Submarines are an integral part of the United States Navy. Running on nuclear power, U.S. submarines operate covertly and free of logistics for extended periods of time. Submarines are an invaluable sensor and weapons systems platform. There are two submarine platforms: the fast attack submarine (SSN) and the ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). These multi-mission platforms are keys to a balanced naval force. SSN's perform every task from anti-submarine warfare to surveillance and intelligence gathering. SSBN's have provided the most enduring leg of the nuclear triad to fulfill the Navy's missions of strategic deterrence. In addition, four SSBN's have recently been converted to conventional cruise missile submarines (SSGN) to improve the fleet's strike warfare and special operation deployment capabilities.
The world's most capable submarines are manned by the world's best trained sailors. The submarine force is comprised entirely of volunteers and is now open to females. On the officer's side, candidates are screened by an intense interview process at Naval Reactors in Washington D.C. Selected officers report to Charleston, South Carolina for a six-month Nuclear Power School (NPS). Following NPS, officers are given hands on experience and training with reactors at "Prototype" in Charleston or New York. The final phase of training is the Submarine Officer's Basic Course held in Groton, Connecticut. When this training is completed, officers report to their first submarine and take their first assignments: leading a division and qualifying for the different watch stations aboard a submarine. Each new officer will spend approximately nine months to one year working on qualifying before earning his or her warfare pin, the coveted gold dolphins.