Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tacking On Dolphins -- A "Good" Tradition?

Check out this letter to Navy Times decrying the "death" of Navy Tradition due to the influences of PC thought. Excerpts:
He made sure that promotions were celebrated with an appropriate “wetting down”; crows, dolphins and wings were tacked on as a sign of respect from those already so celebrated; chiefs were promoted in solemn ceremony after being “initiated” by their fellow brethren; and only those worthy were allowed to earn the title “shellback.”...
...In lieu of flowers, the family of Navy Tradition has asked that all sailors who have earned their shellback and drunk their dolphins; who remember sore arms from where their crows were tacked on and were sent on a search for “relative bearing grease” or a length of “water line”; who’ve been through chiefs’ initiation or answered ship’s call in a bar fight in some exotic port of call, to raise a toast one more time and remember Navy Tradition in his youth and grandeur.
What do you think? Are the various "hazing" rituals that many of us old-timers went through an important part of establishing and maintaining unit camaraderie, or just a way for us to bully the NUBs? I went through a "real" Shellback initiation in on USS Topeka (SSN 754) in 1991 (and was on the other end of one in 1993 where we shaved the letters "XO" into the XO's back and several Wogs lost portions of eyebrows), and thought the ridiculous PC one I saw on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in 2000 wasn't worth anything, but a case could be made that the "old way" didn't really add anything to a boat's efficiency. As I've said before, Submariners are very good at welcoming those who fit in as brothers (and now, sisters), but we're pretty ruthless at getting rid of those who don't really fit in with the culture -- or at least we used to be. Personally, I think that the various "tests" we did to discover if the new crew member would really make a good Submariner, or might be better off exercising his particular talents on a surface vessel, were worthwhile. On the other hand, making someone risk alcohol poisoning to get his dolphins maybe wasn't as useful. YMMV.


Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I have never thought that "tacking on Dolphins" was a good tradition. However, if handled correctly, the "tacking on of crows" was OK (no pins on the crows) as long as the "taps" were gentle and not life threatening. Concerning Drinking Dolphins - although I did it when I qualified in the mid sixties, I made sure that the drink was nonalcoholic when I presided over such activities as a more senior officer to make sure that the newly qualified was able to "catch the dolphins" in his teeth and not end up in the stomach or throat. I still remember the photo in the COMSUBPAC Info Notes of a set of dolphins in some ones throat that was published around 1968 when the then CSP forbade the tradition. Regarding Crossing the line and Bluenose ceremonies, they can be useful team building exercises if managed correctly. When I first crossed the line, the XO, who was a Shellback, took me aside and asked me to "assist" in the Pollywog revolt to make sure it was tasteful and not dangerous. It was great fun as Communicator to draft up messages from King Neptune, Davy Jones, etc. in the build up to the Crossing the Line ceremony. When I was on the other side of the judge, I patterned the build up to the Crossing the line in a similar manner. As XO I drafted a number of messages similar to the ones used when I was a JO. The Goat Locker took the lead to make sure that the initiations on both subs was fun, not very tasty (the truth juice was awful) but still tasteful. Even the field day after the ceremony to clean up the sub was "fun" if field day can ever be fun. I followed the same pattern when holding Blue Nose ceremonies when crossing the Arctic Circle on two other submarines. One of the major items was that if a crew member did not want to partake in the ceremony, he was allowed not to participate but he could not watch the ceremony but had to be in isolation during the festivities. I still have the scripts and paperwork (charge sheets, summons, declarations, etc. from those ceremonies among my "treasures". I hope the Navy still permits these "strange" but team building ceremonies and traditions.

10/10/2013 11:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell no! Today's sailors are better informed, more educated, more diverse, and more tolerant. Nothing frustrates me more than junior sailors or old dinosaurs talk about how things “use to be.” 99.9% of the time, these sailors are mistaken, exaggerate, or simply make stuff up. Anyone who thinks that we need to punch each other to create camaraderie lacks the fundamental understanding of leadership and the principles or organizational leadership. And anyone who glamorizes ridiculous rituals to junior sailors does not belong in any type of leadership position.

10/10/2013 11:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 11:35AM must be a skimmer puke.

Enjoy your PC Navy, Anonymous, but you shouldn't be surprised if it fails miserably in the next hot war.

10/10/2013 11:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as we can count on our adversaries to respect our boundaries, not hurt anyone's feelings, make allowances for those who are not as physically able as others, and not engage in bullying tactics, then we have nothing to worry about.

10/10/2013 12:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a light tap for getting a crow or dolphins is fine, it shows that the guys that took you under their wing support you. When I got to the sub there was a guy that was in pain from getting punched in the dolphins, that is probably too much. Some acknowledgement of the accomplishment is good and a love tap is fine.

I wish in the civilian world we could haze like we did in the navy to get rid of the shitbags. Nothing like peer pressure to get a non performer to either step up or pee his bed to get off.

To anonymous, after 25 years in the civilian world I have never been at a workplace where I trusted my coworkers as much as I trusted the guys on the sub.

"Submariners are a special brotherhood, either all come to the surface or no one does. On a submarine, the phrase all for one and one for all is not just a slogan, but reality.”

-- VADM Rudolf Golosov of the Russian Navy

10/10/2013 12:12 PM

Blogger ronaldsteed said...

July 3, 1863

Lee: Damn it General, what the hell happened out there?
Longstreet: Those were Pickett's men sir... you know... the ones that don't tack on their insignia...
Lee: %$()*# political correctness....

10/10/2013 12:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know. I receiving and giving end of 'Hell Week' at a college fraternity...and I was onboard the LA in the mid-90s for the hazing/investigation/suicide. They may be sophmoric, but they do bond the crew together and allow. Maybe my memory is getting long, but I always felt that the what happened on the LA was more a result of the Gestapo-like investigation of the Dolphin tacking.

10/10/2013 12:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hazing does not win wars… We won the Cold War because the Soviet Union failed and our military was superior. Our submarine technology was more advanced and our submariners were better trained. Wars are won through superiority of country and military. There is no study/example in world history that concludes hazing is causation for a superior military. Hazing can bring people together but comes with a high price due to its serious negative consequences. There are better ways of bringing people together and developing camaraderie without punching our brothers/sisters. And enough of people using the term “PC” to describe some type of perceived wussification within our military. We are professionals and we treat each other with respect… this is not PC and this does not make us wussies.

10/10/2013 1:19 PM

Blogger Dave in St. Louis said...

The problem is that some sadists have taken over the administration of some such ceremonies. Like anon @12:12, I think the light tap method of tacking on Dolphins and Crows is the proper way to go. That is how mine were done and how I dished out such when called upon. My Shellback Initiation was well handled as well.

All were treated as a welcoming to a fraternity.

10/10/2013 1:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The actual history of tacking on the crow involves Sailors taking turns stitching on the petty officer rating badge to the sleeve of a newly-advanced Sailor, representing the new rank/rate. It escalated into punching the crow because of idiot leaders who believe this behavior is necessary to prove that they are not wussies. Much of Navy tradition started off well and with good intentions. Due to the lack of leadership, the ship of Navy tradition was steered off course. Good leaders today are now steering this ship back on course and keeping her steady.

10/10/2013 1:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Losing these dumbass traditions aren't what has broken down that feeling of "being part of the whole" and crew bonding. Ipods have.

Go underway sometime. See if the crew ever wrestles, messes around, or even freaking talks to each other. They don't.

10/10/2013 2:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first qualified in the early 60's aboard an old fleetboat with more than a dozen sigs from guys that had done war patrols. I got thrown overboard and drank my dolphins as was the custom, but never heard of dolphin tacking until the mid-70's.
I always figured it started about the time the new Navy began calling boats ships and the missile boats, boomers.

10/10/2013 3:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting my 2nd class crow tacked on by HT2 Creech is an experience I won't ever forget. I was proud that I didn't cry! Making EM1 was similar but less pain. I tacked on HT1 Creech's crow when he made first. As far as bluenose and shellback are concerned, Bluenose was fun. Shellback we were too busy to have any ceremony during each transit. "Stubby"

10/10/2013 4:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am neither as old as some here nor as young as a lot that post comments. I served when "hazing" was considered tradition and there was no discussion about it. As with many organizations that have practiced such things, excesses have occurred with results that, occasionally, are tragic.

I won't say whether any of these "traditions" are good or bad but I I can unequivocally state that I remember the events in my career that these practices marked. All with great detail and relish.

I remember getting my dolphins...the gauntlet I walked through afterwards and the A-ganger I tried to avoid for two watches. I remember my at-sea promotion to 1st class and the COB who I was proud to have be the first to tack them on. I remember a significant number of the events leading up to my CPO initiation and that long, but satisfying day - why I couldn't eat eggs for almost a year and hot sauce has completely disappeared from cupboard. Also, that a MCPON's signature is on my Creed as he was the CMC at the time.

I also know that I attended many schools and courses in the Navy such as LMET at different paygrades and many seminars for various topics. Other than knowing they occurred, there is nothing else there.

Perhaps the greatest sadness is that sailors going forward will remember their achievements (and they are achievements) in the same manner I do with the non-events.


10/10/2013 5:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@anon 1155

PC?! You are a friggin ass clown!!! It is about protecting our Sailors!!

It is jackasses like you, those who keep taking these "rituals" to the next level, in the name of "tradition", that keep making this an issue.

Google "hazing deaths" and you'll get 344,000+ hits. How many of those kids, Sailors or civilians, thought they were singing up knowing that they had a chance of dying or being seriously hurt just for trying to be part of the group? I would say none.

I've been in for 25+ yrs now, enlisted and officer. I've been there and done that. You come across to me as one who couldn't hack it past his first enlistment. If you did, then you obviously don't understand that it is Sailors who help the ship win the fights, not tradition.

10/10/2013 6:29 PM

Anonymous Iconoclast said...

Sadly, one thing people fail to realize is "tradition" is merely an excuse for obsolescence. Or worse, a sign of simply being too lazy to change the way things are done because that is the way they were always done. The reason that many of these "traditions" change is because society as a whole, not just the Navy, has changed to find such behaviors unacceptable. This is not about being PC, but of protecting our sailors from jackasses who take things too far.

10/10/2013 8:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do all the pro hazing idiots even know that hazing is illegal? "Hazing includes any method of initiation into an organization that causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger or physical harm, or serious mental or emotional harm." At a minimum, it's a misdemeanor. There is a reason why hazing laws exist... study after study show hazing leads to serious negative consequences. Pro hazing augments are based on feelings, not peer reviewed scholarly articles. As a Navy leader, your guidance should be based on facts... not feelings.

10/10/2013 9:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@anon 2:10

I hear you. In my last 10 yrs, since laptops, PSPs and whatever started coming out, Crew's Mess hasn't been the same.

I gotta say that I miss it. On usta fish we would have a kangaroo court session every evening for the guy that screwed something up during the previous watch. Forward or aft, it didn't matter. When we got done, the offender got to pick the movie.

10/10/2013 10:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:10 hit it on the head: how much do the guys hang out on the mess decks nowadays shooting the s&*(! during movies, good & bad? Or are they in chow line, bunks, or hiding places on their phones? There are a million ways true leaders build a team without resorting to blood. It may work for some folks, but is it worth it to lose a perfectly good sailor otherwise?

Hazing in other groups HAS resulted in deaths - fraternities & a marching band come to mind. Think THOSE guys still wish there was hazing going on, after losing a friend when things went too far? Think the 'weak links' that were weeded out prior to the deaths was worth it all along?

I don't.

10/10/2013 10:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey EMCS, I think they want us to feel guilty and that somehow against the odds we survived. Fock'em.
CO cracked the pins through the frog backs, put'em on, then smiled and patted them to seat them.
We also had a nub control petty officer. But, that was almost 30 years ago.


10/10/2013 11:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:06…. Haha… you were an angry, alcoholic, bipolar, uneducated, chain smoker who left no mark on the Navy. You sir, are a shining example of how hazing does not develop sailors. You keep thinking you’re a badass… because no one else you served with does!!!! ---Sincerely, every junior sailor that ever served under you

10/11/2013 1:24 AM

Blogger Old Man from the Sea said...

@1:24, I think, that among others, 120 souls from the 711 would disagree with you.

10/11/2013 2:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old Man,
I feel let down actually. He forgot to add whore monger, COB ass kisser, meany during field day, asshole on watch, and an even number Chief. Oh well.........


10/11/2013 3:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you throw out the word 'tradition' a part of the brain shuts down. People stop asking "is this right" or "is this right for everyone" and just accept the tradition regardless.
If you want to line up and have a group of people who are well known for eating their own young punch you, then that's on you. If you want to give deep meaning to crossing an imaginary line just because your ship's course, which you had no control over, took you over it, that's on you. Celebrate it as you will, but don't think less of people who don't think that bleeding and licking peanut butter of the boat fatass is a "good time."
And don't blame technology for sailors not talking to each other in their "off" time. Before iPods there were Discmans and Walkmans. There have always been books. There's also a large crowd of people around you that you wouldn't necessarily want to spend time with outside of work. And there are still people that hang out and socialize in Crews Mess/Lounge, and chiefs that yell "I'd hit that" or "Hit her in the shitter" at an 8 year old girl in movies proving that even when coming together for entertainment, someone still has to be a fucking troll and try to ruin it.

10/11/2013 3:44 AM

Anonymous Michael Broughton said...

Damn Joel, look what you started! Got my fish in '73, crow also in '73, had em tacked on, drank em, bluenose...puked so hard I popped blood vessels in my eyes...grew up fast...loved every minute!

10/11/2013 4:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Much of Navy tradition started off well and with good intentions. Due to the lack of leadership, the ship of Navy tradition was steered off course. Good leaders today are now steering this ship back on course and keeping her steady."

I threw up halfway through reading this PC garbage.

10/11/2013 6:53 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Deleted a spamment.

10/11/2013 7:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new Navy Tradition - The Navy has ordered up a full slate of “general military training” for this fiscal year, and the list of topics cover some of the service’s biggest problem areas: sexual assault prevention, alcohol abuse and — new this year — hazing.

There are 22 total topics of GMT, and Big Navy is requiring 13 of them be completed by all sailors. The remaining nine are optional.

The following seven sessions (estimated to take 30 minutes to an hour each) and are of highest priority and are required to be given “face to face” in the classroom:

■ Alcohol abuse prevention and control

■ Equal opportunity, sexual harassment and grievance procedures for both

■ Hazing policy and prevention

■ Personal financial management

■ Sexual assault prevention and response awareness

■ Stress management

■ Suicide awareness and prevention

These topics are also required, but can be taken either in the classroom or online:

■ Antiterrorism/force protection

■ Combating trafficking in persons

■ Counterintelligence awareness and reporting

■ Information assurance

■ Operational security

■ Records management

Lastly, if your commanding officer still feels you haven’t had enough GMT, these options are available online this year:

■ Anger management

■ Domestic violence prevention and reporting

■ Drug abuse prevention and control

■ Fraternization awareness and prevention

■ Operational risk management

■ Physical readiness

■ Privacy and personally identifiable information awareness

■ Sexual health and responsibility

■ Tobacco use prevention and cessation

The Navy broadcast these topics in a fleetwide message this week — NAVADMIN 264/13. Leaders haven’t always issued messages to explain training plans, but they felt it was necessary to reduce some confusion among a fleet that always seems to have another new training program to check the box on.

Command leadership is given some power to “tailor the standardized training material to ensure relevancy to their specific audience” states the message, signed by Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran.

“This is an opportunity for command leadership to have a frank and deliberate discussion on these topics,” he states in the message.

I'm glad I have memories of what used to be - because what I see and have to put up every day with in the civilian world (this same sort of PC CRAP), cause me to serving in today's military could be hell on earth. The bar is being raised boys and girls.

10/11/2013 8:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.

10/11/2013 9:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish there was a way to post images on here...

10/11/2013 10:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why tacking dolphins is a tradition doomed to history: preparation for women sub sailors.

Next steps: Change uniform codes to allow only embroidered dolphins and surface warfare insignia, or velcro-attached patches. The People's Republic of China (PRC) established a submarine service in 1953. There are no known present day insignia in use.

The concept will be outmoded in the U.S., too. Why? Maybe those who shunned military serevice would give us their answer, since they have long insisted our military is too big, too powerful, too fearsome. When these geniuses render our submarine force ineffectual, they will say it, too, is unnecessary.

History has proven there will always be wars or capitulations to stronger enemies, however.

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." - Matthew 24:6 (NIV)

10/11/2013 10:06 AM

Blogger John Byron said...

Let's be clear: these 'old traditions' aren't old traditions. Tack on whales? Crows? Not seen before about 1970. Drink dolphins yes. Buy cigars for the crew on promotion, yes. But no physical harm from shipmates.

Crossing the line is different. This reference puts its origins back in the Middle Ages: I suspect those opposing it are pollywogs.

Would suggest a sound guideline would be to allow ceremonial activities that don't risk physical harm and don't degrade the individual. But pollywogs still have to kiss the Royal Baby's belly...

10/11/2013 10:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: GMT....

The navy has approximately 425000 people active and reserve. If each GMT lasts the planned hour, and everyone goes to GMT the way they are required to, the Navy will spend between 5 and 9 MILLION man hours in FY14 on GMT.

Is it really worth it to teach an E-6 how to balance his checkbook, or to make a Senior Chief sit through or teach the exact. same. sexual harassment presentation he's enjoyed every year since he joined?

You decide if we're being efficient and helpful in any way, or if this is just a massive CYA exercise of no utility to anyone without a star. Has the incidence of sexual assault, motorcycle accident, or indebtedness increased or decreased since we started these GMTs?

10/11/2013 11:18 AM

Anonymous 610ET said...

When I qualified on patrol in October 1968 we ended the patrol in Rota and the no drinking of dolphins ban was on. Submarine sailors are resourceful so there were many shot glasses of various contents lined up with dolphins in the last one.

I think this is probably harder to do but the result is just as predictable.

I got out in 72 and I never heard of “tacking on”. Course I never heard the term “boomer” either.

Traditions are good. Hazing is not. Clearly the line is sometimes blurred.

So, today, how is a newly minted submariner “awarded” his/her warfare device?

10/11/2013 11:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It makes total sense to make someone bleed just to prove that they earned something that they already earned through months of hard work and learning. They definitely aren't real submariners until they are punched in the chest until their skin turns black and blue.

Oh yeah, our sailors aren't real petty officers until they are also punched in the collar bone until they also bleed.

Do we all realize how dumb this all sounds. You can complain about being PC and a pussy but a sailor's salt is not proven at one single moment. A submariner's honor, courage, and commitment is not solidified by "tacking" on his/her dolphins but is proven through years of hard work and dedication to their fellow sailors.

Old dinosaurs.... take your emotions out of the problem and analyze the raw data using common sense.

10/11/2013 1:35 PM

Anonymous Not-a-boomer-*** said...

"I got out in 72 and I never heard of “tacking on”. Course I never heard the term “boomer” either."

Was in during the late '70s to late '80s, and never heard the word "boomer" either.

At least, not all by itself. I think it's just half a word, am-I-right?

10/11/2013 4:21 PM

Blogger rick said...

The Shellback and Bluenose traditions are team-building, pure and simple. Calling it hazing is such a stretch that it beggars the imagination. I have heard stories about current line-crossing ceremonies and they sound sterile and lifeless. During mine, fifty of us stood buck naked on the fantail as newly-minted Shellbacks and mooned the Soviet Krivak that was shadowing us. Doing something like that today would probably result in disciplinary action.

Same thing with the various promotion ceremonies. Several hundred of my fellow Enterprise JOs and I got our promotions while we were in Subic in '89. That wetting down was beyond epic.

As a young first tour DivO, I endured truth serum and a balut with my leading 1st and we were a better team due to the shared adversity. It took a few weeks before I could tolerate the smell of hot sauce, however. By the time I left the service in '93, JOs were no longer welcome to the Initiations unless they were Mustangs. The Navy killed something special with that decision.

10/11/2013 5:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was always fine with it as long as nobody went too far. When I got my dolphins I had three people pin them on but they were far from what you would call a "punch"

Line crossings, etc can really do a lot of break up what is a boring ass life on a boat. It's worth the entertainment value alone.

Never saw anything I would call brutal hazing. The typical razzing, taping up, etc but nobody got hurt, ever. Unfortunately it's the guys who push it too far that has lead to the axe falling.

The internet and everyone blabbing about everything today is partly to blame for PC nation. Think about it. In the 70s and 80s would a sub blog like this have ever been allowed?

Now if one guy gets his ego crushed in the service it makes the national news.

Information is double edged sword.

10/12/2013 4:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't realize how infested with pussies the Navy is now. Glad I "couldn't hack it past (my) first (six year) enlistment."

10/12/2013 7:38 AM

Blogger SJV said...

In todays age of 360 feedback and self analysis, I guess we just don't need the old methods of telling other guys what we really thought about them. Crow and dolphin tacking would tell folks lots about both the guy getting tacked and the guys on the crew (if everybody wanted a shot, he was a crudball. If just a couple of the same guys that wanted to punch everybody took a shot, they were the crudballs.) Maybe Myers Briggs is better, just have to roll with the times.

10/13/2013 6:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats the dumbest way to asses 360 feedback.

10/14/2013 1:12 PM

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