Navy Divers Frocking Recovers Piece of Tradition

By Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Steven Hoskins, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command


Sailors assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 put on their KM-37 diving helmets for a survey dive on a pier that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy during relief efforts in Staten Island, N.Y. MDSU-2 is operating under the U.S. Northern Command Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission, working closely with civil authorities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron/Released)


Navy Divers recovered a piece of tradition during a frocking ceremony at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story Nov. 30.

Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 frocked three Navy Divers in an unfamiliar fashion to what most Sailors have witnessed in today’s Navy, during a ceremony called “Tacking on of the Crow,” in which Sailors, took turns stitching on petty officer rating badges, or crows, to the sleeves of the newly-promoted Sailors, representing their new rank.

“I’ve been in the Navy for three years and have never seen anything as professional and heritage-related as the ceremony we had today,” said Navy Diver 3rd Class Daniel Parson, assigned to MDSU 2. “Usually, it’s congratulations, a hand shake and you’re given your crow, but this ceremony felt like it meant more.”

While standing on center stage, the commanding officer sewed the first stitch with the expectation of the Sailors to accept their new responsibility and authority. The executive officer sewed the second stitch, while reminding the Sailors of the importance of the small details, where even the most mundane administrative task is important to the mission. The command master chief sewed the third stitch, and highlighted his role to the Sailors as a direct representative of the ideal goals of the petty officer.

The fourth stitch was sewn on by the officer in charge, the immediate senior, whose orders they have sworn not just to obey, but to understand and interpret those orders. The fifth stitch was sewn by master diver, their deckplate mentor and the one who has the most influence to shape, guide and help the petty officer in both his daily routine and his career progression.

The sixth stitch was sewn by the Sailors’ peers, who help them get the job done and survive day-to-day. The seventh stitch was sewn by family because no Sailor operates alone. Whether it be friends or family, each Sailor has a support structure outside of working hours that keeps him focused and grounded.

Once the crow is fully tacked on the Sailors, uniform, you can no longer tell the difference between the first tack and the last tack. It symbolizes equal holding of all who sewed the crow and equal support to the new petty officers.

“The ceremony showed the support of everyone throughout our command,” said newly-frocked Navy Diver 1st Class Tyler Smith, assigned to MDSU 2. “It showed the people who helped us get to where we are and the people that respect us for how far we have come.”

“Tacking on of the Crow” dates back to the Royal navy and days of the sail. Upon the arrival of the industrial age, sail and canvas gave way to engines and steel. The method of the tack transformed from sewing to punching, like the piston of a machine. Over the years, the ceremony slowly evolved into hazing, opposite of its original tradition.

“The message got skewed,” said MDSU 2 Command Master Chief Scott Brodeur. “It went from being positive and upholding and showing the good deed of the Sailor and seamanship, to something people were evil about. From that point, it was no longer about a positive message.”

The MDSU 2 goal for the ceremony was to salvage “Tacking on of the Crow” to allow the Sailors an opportunity to embrace the heritage and tradition in a positive way.

“Our Navy heritage and tradition helps shape who we are and where we could be going,” said Cmdr. Michael Runkel, commanding officer of MDSU 2. “The reaction from the ceremony was positive and a good way to salvage and restart the traditions of old.”

MDSU 2, part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), provides combat-ready, rapidly deployable mobile diving and salvage teams to conduct harbor clearance, salvage, underwater search and recovery, and underwater emergency repairs in any environment.

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