Capt. Christopher Cox, NAS Patuxent River commanding officer, presented frocking letters to Pax River’s newly promoted petty officers during a ceremony aboard the installation June 3.
The term “frocking” dates back to the age of sail, when communications between the Department of the Navy (DON) and ships at sea could take weeks or even months. News of promotions would arrive, usually in a letter brought by another ship. Often there would be orders for the newly promoted Sailor to report to a new ship or station. The ship that brought the news would sometimes take that individual away to his new assignment.
Since this created a vacancy on the first ship, the ship’s captain might choose to forward a recommendation for promotion for one of the remaining crew, to be carried back to the DON. One of the symbols of rate was a frock coat. The newly advanced Sailor would pass his old coat to the one who was now filling his vacated rate. Months would go by until the captain’s recommendation made it back to the DON, was acted upon and made official, and news sent back.
In the intervening time, the recommended Sailor would be accorded the privileges and authorities of their new rate, but would not receive pay for it, since it was not yet official. Because it was not yet official and because he was still wearing the old frock coat of the recently departed and promoted shipmate, the recommended Sailor was considered frocked. Congratulations to our newest frockees.