Sailors Crow Over Revived Tradition

Story Number: NNS100123-17Release Date: 1/23/2010 3:43:00 PM
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By Randy Dela Cruz, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (NNS) -- Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific Command at Wheeler Army Airfield held a unique frocking ceremony Jan. 9.

Unlike his previous advancements, during which Fire Controlman 1st Class Daniel Brothers was simply handed a new rating badge, this time the selectee was joined by fellow Sailors who invoked a seldom-used ritual which brought elements of old Navy traditions into the present.

In a ceremony called "tacking on crows," a group of Sailors took turns stitching on a new First Class Petty Officer rating badge to the left sleeve of Brothers' dress white uniform, dispensing words of wisdom to help him navigate through his promotion. A crow is an unofficial Navy term for the petty officer rank insignia, which includes an eagle above one to three chevrons, depending upon a Sailor's rank.

"This is the first time that I've seen it," said Brothers. "Before, they would just hand you your crow and read your appointment. This was a nice ceremony and sentiment."

Accortding to Chief Information Systems Technician Melanie Williams, she became intrigued by the tradition after first witnessing it while on a 2008 deployment to Kuwait.

Although Williams found it difficult to track down the tradition's history, she eventually located information stating that the crow-tacking ceremony traced its roots to old sailing ships in the British Navy. Williams couldn't wait to initiate the ceremony back in Hawaii.

"As chief petty officers, we're charged with instilling history and tradition," said Williams. "So I thought that this was extremely appropriate."

Because new uniforms or rating devices were hard to come by at that time, petty officers would donate pieces from their uniforms in an effort to welcome new petty officers to the rank.

As the ritual slowly evolved into a hazing rite, the altered form of the tradition became outlawed by Navy regulations - nearly killing the ceremony in entirety.

"The tacking ceremony went away from what it was originally designed," said Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Yevette James. "Whenever that happens, there is a tendency to shut it down. But if you take responsibility and do it properly, I think it can be brought back."

If done right, the ceremony is an uplifting event that not only immerses Sailors into the culture and legacy of the Navy, but could also give Navy personnel a sense of belonging.

"There are very few times when a situation is all about a Sailor, and promotion is one of those times," said James. "Whatever you can do, as a leader, to make it a momentous occasion for them is very important. How fitting it is to have something for them that has tradition and history."

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