In a time-honored tradition, Capt. Daniel Grieco, Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN 71) commanding officer, passed on an old friend’s boatswain’s mate pipe to one of Deck Department’s junior boatswain’s mates Feb. 7 in a ceremony in the ship’s fo’c’sle.
Grieco gave the pipe, belonging to Command Master Chief (ret.) Jeff Alcott, to Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Eddie Lowery, a native of Lynnwood, Wash., at Alcott’s request.
Alcott kept the pipe at his side throughout his 30-year career. Grieco served alongside Alcott, a former boatswain’s mate before becoming Sea Control Squadron (VS) 24 command master chief (CMC), in 2004 as the executive officer of VS-24 of Carrier Air Group (CAG) 8. Alcott felt it was time to pass one of his most cherished possessions, his boatswain’s pipe.
“If compared side by side with any other pipe, you will see that it is different,” said Alcott in a letter he wrote to Lowery. “You will find no other pipe like it, nor will you find any other pipe that could possibly sound prouder or truer. It has been used in multiple change of commands, dignitary visits, advancements, decommissioning’s and has honored many, many shipmates going ashore, including myself. I ask that when you use this pipe, remember the Sailors before you that used it with great pride and you continue to keep this tradition alive. When the time comes to pass it on, you make that decision carefully and wisely. Pass it on and keep it in service in honor of all those who have used it, including yourself. I wish you the very best in the future, and thank you for your service shipmate.”
During the ceremony, Grieco expressed the significance of not just the pipe, but of the man who owned it.
“During his time as CMC he took care of his Sailors, his officers, his chiefs, and he took care of his [executive officer], who was me,” said Grieco.” I credit him with becoming the [commanding officer] that I have become. His pride in our history, his pride in our service and his pride in our traditions was second to none. There is not time nor words for me to describe the respect I have for this man.”
Boatswain’s mates used the pipes to pass information to the crew over the sound of roaring seas before technology enabled use of the public announcement system known as the one main circuit (1MC). The pipes continue to play an integral role in today’s Navy despite technological advancements.
“The lanyard that boatswain’s mates wear is important in that it shows where we come from, but what’s attached to the other end of that lanyard is a boatswain’s pipe,” said Command Master Chief William Smalts, TR’s command master chief and former boatswain’s mate. “In the 1200s was when the first talk of boatswain’s pipe calls appeared. Modern ship calls came from that need to pass information around a ship. I can’t think of one tradition older in the Navy than the boatswain’s pipe.”
Tuning and playing it properly is the difference between a harsh shriek and a beautiful tune that can only come with time and experience. Once a boatswain’s mate retires or leaves his rate, he passes down the sacred tools of his trade to a junior Sailor he feels embodies the spirit of the boatswain’s mate. Over the past 200 years, the rate of boatswain’s mate has thrived on its heritage and the pride that comes along with that heritage.
“I chose to be a boatswain’s mate because I came to Deck Department and I saw how they worked,” said Lowery. “I saw, not just leadership, but that everyone came together as a family, from master chief to seaman recruit. Deck Department is a family I wanted to be a part of.”
“It is absolutely amazing to be given something with such history in my rate,” said Lowery. “There is nothing more important to me than upholding tradition and keeping the values that Deck Department was founded on alive at all times. I try to do my best to use our past to power on through our future.”
The passing of the boatswain’s pipe tradition is yet another way that today’s boatswain’s mates carry on the rich history that has led them from the days of sails to the nuclear Navy of today. If the past is any indication of the future of this rate, it will continue to build on itself, bringing pride to those who came before
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Drew USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs
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