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    From Wogs to Shellbacks: A Transformation

    Sailors stand on the flight deck drenched in salt water, their chests heaving from exhaustion. Their once white tee shirts labeled “Wog” are now soaked and stained from the day’s festivities. They sang, they quacked, they duck walked. It’s over. They peel their wog shirts off leaving them “cleansed” in their regular uniform as “King Neptune” welcome’s the ship’s newest shellbacks.
    December 19 marked the day more than 3,000 Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) participated in the time-honored crossing the line ceremony, when they officially crossed the equator at 83 degrees 29 minutes east longitude. As east coast ships typically don’t have the chance to cross, the equator, Abraham Lincoln was given the opportunity during their around-the-world cruise, which includes a homeport change from Norfolk to San Diego.
    “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime naval moments that you can tell your children about,” said Ens. Tommy Nguyen, one of the ceremony coordinators. “Now if they [former Wogs] get a chance to cross the equator again they’ll have a very different perspective on the ceremony.”
    Pollywogs or “Wogs”, the term for Sailors who have never crossed the equator, are tested on their naval knowledge as they perform various tasks, gags, obstacles and spectacles in order to progress through the “gates” and earn King Neptune’s, the mythological God of the seas, approval to gain entry into the “Ancient Order of the Deep”.
    “I must personally see to making sure that all those traversing through my realm are of pure heart, rigid spine and free of contamination that would infect the realms of the deep.” said King Neptunus Rex, played by Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman David King. “Rarely have I seen a more ruinous infestation of pollywogs, but the good ship Abe’s fine cadre of shellbacks did an outstanding job of purging this slimy pestilence from the ship and bringing these fine sailors into the hallowed realm of the deep.”
    “Trusty Shellbacks,” Sailors who have previously crossed the line, act as emissaries of King Neptune as they assist the wogs in their transformation.
    A part of their transformation included performing in a talent show held for Davy Jones who had just come aboard after hearing about the wog “infestation”.
    “The talent show was very slimy,” said Davy Jones, played by Chief Master-at-Arms Henry Alderete. “The first act by the AIMD slimy pollywogs was a good start, they set the bar high for the rest of the wogs that followed.”
    Both the talent show and the ceremony is completely voluntary for all Sailors with an intent to honor traditions while ensuring a safe and fun environment.
    “We can still preserve this time honored tradition without taking the risk of our Sailors being hurt,” said Cmdr. William Nguyen, senior medical officer aboard Abraham Lincoln who participated in the ceremony. “We kept safety as our highest priority and both the wogs and shellbacks still had a lot of fun so that’s all that really matters.”
    The origin of the ceremony is almost as old as sailing itself. It was conducted to prove that new Sailors were resilient enough to handle difficult, hard, and often unpredictable times at sea.
    “This has been a pretty tough deployment,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 2nd Class Wesley Davis. “I was excited to prove my “toughness” and do whatever task was required to be able to call myself a shellback.”
    In the last leg of their extensive 10-month deployment, Abraham Lincoln sailed away from the equator with a load of shellbacks who are a little more salty in their journey.



    Date Taken: 12.19.2019
    Date Posted: 12.31.2019 12:39
    Story ID: 357835
    Location: US

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