Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

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Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby Mjölnir » Tue Oct 14, 2014 7:31 pm

So, the Navy Birthday was yesterday and most commands are celebrating the occasion either this past weekend or this weekend coming up. I am a watchstander and was trying to jockey around to swap a day-watch on SAT with someone from another service so I could attend a local birthday ball with the Mrs. Now I will caveat the rest with:

-I am a prior enlisted Marine (Birthday in the USMC is a big deal)
-I am would say I am operationally focused, not here just for uniforms and social events.
-I also think things like the service birthday is important, traditions are important, the social aspects of being a Sailor (junior Sailor, Chief or Naval Officer) are important.

As I worked the duty swap, I was surprised at how many people:

1. already had the day off and would not be attending.
2. thought it really odd that I was trying to swap around duty to be able to attend.

Is this not a big thing to folks because we don't make it a big thing?
It is too much of an 'ask' for a couple hours on a day off to get dressed up and celebrate our service?
A big part of me is much more understanding when on sea-duty and the pressures of the waterfront et. al, but what about at a shore command, a large shore command with a considerable amount of senior enlisted and mid-grade officers?

I get that culturally, we don't celebrate this the way the Marines or even the Army ... any thoughts why?
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby yoshi » Tue Oct 14, 2014 8:15 pm

Not sure i can answer your question to your satisfaction, but I offer the following. Plenty of Navy celebration opportunities where I am. Perhaps it is a simple matter of some commands self-identifying with the Navy and others not so much. The degree to which commands experience, internalize, and stress the importance of their Naval connection (birthday celeberation being one method) is likely to be reflected in its members' level of participation. I suspect there are higher levels of command participation in events such as birthday celebrations from units located in fleet concentration areas where most of the Navy resides. The Navy's culture is strongest at its piers. Belonging to, and/or identifying with, a service (or group/corporation) isn't determined by the uniform worn. I think 'being a part' is about what is inside, what is brought forth to benefit/improve the efforts of the service (or the group/corporation). Our tendency to celebrate or not celebrate is based on how much we identify with what is being celebrated and how much of "it" we see in ourselves (positive views of course).
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby COMEVIL » Tue Oct 14, 2014 8:24 pm

I think it really depends. Go to a small command, maybe overseas, with a good command climate and I think you'll find a different attitude.

At a huge command, where no one works together (really) and everyone is spread across a larget metropolitan area, maybe notsomuch....
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby Romeocorpen » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:51 am

Because most people would rather sit at home and play on the computer (FB & Twitter), watch TV or sit and text on their phone. Anymore, Sailors want time off to do what they want to do, not put on a uniform and stand around talking to people they work with on a social level. Heaven forbid they have more than two alcoholic drinks or make a scene. Why bother with the effort? I'm just here for the pay check...

I attended a khaki ball a couple weeks ago (spouse is a Senior Chief) and I was amazed at how many senior enlisted didn't show up. At a command with over a hundred CPOs and a few dozen Master Chiefs, they had about 35 CPOs attend and only ONE Master Chief (and it wasn't the CMC or SEA). As for the newly selected CPOs, a little over half of them attended. Seriously??
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby Sum1 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:10 am

Function of doing more with less.

Keep the demand on forces and stress levels high and you can continue to see an erosion of morale, camaraderie, and willingness to spend what limited off-time we have with co-workers at Navy functions. I still love the traditions associated with the Navy, but there are times where I'm tired of spending 12 hour days with work people and don't really feel like spending a few more hours with them. I routinely prioritize work over personal things that I need to do, and so if I don't absolutely have to be somewhere and I have other things I need to do, the work event is going to go unattended.

Now, one noteworthy exception is when I get to bring a date or someone who maybe isn't bombarded with Navy/military stuff along. I like being able to share that stuff with someone who maybe wouldn't otherwise ever be exposed to that side of the military.

With that said, there's a Navy ball coming up and I'm going to pass on it this year.
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby CNO Guy » Thu Oct 16, 2014 12:00 pm

This is a really good topic to flush out b/c there is evidence of the more junior Sailors not "wanting" to attend traditional events such as the Navy Day Ball.

IMHO there are a few key contributors to this:

Communication: Junior Sailors (officer and enlisted alike) tend to wait to be told what is important b/c they simply don't know. Today's leaders are not the best at communicating what is important and most importantly why it is important in a way that is heard and understood by their juniors. The Millennial mindset wants to understand the why before committing to something and it is leadership’s job to do so, much more than it is the junior job to seek out understanding. There is naturally a common ground between the two - we don't see a lot of evidence of that being found. Smaller commands clearly have an advantage here, yet they struggle as well.

Setting the example: Senior leadership puts out that they would like maximum participation at things like the Navy Day Ball, but when the event happens there is the Senior Leader adnd those juniors who were curious enough to go and see what it was all about...there is a desperate lack of middle management there (e.g. E7-E8, O3-O4, or however you choose to define it). These middle managers are the ones that set the example that should be followed by our junior Sailors. These folks need to understand why it is important so that they will attend and so that they understand that if they lead by example their juniors will follow. See the point on communication.

Traditions are fading: No one wants to come out and say this, but I will - our long standing traditions are in fact fading into obscurity. Navy Day Balls, reenlistments, award ceremonies, wetting downs, etc are all not what they were 18 years ago when I first enlisted. This is an observation only, but if we (collective Navy) want those traditional things to have value we owe it to those with less time in the Navy to explain why they have value (communicate) and we owe it to our commitment to the tradition to show them (set the example).

Tradition for the sake of tradition gets us things like "tacking on", but traditions with real value give us a sense of self - it is up to us to determine which our juniors should value.
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby Sum1 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 11:13 pm

CNO Guy wrote:Traditions are fading: No one wants to come out and say this, but I will - our long standing traditions are in fact fading into obscurity. Navy Day Balls, reenlistments, award ceremonies, wetting downs, etc are all not what they were 18 years ago when I first enlisted. This is an observation only, but if we (collective Navy) want those traditional things to have value we owe it to those with less time in the Navy to explain why they have value (communicate) and we owe it to our commitment to the tradition to show them (set the example).

Tradition for the sake of tradition gets us things like "tacking on", but traditions with real value give us a sense of self - it is up to us to determine which our juniors should value.


I agree on your points, but I think the "why" is lost... particularly the middle point (which I didn't quote here). WHY aren't the middle managers attending the events? I think if you get to the root of that question then maybe you get to the root of the problem.

As far as the traditions fading, part, I have to disagree (to a degree). I've had the pleasure of attending numerous retirement ceremonies for people from all services, and participating in at least one Navy retirement, at the COCOM. I think EVERYONE agrees that the way the Navy does their ceremonies and traditions blows the other services out of the water. This was so much the case that an air force colleague "borrowed" the "stood the watch" poem and modified it from "this Sailor" to "this AIrman" because he loved it so much. People admire the Navy for its traditions. Are we losing the bubble a little? Perhaps. But we're still miles ahead of the other services (one noteworthy exception being the Marines... they still take their traditions seriously).
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby COMEVIL » Sat Oct 18, 2014 11:18 am

We really are generalizing here and making assumptions. I might be doing the same in saying the opposite, but I have been seeing plenty of great examples of Navy Day Ball participation across my FB feed all week. Looks like there are plenty folks out there that want to participate and keep the traditions alive. Pics from Digby are especially encouraging. Then again, small command.....overseas.
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby Mjölnir » Sat Oct 18, 2014 2:11 pm

Good points all and thank you for the discussion. I agree, some places, locales and commands are better at this than others.

Romeocorpen wrote:Why bother with the effort? I'm just here for the pay check...

I am seeing this first hand, from people in the Wardroom and the Mess.

Sum1 wrote: (one noteworthy exception being the Marines... they still take their traditions seriously).

I was about to go crazy ;)

COMEVIL wrote: Looks like there are plenty folks out there that want to participate and keep the traditions alive. Pics from Digby are especially encouraging. Then again, small command.....overseas.

Great to hear. And I will say that on the waterfront in Norfolk I saw more social or traditional things. I am currently at Ft. Meade, and am frankly … disappointed. It does fall into the "big command with people spread here, there and everywhere" category though.

CNO Guy wrote:Setting the example: ...there is a desperate lack of middle management there (e.g. E7-E8, O3-O4, or however you choose to define it). These middle managers are the ones that set the example that should be followed by our junior Sailors. These folks need to understand why it is important so that they will attend and so that they understand that if they lead by example their juniors will follow. See the point on communication.


I understand that 'life gets in the way' and that with the 'middle management' (the area I am currently in) that young children/family are probably a factor that doesn't impact the very junior or very senior crowds. This can be hard to manage with a social event like the ball, or a get together with peers etc. Part of my disappointment this year was that the Navy Birthday is about the ONLY social thing around here that I have seen in the 11 months I have been onboard ...

My DDG had an officer social function every month ... not everyone could make it every time because of duty, family etc ... but there was always a pretty good participation. Currently we have started occasional professional lunches which have so far (because I am a watchstander) fallen on my days off and I have still gone because I think professional fellowship etc. is ... professional and important. Granted, if you were to hold one of these on a Saturday afternoon vice a normal 'work-day' I imagine participation would not be what it is.
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Re: Navy Birthday, Traditions et al.

Postby TarHeel98 » Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:39 pm

Some attendance among officers may also a function of changes in the nature of the relationship of the family unit to the command. As dual military, I hated going to my husband's command events. He wasn't really stoked to go to mine. There were exceptions when we were in Maryland, but that was more of a function of the the people at my command-there were quite a few dual military couples, and we tended to gravitate to each other. Outside of that command, we just didn't enjoy the atmosphere.
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