The learning curve for Sailors seeking careers in the Fire Control Technician (FT) rating has always been rather steep. In addition to being a U.S. citizen capable of passing a security clearance, would-be FTs must also sign a “Submarine Volunteer Statement of Understanding.” (Don’t bother trying to find a copy of this on the Internet.) Then there’s the nearly year-long training process of learning submarine basic and FT essentials at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut.

But one of the biggest challenges comes after FT Sailors have made it through all this training and find themselves aboard the first fleet unit. Beginning in 2010, Fire Control Technicians, along with any other Sailors serving in qualifying warfare commands—and FT sailors are always serving in a qualifying warfare command. In their case, it’s submarines, which means they must earn the Submarine Warfare Qualification.

The purpose of requiring such qualification is rather straightforward: to ensure that all Sailors understand all the components and equipment in their environment, have a working knowledge of them, and are able to switch duties if the need arises for whatever reason. This requires a lengthy period of study and hands-on learning across the full array of a submarine’s systems.

One of the first steps for FT Sailors seeking the Submarine Warfare Qualification is to understand the principles of Damage Control: The location and operation of alarm systems and damage-control equipment, grasping how internal communications are handled on a submarine, and so forth. Other major areas of learning include Propulsion (Primary and Auxiliary), Electronics, Navigation, Auxiliary Systems, and Combat Systems.

On the bright side, Fire Control Technicians are given up to 30 months to learn all this material—but counterbalancing that is the fact they are frequently working to complete other qualifications such as FTOW (Fire Control Technician of the Watch) and POOD (Permanent Officer of the Deck).


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