I don’t know when qualification cards became part of submarine life. I know they were there when I first came aboard the George Washington. I remember Chief John telling me very specifically that the card was as important as any piece of paper I ever held so I better not lose it. Each week, I would dutifully bring it to him so he could check off my progress. I learned pretty quickly that if you got all you “grape” sigs done first, you would have a lot of really hard ones left at the end. Chief showed me how to approach people and how to learn the systems. I am forever grateful to him for that.
Back in those days, you got your ship’s card and your watch station cards. The ship’s card was mostly about knowledge and the watch card was about knowledge and skills. Being an A-Ganger, my watch cards were pretty important because many of the tasks we had were pretty dangerous. If we lined up a system incorrectly, it could cause a problem with any of the key life giving systems on board such as ventilation, trim and drain systems. You learned pretty quickly to do most tasks with very little supervision and sometimes in less than favorable conditions. Even the mundane tasks like blowing sanitary tanks and shooting the trash disposal unit were pretty important since incorrect operations could have pretty bad consequences.
As you progress in a submarine, the quals get harder. More technical knowledge and skills are needed for the really complicated stuff including the weapons systems, navigational systems and of course the reactor control. I suppose that is why I always thought of submariners as the best of the best since every person had their own role but also had to know everyone elses. The higher you go, the more qualification and testing. By the time you reach Captain, you have achieved some remarkable things.
So let’s see if I got it all right: Standards in knowledge and skills related to your job, testing and proving all the way through the ranks, the higher you go, the more complex the tasks and knowledge so the harder the quals.