Rites of Passage

For Jude's benefit, I'm going to do a sea story. It involves 2 somewhat related rites of passage in the US Navy. The first is called a wetting down. It is something that is done when an officer is promoted. The promoted officer is expected to throw a party for all of his peers (specifically all of his friends previously of the same rank but now no longer) that should cost roughly the difference in pay between the old rank and the new rank. I believe this tradition was created by junior officers to force senior officers to by them alcohol. Because we all know what is meant by "wet". Realistically, BTW, this tradition is only observed for your first promotion from Ensign to Lieutenant Junior Grade.

Anyhow, I happened to be in Newport, Rhode Island attending Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) when I was promoted. I had the good fortune to be with several of my Nuclear Power buddies who also were promoted at the same time, so the total number of us was about 10. Being our SWOS class was pretty large (perhaps 40 or so) we decided to all chip in and throw one big party. We rented the Navy beach, catered food, and had a clubhouse available to us. Did I mention we were all promoted near the end of June? So the weather was perfect.

Imagine, if you will, 40 some odd Naval Officers, all about 24 years of age, in the best shape of their lives, all running around the beach, swimming, playing volleyball, and other assorted beach activities. My female readers can let their imaginations run wild. There were women at this party, as it was pretty easy to get dates back then. I was married at the time, so imagine the Wife in a bikini, with longer hair than she has now. The body was the same. Was I the luckiest guy on the beach or what?

It was quite a fun day. I remember playing a lot of volleyball. I also remember messing with my NUPOC buddy. NUPOC stands for Nuclear Power Officer Candidate. Instead of going through ROTC to get commissioned like I did, he went to Officer Candidate School to get a Reserve Commission, which was converted to a regular commission on completion of nuclear training. One of the reasons that college graduates go NUPOC is that the Navy bribes them heavily. So we mercilessly tease them about being only about money. I was with a group that were all non-NUPOC and we were laughing about it. So one of them takes a dollar bill out of his pocket and says, "watch this, it's called Find the NUPOC". He drops the dollar bill on the ground. And lo, one of my NUPOC buddies comes and picks it up. "See," he says. "NUPOCs fall for it every time."

The other rite that pretty much everyone goes through in one form or another is called "tacking", as in "tacking it on". It applies to enlisted personnel when they first get promoted to Petty Officer 3rd class and each promotion until they reach Chief. Once you become a Petty Officer, you get to wear a crow with a chevron on your uniform. Those that already have a crow, that is, all the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class Petty Officers, get to tack your crow on by punching you in the arm. And you have to let them. Some are sneaky and catch you unaware, some will give you a little tap, but then there's those that make you stand there, wind up, and then let you have it. Luckily, this tradition only applies for the day you're promoted, but most of them end up with a major bruise on the arm by the end of the day.

The other thing that gets tacked on is your Surface Warfare pin. There's one for enlisted personnel (silver) and one for officers (gold). Again, once you earn your pin, then those that have already earned it can tack it on by punching it. While you're wearing it. And yes, even with the backs on the pin, it hurts like hell. If you're lucky, you're not bleeding by the end of the day. But, you take it like a man. Cause, let me tell you, earning that pin takes a lot of work and effort. It takes normally about 2 years to complete all the requirements. I still have mine on my leather jacket. Cause even after all this time, I'm still proud of that achievement. I personally had to go through more bullshit than most to get mine, but that's a story for another day.

There are more wonderful traditions such as these (most notoriously Drinking Your Dolphins for submariners), and I'll have to post those one of these days as well. Today I'll just leave you with this:


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