30 October 2012
Military Sociology in a Changing World
As a Master Chief Petty Officer in the United States Coast Guard with over 25 years of continuous active duty military experience, I have worked through the changing conditions, purposes, and sociological culture in the military. The ever-changing, socio-economic times have spawned aggressive recruiting initiatives at times and workforce shaping tools at others, while political correctness has changed the values, demographics, and the social climate in a profound way. For some who chose the military as a profession, it has been challenging to adapt, especially for those who were too steeped in tradition and the military culture of old. The entire social structure of the military has had to evolve into a diverse, well-trained, organized, well-led workforce driven by core values, risk management, and purpose in order to justify its existence in the tightly budgeted modern environment in which we live in. Concrete Experience
My first unit in the Coast Guard after basic training, the Coast Guard Cutter SALVIA, a 180-foot, black-hulled, oceangoing buoy tender, worked with buoys lining the shipping channels in the Gulf Coast. From the moment I arrived on board, the hazing began. I had to go through foolish hazing and initiation such as the crew putting shoe polish around the eyepieces on the binoculars that I used while on lookout duty. It backfired on them, however, when the Officer of the Day, a commissioned officer, used them. When all the personnel on duty went to check in with him at attention, he had black rings around his eyes. I have seen people getting initiated by the Chiefs by having to search the entire ship for keys to the sea chest or a bucket of prop wash. The member would search for days until learning that those items did not exist. All male crews were quite common back in the late 1980’s, so when people advanced or transferred off the ship, some would be tackled and shackled to the crane on the outer deck, stripped to their underwear, and doused with eggs and flour. Some people threw their shipmates over the side of the ship when we were in port or anchored out at sea to celebrate their promotion or other events. The Health Services Technician (Corpsman) would mess with the heads of new personnel on board. He would make up a fake medical record, tell the person that he made him mad for some reason, and then he would throw the medical record over the side of the ship, while under way. This made the people coming from basic training panic because they had just received dozens of shots when they were there, and the Corpsman told them they would have to get their shots all over again. New people from basic training were also selected to calibrate the radar, a humorous event for the crew; the new people were dressed in tin foil and taken to the front of the ship on deck. The bridge of officers then gave commands such as having them turn slowly in place. The Damage Controlman, who knew how to manipulate the radiation detector, would approach them and fake as if they were covered in radiation, and the rest of the crew would run away from them, laughing all the way. When personnel would be advanced to Chief Petty Officer, most of them would go through a secret initiation. Members who decided not to go through initiation were not considered to be “Real Chiefs”. At the initiation, they would be put through various humiliating situations so they would know how it felt to be humiliated and learn to trust their fellow Chiefs. They had to answer to an Honorary Judge who would make them drink truth serum made with tuna juice, tabasco sauce, and other undisclosed ingredients. During the initiation process, they would be forced to wear a costume such as a dress, and they would have sea lawyer (usually a Commissioned Officer) representing them. They had to shine all the real Chiefs’ shoes and boots,...