Strategic Sealift Officer Program
2014 Pinning Ceremony
On Friday, February 14th, 2014 thirteen Cal Maritime Strategic Sealift Officer Program (SSOP) midshipmen stood at attention on the stage of Rizza Auditorium to receive a new version of the infamous “Battle Chicken.”
In attendance for this special ceremony were friends and family members of the awardees, university president Thomas Cropper and wife Heather, faculty and staff, as well as guest speaker Commander Kurt Birkhahn. Highlights of the ceremony included speeches by the SSOP Midshipman Commanding Officer, Nolan Schuetz, and Executive Officer of Strategic Sealift Unit 420, CDR Birkhahn; presentation of insignia by friends and family members to the selected midshipmen; and the administration of the maritime service oath by the guest speaker.
The annual ceremony is the culmination of many hours of hard work in which students must pass an review board administered by their peers. It is a tradition that has been passed from one class to the next. Although the highlight of the ceremony, at least for the awardees, was receipt of the new insignia, the oath each midshipman swears to deserves special mention. Through the oath, midshipmen publicly professed their commitment to faithfully serve the maritime service upon completion of their studies at Cal Maritime.
Friday’s ceremony marked the first time this insignia has ever seen a Cal Maritime student uniform. Recently, a revised insignia was released to replace the memorable “Battle Chicken”, but new regulations restrict wear of this official Strategic Sealift Officer Warfare Insignia to commissioned officers, meaning that maritime academy students are no longer permitted to wear it. President Cropper was instrumental in supporting an effort to create a uniquely Cal Maritime insignia to be worn while at school, which is the insignia you now see adorning the uniforms of SSOP midshipmen on campus. As a result, SSOP midshipmen will continue to display pride in their chosen path and continue a tradition that has stood for generations.
Midshipmen Sebastian Grant was one of the awardees at the pinning ceremony on February 14, this is what he had to say,
"As a Midshipman in the Strategic Sealift Officer Program, one of the things I looked forward to last year was when I would receive my SSOP pin and wear it on my uniform. You can imagine my disappointment then, when I heard that the Battle Chicken was being retired and I would not be receiving any pin next year. That all changed last semester when we discovered that a new pin was being introduced for use, specifically for the California Maritime Academy. My fellow sophomores and I were very glad to hear this, as we would be part of the ceremony we were lucky enough to watch last year.
We study for our Pinning Boards, and eventually we all pass. A few weeks later our friends and loved ones are here for the Pinning Ceremony, and we sophomores are standing on the stage taking the oath and receiving our pins. My mother stands in front of me, with a smile on her face, and tells me how proud she is. With the pin comes a sense of accomplishment and pride, a badge to separate us from the rest of the student body and solidify our place in the unit. I now walk around campus wearing my pin proudly, knowing I have made a commitment that sets me apart from the rest of the student body."