NECC Sailor Receives “Old Tar” Award
By Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – He never imagined that Nov. 30, 1988, the day he got his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) pin, would hold any significance in 2015, but a nomination from the Fiscal Year (FY) 14 Chief Selectees changed all that.
On Jan. 15, 2015, in Washington, D.C., Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate (SW/EXW) Robert Hyatt of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) was presented with the “Old Tar” award by the Surface Navy Association (SNA).
“I was quite surprised that I was chosen as the next “Old Tar”,” said Hyatt, a native of Springfield, Ohio. “It definitely made me think about my years of service and all of the things I’ve accomplished.
The “Old Tar” term comes from the early days of the Navy when Sailors often boarded enemy ships in battle and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Before entering battle, they would dip the knot of their long hair in tar, which would harden and protect their necks from blows from behind. Sailors, therefore, soon became known as “tars”. An “Old Tar” was one who was honored and respected for his knowledge, wisdom, and long experience at sea.
Today, the “Old Tar” is given to the Active Duty Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist with the earliest date of qualification as received by the SNA before the announced closing date for nominations. Nominees must submit appropriate certified true copies of Page 4 or ESWS Certificate. In the event of more than one nominee has the same ESWS qualification date, the recipient will be determined first by the most time at sea, and secondly, by the pay entry base date (PEBD). If a candidate is qualified in more than one specialty area, their primary designation must be Surface Warfare.
With nearly three decades leading up to this milestone, Hyatt remembers fondly the day he officially became a surface Sailor.
“When I got my ESWS, I was a second class and the program had only been around for nine years, so not a lot of Sailors had the qualification,” said Hyatt. “Out of 175 people on board USS W.S. Sims (FF-1059), only 16 Sailors were ESWS qualified and that included E-9 and below.”
Over the years the ESWS program has evolved, and Hyatt recalls how very different it was in 1988.
“Unlike now, where many ships conduct ESWS training during working hours, all work and studying had to be completed during a Sailor’s free time,” said Hyatt. “Sailors had to survive two preliminary boards and a 100-question written test. We then had to pass an oral board chaired by none other than the executive officer or commanding officer of the ship.”
Hyatt went on to say that it was a lot harder to achieve the milestone due to the requirements placed on the program.
“It wasn’t a requirement, more like a specialty,” said Hyatt. “The ESWS Sailors had their own duty section. If the ship had to get underway in an emergency, they would call the ESWS duty section first to get it under way.”
And because it was such a new program, Hyatt felt it was an honor to be in such an elite group.
“It’s about pride. When we got ours [ESWS], it was about carrying on the tradition,” said Hyatt. “It made you the best of the best on the ship. It was an honor to be a part of such an important group because ESWS is steeped in Navy tradition, and with some Navy traditions going away, this is one that I don’t want to see fade. ESWS is a big part of becoming a Sailor and being a part of the ship and its mission.”
His love for Navy traditions actually led to his submission for the “Old Tar”.
“About six years ago I was running a Chief’s Season, and I tasked the Selectees with finding out when each Chief got their ESWS, what the “Old Tar” is and then give a brief on it,” said Hyatt. “I thought it was a great way for the Selectees to get out and meet the Chief’s Mess.”
Over the years, that tradition has continued, which led to Hyatt’s nomination by the FY 14 Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek- Fort Story (JEBLC-FS) Chief Selectees. When he heard about the nomination, he was humbled that he met all the criteria.
“I never imagined that a simple task I’ve given the Selectees over the years would lead to my nomination for one of the greatest milestones of my career,” said Hyatt.
The title of the Navy’s “Old Tar” was officially passed from retired Master Chief Fire Controlman (SW/AW) Thomas Ward to Hyatt on Feb. 1.