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USS Alaska Sailors Complete Unique Snapshot Training

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040120-03

Release Date: 1/20/2004 9:44:00 AM

By Journalist 2rd Class Mary Popejoy, Naval Submarine Base Bangor Public Affairs

SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Alaska (SSBN 732) (Gold) have gone back to the days of boot camp with a program called "Snapshot" that was started in October 2002. Snapshot gives Alaska (Gold) Sailors the chance to put their submarine knowledge to the test in order to earn their dolphins.

Alaska is the only submarine in the Navy to have this type of qualifying process for their crew members. The idea behind Snapshot came from a few E-6 and below Sailors who took the idea from the Chief of the Boat (COB) Master Chief Fire Control Technician (SS) David Lynch, who served as a Recruit Division Commander (RDC) in Great Lakes, where his division was one of the very first groups to go through the infamous Battle Stations.

Battle Stations is when recruits get up in the middle of the night to get into battle dress and perform life and death scenarios well into the morning. It also serves as the final test before Sailors can switch from their recruit ball cap to their Navy ball cap, and officially call themselves a Sailor in the U.S. Navy.

After seeing how it affected those individuals, Lynch knew that it would work in the submarine force later on down the road, and it has.

Once a Sailor completes his qualification card and turns it in, they then wait for the night where they'll be awakened to go through scenarios that involves saving the lives of the crew. Sailors are tested on initial reactions, reports, actions, stowage and recovery, knowledge and Navy core values, for three major casualties, and multiple minor casualties and evolutions.

Upon completion of Snapshot, the Sailor goes through an oral knowledge interview with a qualifying officer. If the Sailor succeeds in all areas of the test, he will be awarded his dolphins and join the fraternity of submariners.

Since Alaska started using Snapshot, 47 of their own have earned their dolphins. Even though Alaska is the only submarine in the Navy to have this process, the crew has accepted it with open arms.

"It's a great program. You earn more respect from the crew, because you go from being a non-qualified person to a qualified person," said Machinist Mate 3rd Class (SS) Charles Williams, who earned dolphins Dec. 8. "The qualification boards I went through in my training schools were sit-down type boards, and I didn't get a lot of satisfaction out of them. Snapshot gives you a sense of pride about yourself; you just want to smile like everyone else who has earned their dolphins," said Williams.

Snapshot gives Alaska Sailors the opportunity to show their shipmates that they can be counted on to help save the ship.

"It gives everyone the ability to show their strengths," said Williams. "It also shows the facilitators that if we had a real casualty on the boat, that each of us would be able to put our training into play and help save the lives of our shipmates."

Electronics Technician Seaman Niels Hansen, who is studying for a Snapshot scenario, feels that having a program like this on a submarine is very important, because it helps build upon teamwork skills.

"Fighting a casualty is our survival. It's not like it's at the other end of the ship, and we don't have to worry about it. If there's something happening, then everyone is involved. If something goes wrong, it affects you just as much as the next guy," said Hansen.

Even though Hansen hasn't gone through Snapshot, he is anxiously awaiting the opportunity.

"I'm really looking forward to it, because it will probably be an experience I will never forget, since I had to work so hard to earn them," he added.

Machinist Mate 2nd Class (SS) Thomas Madden, lead facilitator of Snapshot, said he feels like a proud father.

"Every time a shipmate earns their dolphins, I still get butterflies in my stomach. I can see the pride in their eyes when the commanding officer pins them on for the first time, and that makes it all worth it. They have proven to themselves and to us that they are submariners," said Madden.

The new qualification program is one of a kind so far, but Madden hopes that will change in the future.

"I'd like to see other ships pick this up, because it would be really hard to go to another submarine that doesn't have this program," said Madden. "I think it's really cool that we've created something that challenges everyone and also makes the crew better, from the most junior Sailor all the way up to the commanding officer," said Madden.

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