Navy chief selects can once again be "initiated" into the mess. 

The Navy's top enlisted sailor has made it OK to refer to the process of making new chief petty officers as an "initiation," ending 14 years of official taboo for the term once closely associated with hazing and sophomoric pranks. 

There's no official name change — administratively, the six-week training program will continue to be referred to as CPO-365 Phase II — but in releasing his 2018 guidance, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SG/IW) Steven Giordano made it clear with his words that use of the word "initiation" is back. 

"We are initiating new chief petty officers, and providing a roadmap for people to be successful in life — whatever the course," Giordano wrote in his letter accompanying the official guidance that was made public Tuesday. 

In a move that is likely to be popular with the deckplates, Giordano said it's time for the word "initiation" to be associated with today's tough, professional training and not the hazing practices of years past. 

In reality, he's just acknowledging what everyone wearing anchors already knows —  the word initiation has remained in everyday use among sailors despite official efforts to get rid of it.

Giordano says he has no problem with the word because those in the mess have earned its return with their actions.

"Historically, when you said the word initiation or initiating, you were defining that word by actions that were not in keeping with our core values," Giordano said Tuesday in a interview with Navy Times.

"We needed to change our actions and that is exactly what has transpired over a number of years now where we now have a program that is focused on developing leaders, where we are focused on treating each other with dignity and respect."

Giordano said bringing back the word is the result of a "rudder correction" applied by past MCPONs Rick West and Mike Stevens that were embraced by all chief petty officers and has resulted in the CPO-365 process that they started becoming a tough and challenging period for preparing to joining the mess — which was the purpose of initiation in the first place.

"I couldn't be more pleased with where we are today with our actions in CPO-365 in developing our future leaders,"  Giordano said in the interview. "And if we get that part right, when you say that you are an initiated chief petty officer, you are going to understand that those actions are what defines that term and not the other way around when we had this negative connotation that represents bad actions."

In his letter, he also made it clear that he wants the training to be tough because it has to be. Still, he made it clear that shenanigans won't be tolerated.

"Respect the dignity and welfare of all participants while pushing one another to new limits; we deserve, and should expect, nothing less," Giordano wrote. "Done correctly, this process will never come close to anything that can be construed as hazing."

Giordano has his history correct. The term was taken out of mainstream use first by MCPON (SS/AW) Terry Scott in August of 2004 for just the reason's Giordano mentioned — it had come to evoke hazing and unprofessional conduct.

"I prefer calling it a transition or training," Scott told Navy Times in an August, 2004 interview.  "Initiation, regretfully, has negative connotations and it should never be so."

And even his successor, MCPON (SW/FMF) Joe Campa wrestled with the term, too, and attempted to find a compromise.

"Transition' is passive -- and I don't think there is anything passive about being a chief petty officer," Campa told Navy Times in a July 2007 interview. "'Transition' doesn't lay out any expectations, so I never liked that term."

Yet the term "initiation" also was not one that Campa liked, saying it meant, "Something is being done to somebody. That if you withstand it, you're in -- it creates no expectation on the part of the selectee."

Campa settled on a new term for the process.

"Induction' means that standards have to be met, requirements have to be met on the part of the selectee and that, when you do get pinned, there is a feeling of acceptance, of belonging," Campa said at the time.

Officially, induction lasted six years until the MCPON (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens ended the naming carousel and officially "sundowned" the phrase induction, opting to simply call the final six week process of making new chiefs simply CPO 365 Phase II.

And that's where it stands today — it's still just Phase II — but Giordano's use of the term acknowledges the reality on the deckplates that it's ok to openly be proud of being initiated into the mess.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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