I was sitting here, drinking my third cup of morning coffee and thinking about the traditions of the Navy. Not don't get me wrong, I like many of the traditions and customs of the Navy. I believe they continue a certain level of decorum and respect and should be continued at any cost. However some of them have gone by the wayside or should very soon.
For instance, tacking on one's Crow. This was a crude gesture to ensure someone kept their new promotion. That "Good Luck" was ensured by hitting, no PUNCHING the recipients rating badge as hard as you could. I have seen newly advanced Petty Officers with left arms so bruised that they could NOT move their arm for a few days after the advancement day. When I made Second Class, I had my "Crow" tacked on all day as I went about my business on the ship. Then, we went out in the evening for a "Wetting Down" party where I was expected to but drinks. As the evening wore on, I was continually having my "Crow" tacked on. Then, after I was sufficiently inebriated, my Chief, a mountain of a man, had another man hold me up while HE tacked my "Crow" on. When the Chief hit me, he knocked me and the guy bracing me, to the ground! Believe it or not, I STILL have a lump in my right bicep from that day. My arm was bruised, black, blue, and yellow all the way around!
Did that make me a better Petty Officer or ensure I would not do anything foolish to get "Busted"? No, but it made sure that I carried a reminder of the day, forever, in the form of a sensitive lump in the middle of my left bicep!
There are other traditions, like CPO initiation, Shell Back initiation, and some I no longer remember that have either been officially discontinued or have been officially toned down. Most of these resulted in pain being inflicted on the initiatees and large dose of embarrassment. Some of them left lasting physical and mental scars. Some were combined with the consumption of copious amounts of adult beverages and NONE of them made one sailor better at his or her job. Did they build unit morale and cohesiveness? In some cases, yes. But we can do that without leaving scars and embarrassing everyone involved.
Again, remember, I said I want to preserve the traditions that preserve the decorum and respect for the individual and the organization. You do not preserve respect and decorum by having a prospective Chief kiss a live chicken's behind! And you do not build unit cohesion by crawling the length of the ship on your hands and knees while being beat on you behind my a paddle made from cut up fire hose.
Now there are good, purposeful, traditions, like retirement ceremonies, command advancement ceremonies, and even Change of Command ceremonies that celebrate accomplishment, hard work, and dedication. Those traditions must be continued. But let us, together, stop embarrassing, harassing, and injuring our shipmates for the express purpose of welcoming them into the group. We will all be better off for it.