promotion ceremony

373rd IG held a monthly promotion ceremony this afternoon. I’ve never been to one like this before. Actually, the only promotion ceremony I’ve ever been to was one for a co-worker who pinned on major; I’ve never seen promotions for airmen and NCOs celebrated like this, which is another crying shame.

Once again, the turnout was great. I don’t know if that’s because it was “highly encouraged,” or because of genuine interest, but I was in the back with the rest of the standing-room-only crowd. Once again, the ceremony was mostly formal and quiet until the promotees rose to accept their new stripes. I say “mostly formal” because LtCol Burns was asked to make a few remarks and ended up telling stories about each of his troops, and when Chief Gething came forward to administer the NCO oath to the SSgt-selects, he livened up what some people make out to be a dull chore by ensuring the selects spoke with a purpose. After they timidly responded to “I, state your name,” the Chief turned to the crowd and asked, “Can you hear them?” “NO!” the crowd shouted back. They did better.

Then they marched to the front of the room one by one to get their stripes tacked on. This is going by the wayside in so many corners of the military because apparently many people think it’s cruel, but I noticed nobody raised an objection today. In fact, I noticed the SSgts all asked their friends and supervisors to tack on their stripes, and so far as I could tell, every NCO relished getting tacked on, even the poor girl who could barely raise her arm to salute the colonel afterwards. Several would have gotten away with just a tap when their children or their spouses tacked their stripes on, but Chief Gething and Chief Lucero called the biggest NCOs out of the audience to make sure it was done right.

I had mixed feelings about the ceremony; it was quite a morale boost, but SrA Ball was supposed to be there to get her stripe, and was not. LtCol Burns decided to withhold her stripe until he can see that she has straightened up and will fly right. I went to his office at oh-dark-thirty this morning to hear his decision, then returned at nine to be there when he told SrA Ball. It was a very formal meeting; she took it very professionally, then we went to an outer office where she struggled over an emotionally rocky meeting with the Shirt. After he left, I stayed behind to talk with her until she composed herself to leave. On the good side, she seemed genuinely remorseful, and worried that she’d disappointed the colonel. I was just a tad worried that she might cop an attitude and walk away huffy.

[11/22/14: Getting stripes “tacked on” is one of those weird military traditions that borders on abuse. If I were promoted to Staff Sergeant, anybody in my unit who outranked me could “tack on” my stripes by punching them, usually in a buddy-buddy kind of way, but in every unit there were assholes you never saw before who showed up to punch you as hard as they could. At promotion ceremonies, sometimes the two most senior enlisted people would tack on stripes; sometimes the commander would take part; and sometimes the whole damned squadron would line up to tack on stripes.

Some of the people who were promoted at the ceremony I described above asked if they could have their wives and children tack on their stripes, and the commander allowed that, but then the senior enlisted people lined up to tack them on, too, and the newly-promoted could hardly say no.

I gained quite a bit of respect for Airman Ball after the commander held back her stripe. She pulled herself together and was promoted to Staff Sergeant in the next cycle.]

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