Transformation at Work: Peleliu Crosses The Line

2 Dec 2002 | Sgt. Mark P. Ledesma

Hundreds of Marine and Navy pollywogs currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) became shellbacks after completing Wog Day, also known as "Crossing the Line" ceremony aboard the USS Peleliu Dec. 2. "Crossing the Line" is a time-honored U.S. Naval tradition held the first time a Marine or Sailor crosses the Equator aboard a ship during a deployment. The wogs, who volunteered for the event, participated as teams through several water-soaked obstacles and rituals to pay tribute to King Neptune to earn their shellbacks. They were guided and encouraged by shellback crewmembers, who had already crossed the Equator.For many who participated in the event, it was a chance for them to carry on tradition men and women serving the military before them had endured."I'm all about tradition," said Sgt. Jude S. Cabrera, platoon sergeant, Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 13. "I love tradition, it's one of the reasons why I joined the Marine Corps," he said. "I enjoyed being part of it and continuing it on."The ritual began at 5:30 a.m. when the wogs were awakened from their sleep and were told to quickly dress. Sleeves down, trousers un-bloused, blouses buttoned to the very top was the uniform of the day, which many referred to as "recruit style" referring to how Marine recruits dressed while enduring boot camp. To ensure all wogs were treated equally, rank insignias were removed from everyone's collars.Marine and Sailor wogs laughed at each other as they were ordered to sing children's songs such as "I'm a Little Teapot" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to entertain the shellbacks they encountered as they made their way to the ship's hangar bay. Those wogs who managed to make it into the hangar bay unscathed by shaving cream and lard were not spared their anointment. When they finally arrived in the hangar bay, they were sprayed with fire hoses that doused them with salt water from the ocean.The event continued up the ship's ramp towards the flight deck where King Neptune was waiting for his homage."I had a good time," said Cabrera, who is experiencing his first Western Pacific deployment. "I experienced something new I've never done before. It was fun."For many of the new shellbacks, the event was a change in the sometimes-monotonous days aboard the ship."It was a chance to get out of the office and do something different and participate in a tradition that has been going on for a while," said Lance Cpl. Jessica L. Berry, administration clerk, Marine Medium Helicopter 163 (Rein)."I had a great time," she said. "All the wogs were treated equally and I got to go through it with friends. No one was getting upset about it because it was all in good fun."A Steel Beach picnic immediately followed the ceremony. Hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled up and served on the ship's flight deck, complemented by a live band, sumo-wrestling suit match and impromptu break-dancing exhibition. Many of the crewmembers stayed topside to enjoy the day and relax with friends until sunset. According to Berry, the events of the day boosted her morale."After Wog Day my morale was high and it continued on to the next day," she said. "I think it brought a lot of morale up for the people in berthing because everyone was talking about it."
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit