Silver Dolphin Return
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16 Feb. 1998
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY Commander Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet
7958 Blandy Road Norfolk, VA. 23551-2492 5863 Ser N021GA/01017
Feb 3, 1998
The Honorable Dan Burton House of Representatives 2185 Rayburn Building Washington, DC 20515-1406
Dear Mr. Burton,
This is in response to your letter of January 7, 1998, regarding a letter from your constituent, Robert L. Harrison.
Mr. Harrison expressed concern regarding the policy of awarding submarine enlisted dolphins to midshipmen who qualify during their summer cruise. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you the background and facts concerning the Submarine Force's policy concerning midshipmen earning silver dolphins. I can assure you that the policy of allowing selected midshipmen to attempt to complete enlisted submarine qualification has been carefully reviewed and approved at the highest levels of Submarine Force leadership including our senior enlisted leadership.
Each year over 400 midshipmen from both the Naval Academy and NROTC units (Juniors and seniors) participate in summer training cruises aboard submarines. These cruises range in length from 25 to 70 days. The objective of this training program is to further the professional development of midshipmen, by introducing them to the operational Navy, reinforcing their academic year programs, instilling a sense of pride in their identification with the Navy, and inclining them toward careers in the naval service. Utilizing guidance from the Chief of Naval Education and Training, the United States Naval Academy, and the submarine type commanders, each submarine is responsible for developing a program that meets the above objectives.
The issue of allowing midshipmen the opportunity to earn enlisted dolphins during their summer cruise is specifically addressed in the guidance provided by the submarine type commanders, and is not a new policy. In fact, midshipmen have been given this opportunity as far back as my staff and I can remember. This policy is reviewed annually prior to the start of midshipmen summer training. The current guidance states that:
"Awarding of silver dolphins is approved for all midshipmen who satisfactorily complete all current requirements for enlisted submarine qualification (less time on board). However, each midshipman must be aware of the importance that the Submarine Force places on submarine qualification. The decision to allow midshipmen to attempt enlisted submarine qualification, if they so desire, should be made by the Commanding Officer when the cruise affords a reasonable opportunity to achieve this goal. The usual high standards of qualification must be maintained for midshipmen who attempt to qualify."
The governing instructions are provided as enclosures for your information.
The allegation that enlisted dolphins are "handed out to four-week students like sticks of candy to grade school children" is not true. As stated above, they must meet all requirements of other enlisted personnel with the exception of the minimum time on board requirement of six months. During the summers of 1996 and 1997, only 5% (20/394) and 6% (31/505) of the midshipmen who participated in a submarine cruise earned their enlisted dolphins, respectively. Regretfully, data on the number of midshipmen who earned enlisted dolphins in 1995 is no longer available, but I can assure you the percentage was small and similar to the above statistics.
The midshipmen who earn their enlisted dolphins do so only with the support of the entire crew, both officer and enlisted. Many "checkouts" that the midshipmen must receive are obtained from enlisted crew members, and are only given after the midshipmen demonstrate the requisite level of knowledge. Additionally, a final oral examination board is required for each midshipman to earn enlisted dolphins. This board is made up of enlisted members of the crew, as well as an officer, and ensures the midshipman displays the required level of knowledge. This process ensures that enlisted crew members are heavily involved in the qualification of the midshipmen, and should lend credibility to other enlisted submariners who doubt the process is fair.
If I can provide further assistance in this matter or answer any more questions concerning this program, please do not hesitate to inquire.
Sincerely and very respectfully,
RICHARD W. MIES Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy
Copy to: CHNAVPERS (PERS-OOXC I 1 M) OLA CNO (N879)
Silver Dolphin Return
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