Most ringside critics should put their money on the downsized Navy to succeed with the latest challenge—interpreting what is and what is not hazing, and how it relates to traditional rites of passage. The traditional rite of passage for a chief petty officer has undergone change, and those who are smart will adapt rather than complain, adjust rather than resist, and Navy life will endure. During the period of adaptation and adjustment, there are bound to be controversies and questions about various interpretations, but they, too, will pass and fade with patience and pride.
Such patience and pride was never conveyed more clearly and concisely than by the radiantly proud parents of a chief petty officer selectee who had traveled far from the cornfields of Iowa to attend their son's pinning ceremony. The distance and time had taken this farming father, himself a retired sailor, from the pressing responsibilities of raising crops in these challenging agri-economic times during a critical period in the growing season. Yet, with a pause, a proud glance at his khaki-clad and beaming "spittin image" son, the father slowly cracked a measured Midwestern smile on his weather-worn face and said, "The crops can wait for this."
Somehow, the concern over whether or not every little detail of active command-level involvement in the ceremony process was error-free and politically correct no longer mattered. The center stage of the ceremony had not been stolen by concern over proper execution, but rather by a proud father who said what most people cannot say—and what others obtain degrees in national security to express. In that one simple statement, he clarified any remaining confusion in the various interpretations of existing ceremonial guidance. Yes, the crops can wait for this.
The Navy exists for the nation—and as long as disciplined, hardworking families are willing to send their sons and daughters off to serve, and as long as the Navy provides opportunities for recognition of their achievements—then the value, the vibrancy, and the vitality of our Navy and the nation remain secure. Even while our Navy is continuously on watch in faraway oceans, upholding our freedom, there are many who hasten to judge harshly the Navy during its adaptation to changes in tradition. There are others who are quick with hidden video and poison pen. They all should have the same patience with and pride in Navy—as the weather-worn endurance of a farmer standing in his field.
Commander Rosenlof was the commanding officer of the Leftwich (DD-984), and is assigned to the staff of Commander, Carrier Group Six.