EVERY SAILOR SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
1How they started. The concept of warfare qualifications and pins came out of the submarine force, where sailors and officers have qualified since 1924. But it would take more than half a century for the idea to catch on elsewhere in the fleet. In 1975, surface warfare officers started getting pins for qualifying at sea, and the enlisted qual program came in 1978.
2Showing your stuff. Today, it’s common for sailors to be awarded multiple warfare qualification and accompanying letter designators.
But regardless of how many pins a sailor may rate, only two can be worn at a time. The position on top of the breast pocket and/or ribbons is for the warfare specialty in which the sailor is currently or the one earned first.
Sailors with three or more quals can choose their secondary pin.
3Can you qualify? For the most part, if you are on sea duty, you will have some sort of warfare pin and qualification program available to you. This includes reservists attached to sea duty commands.
Some commands make sailors qualify for their work center and watch qualifications before moving on to a warfare program.
Sailors from shore commands on temporary additional duty at sea may get permission to participate in warfare programs, provided they have time at the command to complete them.
4What’s involved. Sailors E-5 and above reporting to sea with no quals must qualify within 18 months of checking onboard; there is no time limit for more junior sailors.
Those looking to qualify are issued a personnel qualification standard — essentially a book that spells out everything a sailor needs to know.
For most warfare programs, there is a “common core” personnel qualification standard, and then a specialized PQS that reflects their command’s platform or mission. For example, a sailor working for his enlisted surface warfare specialist pin aboard a destroyer would first do the ESWS common core, then a specialized version for DDGs. Once the PQS is signed off, the sailor demonstrates his knowledge in front of a board, usually made up of qualified sailors from various ranks.
The whole process can take anywhere from a few months to more than a year.
5Get ready to get one. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick West announced last year that all sailors on sea duty will be required to get a warfare qual within 30 months of reporting to their first command. Officials say they plan to roll out the mandatory requirement by the end of July.