Morale: Searching For The New Old Tar


September29, 2008:  The U.S. Navy, like most navies, is full of interesting traditions. One of the more interesting ones is how the longest serving sailor in each of the four "communities" (surface, submarines, aviation and SEALs) is recognized. The surface warfare sailors call theirs "The Old Tar", the aviation oner is "The Gray Eagle", the submariner is "The Bull Nuke" and the senior SEAL is "The Bullfrog." Service is tracked from when the sailor qualified for a skill in that community, not from when they entered the navy. It can take a year or more for a sailor to qualify in a skill.

The surface warfare crowd (they serve on cruisers, destroyers, frigates and anything else that floats and fights) recently retired their Old Tar, Command Master Chief Mark Davidson, who served as a surface warfare sailor for 26 years. The navy knows that someone out there qualified in 1983, and are trying to run down his name (the navy databases of that era do not allow for the individual to be identified.) So the navy has put a call out for the new Old Tar to step forward and receive the symbols of office (a replica of "The Chief" statue mounted on a block of wood from the early 19th century frigate USS Constitution). The actual "The Chief" statue is at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. The old tar holds on to the mounted replica until they retire.

The military makes a big deal about longevity in service, because those senior NCOs possess priceless skills on how to handle troops, officers, and getting the job done. However, these traditions of recognizing the oldest sailor is something that only developed in the last two decades.


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