Hazing has been a part of the “Shellback” ceremonies in the US Navy for years, but the new Hazing Prevention task force is trying to end that. Hazing is classified as any and all actions that are, “cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning or harmful.” It is nice to know that Shellbacks Making a Comeback might be at hand.

SECNAV Instruction and the new task force say that their mission is clear, and that mission is to end hazing. However, the Navy does not want to stop the comradery and team building associated with these ceremonies.

What is Acceptable and What is Banned

Throwing a bucket of water on someone, or a flavored/color drink, small amounts of non-poisonous grease or other non dangerous agents is considered to be “OK”. Engine Lube, or poisonous substances are out. Beating someone with a rubber hose is out, but covering someone with vegetable shortening sounds like it’s good “clean” fun still.

The object here to still let people have a good time but in a way that endangers someone’s life or well being. In other cases something is allowed based on their classification. Such as shaving someone’s eyebrows is considered hazing, yet is not if you are a Navy SEAL, as it is considered special circumstances and “a unique requirement of their job.”

Only 30 cases of hazing have been reported in fiscal 2013 by the Navy. Some more serious than others and a few reported to include “abusive sexual contact.”

Often these ceremonies will also contain gifts, and mementos such as special coins called Challenge Coins. These are made with specific designs emblematic of the location of the Shellback Ceremony. Also decals, sticker, custom unit shirts and other products are used to give the new sailors a lasting memory of the events and the accomplishment of the ceremony itself.

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An Important Right of Passage

The Shellback ceremonies are still an important right of passage for those in the US Navy. the definition of the ceremony is “Crossing line ceremonies involving  ‘Shellbacks’ or sailors who have crossed the equator before and initiating  ‘Pollywogs’ or new sailors, crossing for their first time.”

Bronze Statue of King Neptune’s Court

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Shellback King Neptune’s Court in Bronze!

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This important right of passage can build a feeling of accomplishment as well as comradery, as long as things are not taken too far as leave people injured, physically or mentally.

Emerald Shellback T-Shirt

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Titles of Shellback Accomplishments

  • Ancient Order of the Deep
  • Court of Aurora Borealis
  • Emerald Shellback
  • Golden Shellback
  • Imperium Neptuni Regis
  • Mossback
  • Order of the Ditch
  • Order of the Lakes
  • Order of Magellan
  • Order of the Golden Dragon
  • Order of the Red Nose
  • Order of the Rock
  • Realm of the Czars
  • Royal Diamond Shellback

The Safari to Suez

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Controversy vs Comradery

Today’s ceremonies have calmed down considerably. The new sailors will most times dress funny, sing and chant and get hosed down or splashed on by water buckets.

A corpsman in Virginia was quoted saying, “War is stressful, battles are dangerous. We need to be tough on each other so that we know we can count on each other when things go downhill.”

We hope that the Navy will allow the ceremonies to continue as it is an important moment for many Navy Men and Women. As long as the ceremonies are done in a safe and non-damaging way to our brave soldiers and sailors, we believe the benefits outweigh the issues involved.

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