• Updated
  • Comments

When sailors cross the equator for the first time, they’re inducted into the Court of Neptune. It’s a time-honored ceremony in which someone dressed as King Neptune forces ‘Pollywogs’—sailors crossing the equator for the first time—to undergo a variety of challenges, like drinking hot sauce …

  • Updated
  • Comments

At the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, naval midshipmen at the end of their first year attack the Herndon Monument to retrieve a hat at the top. Before the climb up the 21-foot-tall granite obelisk begins, the monument is greased with lard. As a result, it has taken as long as fou…

  • Updated
  • Comments

When U.S. Air Force pilots complete their final career flight, they’re soaked with water—symbolizing a career that’s “all washed up.” Sometimes this is done on a small scale by comrades with hoses, and sometimes on a large scale by way of a fire truck. Pilots who go on their first solo fligh…

  • Updated
  • Comments

This is another water-based tradition. When a pilot flies away from an airbase for duty overseas, fire trucks will form an arc of water as a salute over the aircraft as it taxis down the runway. This custom is upheld at air bases as well as some airports.

  • Updated
  • Comments

In the U.S. Navy, when an officer attains the prestigious rank of captain—reached by fewer than 3% of officers—they are tossed into the water in full uniform, making the new captain ‘salty.’ In one instance, an exception was made: When Capt. Julie Green was promoted in February 2014, incleme…

  • Updated
  • Comments

Around the world, ceremonial guards at important sites are relieved of their shifts in traditional ceremonies known as “guard mounting.” These reflect ancient drills, precision marches, and the solemnity of handing over the responsibility for defending the site. The best-known American guard…

  • Updated
  • Comments

In an effort to boost morale and honor the lower ranks, Canadian forces enjoy a holiday feast in which roles are reversed: Senior officers organize the event and serve the food to the lower ranks. Sometimes they even switch uniforms, and the youngest soldier in the unit takes command for a day.

  • Updated
  • Comments

Flags are flown at half-staff to denote respect while mourning a figure of national importance or to signify a matter of national distress. Tradition governs the process as well, with the flag first raised to the top of the pole before being lowered to the half-staff position.

  • Updated
  • Comments

The missing man formation, also known as a flyby or flypast, honors a fallen or departed airman or special honoree. A flight of aircraft passes over or salutes a funeral or ceremony, and one breaks formation to denote the missing person. The first recorded flyby to honor a non-Air Force pers…

  • Updated
  • Comments

Militaries around the world have maintained an oral tradition in the form of music, like battle cries intended to rally troops and folk songs that recount the history of events or individuals. From the British-penned “Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser” to the Oscar-nominated American “Boo…

  • Updated
  • Comments

The quality of air inhaled isn’t something Americans consciously think about every day, but World Health Organization research reveals that 92% of the global population lives in places with unhealthy air quality.