The U.S. armed forces are all-volunteer, and U.S. Navy submarines are manned by volunteers from within the Navy. Submarine personnel are accepted only after the most rigorous testing and observation.
After acceptance into the submarine program, candidates undergo a demanding training schedule, which includes attendance by all Officers and non-nuclear trained enlisted personnel at the Naval Submarine School New London, in Groton, Connecticut, as well as rigorous technical training in different specialty areas. Further training and qualification at sea are required before submariners are awarded the coveted “dolphins” – the submarine insignia worn by officers (gold) and enlisted personnel (silver) to demonstrate their achievement.
Some 5,500 officers and 59,000 enlisted people make up the submarine force. In addition to submarines, these highly skilled people are assigned to submarine tenders, submarine rescue ships, deep-diving submersibles, floating dry docks, shore support facilities, submarine staffs, and senior command staffs.
The submarine force has always been a small fraction of the active Navy. In 1992 only about 7% of the Navy’s people were submariners. They operated one-third of the Navy’s warships, a highly cost-effective employment of personnel.
Approaching the end of the decade, the smaller submarine force of the late 1990s will continue to man a significant fraction of the Navy’s warships, and some of the most capable and versatile.
–From the Commander, Submarine Force U. S. Pacific Fleet ( mid 1990’s )