crew as someone that can, and will, save their lives. He is treated with a greater amount of respect, given more responsibility, and the real learning begins. He is required to continually qualify in areas other than his primary duty. This is to ensure in-depth cross-training is accomplished. This process continues throughout a submarine sailor's tour. In addition to the basic submarine qualification process and his requirement to qualify in his most senior in-rate watch station, a submarine sailor usually will become qualified at numerous in port and at sea watch stations not directly related to his own specific rate.
When a submarine sailor ordered to serve a tour ashore returns to sea duty (or whenever ordered from boat to another submarine of a class on which he has not already sailed and earned his qualifications), he is again required to "re-qualify" on the new submarine, but will never again be a NUB [Non-Useful-Body]. This qualification is normally completed by a walkthrough check with a senior qualified member of his Chain of Command or a Submarine-qualified Officer.