Written by Kaye S.
WHY THOSE DOLPHINS ARE A BIG DEAL
The Wikipedia article, The Submarine Warfare Insignia, gives a great history and description of the pin we know as "Dolphins" or "Fish," so named for the two dolphin fish found on the pin. The gold insignia is awarded to officers and the silver to enlisted sailors.
Until a submariner earns this qualification pin, he's called a "nub" (non-useful body). He's of no use until he can take his share of standing watch, easing the work load for his crewmates.
Thus, veteran sailors won't allow him to enjoy free time, but will hassle him constantly to be studying. When he thinks he's ready to be tested on an item, he has to persuade a more senior sailor who's qualified, to quiz him and sign his "qual card." How eagerly a nub pursues his studying and testing demonstrates the degree of his teamwork attitude.
While non-qualified, a sailor will get the worst duties and shifts available, and receive the fewest perks. These should not be considered punishment or hazing, but incentive to qualify. Again his reaction to these will demonstrate his attitude to the crew.
Generally speaking, a sailor must qualify within 12 months or so. Extra time may be given due to special circumstances, but that is up to each command. If he is unable to qualify within an acceptable timeframe, he'll be moved from submarines to a surface vessel.
Once he qualifies, the crew does make a big deal of getting his pin. Dolphins are almost always awarded aboard the sub (usually while underway), not just to get him on work rotations quickly, but also to experience the special feeling of a shipboard ceremony.
Although this excludes families from being there, certificates are given and pictures are usually taken - so, be sure to "exhort" your sailor to send along copies for the scrapbooks and mantles!