Navy Heritage “Tacking on the Crows”
“Tacking on the Crows” used to be a prestigious ceremony. Those that initiated the ceremony did so with the intention of welcoming the new officers to the team and giving them a sense of belonging. Nonetheless, with the passage of time, the ceremony slowly evolved. To some point, the tradition changed to the punching of the crows, and it even resulted in injury and humiliation of those involved. Although the objective behind the tradition is not malicious, if it is not done correctly, it can easily be confused for hazing, which will lead to the eventual death of the culture.
“Tacking on the Crows” is a process that requires the sailors take turns to stitch the badge of a lower ranking officer on the sleeve of the sailor of a higher rank. A crow has come to be known as an unofficial Navy term referred to the lower officer rank. The moment the crow has been tacked on the uniform of the sailors, one cannot tell the difference in the tacking. It is a symbol of equal holding for those that took part in sewing the crow and support for the petty officers. The “Tacking of the Crows” tradition can be dated back to the Royal Navy and the sand of sailing during the Industrial Age, canvas and oil, resulted in steel and engines. The tradition came about since the new uniforms or the devices used in rating were difficult to come across at that point in time. As such, some lower ranking officers had to donate pieces of their clothes, so they could welcome the fellow members to the rank.
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The ceremony used to be a traditional experience, but not many soldiers still engage in it since it is not common practice. The tacking method shifted from sewing to punching. Through the years, the ceremony has changed into hazing, which is the opposite of its intended tradition. The tradition had quickly escalated to where the crow was punched since the leaders held the belief that behavior was essential to prove that they were not cowards. It changed in such a way that there was a level of violence involved; the shipmates were noted punching the arm of the newly promoted officer. Such practices have been forbidden as the result of the embarrassment and the injuries that some of the sailors may experience. Without a good leadership, the tradition can quickly lose direction.
Somewhere in the transition phase, the message became distorted. It shifted from being a positive undertaking and a deed that manifested seamanship and became something dreaded. Thus, the message was no longer positive. The ritual evolved into a hazing rite that changed from the tradition, becoming outlawed by the regulations of the navy and almost killing the entire ceremony. Thus, the “Tacking on the Crows” drifted from what it was originally meant to be.
To prevent the ceremony from being used as a hazing act, there has to be a method of determining a hazing act and the effect of such an activity. If the ceremony is handled correctly, it can be an uplifting event that inserts the sailors in the culture as well as the legacy of the army. It could also go as far as giving the personnel a feeling of belonging. The tradition has been noted to be associated with fatal injuries. It does not simply involve tacking patches but also metal insignia in the chest area of the chest, and these insignia may have sharp pins. If a punch is hard, it could potentially result in the piecing of the skin.
In general, hazing is an act that will not be tolerated by the U.S Navy. It has no constructive purpose, and it is abusive and demanding. It hinders performance; it could result in injury, and it breaks the dignity of the persons involved. The tradition could crossover to hazing when the initiation takes place in an unsupervised environment. Often, the majority of the participants have an erroneous perception that the event will give them the license to abuse another person. The tradition has been tolerated since it is considered an innocent jest that has no intention to harm. Some of the actions during the process may seem humorous to others, but the actions could potently lead to fear in the minds of the victims. It even has the potential to undermine the morale of the team.
The definition of hazing refers to any activity, in which the member of the military, regardless of the rank, without the essential authority, results in suffering and humiliation of another member of the military. Asking another member to take part in such an activity is also regarded as hazing. Hazing does not necessarily need to incorporate physical contact between the members of the military. The consent of those involved does not mean that the activity is right. Considering the above definition, the tradition of “Tacking on the Crows” can be considered as hazing.
Some may come forth and say that the tradition is merely a ritual. A ritual can be defined a set of activities conducted by a group. The specific objective of the actions may have been unclear. The ritual in itself may have a certain objective, and the association of the actions conducted in the ritual and the goal of the ritual may not be clear. Some researchers suggest that taking part in such actions may be perceived as the bonding of the group, and the more frightening or traumatic the actions may be, the stronger the perceived bonding of the group becomes. The confusion and the uncertainty created by the ritual result in the conformity of the group members as well as the bonding within the group. Considering the above definition, it would be safe to say that “Tacking on the Crows” began as a ritual.
It would be essential to clarify if the tradition is merely an unpleasant training exercise or hazing. The armed forces require its members have certain skills. As such, the members are expected to go through difficult training as well as tests to ensure that the members have the essential skills for an adequate performance within the group. The test and the training often have a clear objective and hazing does not. On a sharp contrast, the activities associated with hazing are not linked to specific abilities or skills. Without the essential guidelines of “Tacking on the Crows”, this ritual would quickly evolve into a hazing act.
In conclusion, “Tacking on the Crows” was once a symbol of belonging and prestige. Nonetheless, with the passage of time, the tradition has evolved. The tradition has quickly escalated to where the crow is punched since the leaders hold the belief that such behavior is essential to prove that they are not cowards. Some may come forth and suggest that the tradition is a harmless ritual or harsh training, but a review of the specification reveals that if it is not done properly, it is more of hazing. Hazing is an act that will not be tolerated by the U.S Navy. It has no constructive purpose since it is abusive and demanding; it hinders performance and it can even lead to injury or worse, break the dignity of the persons involved. If the tradition is not done properly, it might as well be done away with.