USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea – Sailors, Marines and DOD civilians aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) participated in a “crossing the line” ceremony aboard the ship Jan. 23.
The ceremony is a time-honored tradition predating the U.S. Navy when a ship crossed the equator and tested new Sailors to determine whether or not the novices on their first cruise could endure the hardships of life at sea. It is a traditional rite-of-passage ceremony carried out to appease King Neptune, the mythological god of the seas.
Makin Island crossed the Equator following a port call in Singapore. Sailors and Marines who never crossed the line before, called “pollywogs,” had the opportunity to become “shellbacks” after “crossing the line.”
Pollywogs, or wogs for short, were inducted as shellbacks by completing a series of obstacles and games while singing nautical-inspired songs and military cadences.
“I had a great time participating in such an ancient naval tradition,” said Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Nick Reese, a newly-entrusted shellback. “It was probably the most fun I have had all deployment.”
Shellbacks and wogs were able to participate in the ceremony that has been modified over the years to ensure safety and adhere to the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ core values. Makin Island and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit shellbacks ensured camaraderie, fun and, most importantly, safety throughout the event.
“It was fun to do something like this to break up the day-to-day cycle of the deployment,” said Cpl. Evan White, a combat videographer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “A lot of Marines are on their first MEU deployment, so this experience is something unique that I can tell my friends about.”
“I am very glad to see the evolution of this tradition from 1991, when I first crossed the line. Today’s event inspired me with the pride seeing our core values in full display along with the patriotic pride and smiles on the faces of our new Trusty Shellbacks,” said Makin Island’s commanding officer, Capt. Jon Rodgers. “We had more than 1,400 pollywogs become shellbacks, to include Capt. Mark Melson, our executive officer.”
Crossing the Equator is not as routine as one may think. Not all Sailors have an opportunity to become a shellback. Melson became a shellback after 23 years of naval service.
“As the senior officer today to have finally transitioned from a ‘Slimy Wog’ to a ‘Trusty Shellback,’ I wanted to pass a heartfelt thanks to all of the crew that made today’s event truly special and one coveted by all Sailors in our Navy,” Melson said.
The ceremony built both camaraderie among the Sailors and Marines and provided a sense of satisfaction. Crossing the line is a representation of traditions past and an exclusive experience that all shellbacks can cherish.
Makin Island, the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, is on a deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing security and stability in the 7th Fleet area of operations.