8 US Navy sailors who received the Medal of Honor
The US military is inundated with regulations, laws and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear at what event, or what you are supposed to say when saluting a superior are all examples of the “on the books” behavior expected of military personnel.
And then there are the “off-book” traditions. These are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back long before books were printed. These activities – especially those involving hazing – are often frowned upon, but continue to occur, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or flight crew members) are hosed down after their last flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot subculture within every department. Shortly after Airmen arrive at a new unit, they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they are usually not very flattering.
On the other hand, the final flight. Much like a football coach has a giant Gatorade cooler thrown over his head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes get doused with water by their fellow students. In some cases, they will be washed down with champagne.
In Major Vecchione’s case (pictured below), his peers also threw cheese, flour and mayonnaise at him. Personally, I would have thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but damn it, I wasn’t there.
2. In a military marriage with a sword detail, the woman receives a sword blow at her booty to “welcome” it into the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows a guy to bang your brand new wife on the butt. When a member of the service wants to go through the pageantry of a “military wedding” – wear his uniform at the altar and bring a sword detail – he can expect that at the end of it all , a random guy will sexually harass his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: at the exit just after the ceremony, the couple pass over an arch of swords on both sides. They cross, kiss, cross, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the last two and pass, one of the details will lower their sword, pat the bride and say “Welcome to the Army.” [or Marine Corps, etc]! ”
Here is the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which, frankly, involves a lot of really weird things.
The line crossing ceremony dates back to the days of wooden ships. According to this History of Navy Public Affairs, sailors were subjected to this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first trip to sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time – called Pollywogs or Wogs for short – can expect an introduction to the club from those who have done it before, called Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” introduces the Wogs to “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like dressing up men as women, drinking stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and after- shaving, or having them crawl on their hands and knees out of respect for King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of these things up.
In the modern military, which is staunchly against hazing rituals, events have eased somewhat. In 1972, a sailor might have expected to kiss the ‘royal baby’s navel’, which, again, is very real.
These days, however, there’s a lot less of that stuff, and the Navy emphasizes that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, though, and they’ll likely tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before beginning the deployment, marines who have never been deployed should shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why – other than to distinguish who were the total boots of the platoon – but naval grunts who have never deployed are often asked to shave their heads before setting off. go.
Again, this is one of those “volunteers” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to-do stuff, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to save their hair before they deployed to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on a lot of cleaning details and other not-so-fun jobs. Consequently.
5. Upon reaching the next rank or earning parachute wings or other badges, a service member can be “blood-pinned”, although this is rare these days.
Soldiers who have passed five airborne school jumps in the past could expect to get “bloodwings,” but the practice has faded in recent years, as the public has learned. After a superior pinned his wings, a soldier would get his new badge slammed into his chest, which often drew blood.
This sort of thing is frowned upon – and prohibited by military regulations – but it still happens sometimes. In some cases, it is considered a rite of passage and a kind of honor. I have personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I took the ranks of Corporal and Lance Corporal.
Volunteer or not, this is a ritual that brass instruments have received a lot of bad press about, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.
6. Some units hold mustache growth contests in formation or deployment to see who can perform the most terrible stache.
Military regulations on facial hair don’t offer much good when it comes to shaving. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (with the exception of some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. The reason they are frowned upon usually depends on the seriousness of their appearance.
Don’t expect any mustache size like Rollie Fingers; troops generally have to keep their mustaches neatly trimmed in the corners of their mouths. These regulations give way to the dreadfulness derived from the “CAX stache,” which is what the Marines call the odd, Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes spill over overseas, especially when junior troops are far from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to watch that moostache.
7. West Point first year cadets participate in a giant pillow fight to let off steam after summer is over.
Before becoming the armed chiefs of the men of the United States Army, the first-year cadets each beat with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by students and has been taking place since at least 1897, according to the New York Times.
Although it’s supposed to be a light event with fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, sweet, certain [blue falcon] the cadets have decided to make the event bloody in recent years. A first year caddy told The Times in September, “The point was to have fun, and some guys ultimately chose to hurt people.
This quote is from a story that erupted months ago after the ‘fun’ pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets in need of medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Midshipmen of the Naval Academy climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
At about the same time that the West Point first-year cadets are fighting and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming midshipmen rush toward a 21-foot lard-covered monument with a hat on top. The goal: to retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upper-class hat, a task that signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, the upper class men hang the plebs with around 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They must use teamwork and dedication to climb to the top, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to over four hours (the 1995 class has the longest time of 4 hours and 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, tradition has it that the first man to reach the top is likely to reach the rank of admiral first. It’s if he or she doesn’t get fired first.