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.
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
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.