One of my biggest accomplishments as a Company Commander was to establish the “Ricky Chicken” Award. Ricky was a rubber chicken that became our company mascot. I don’t have a “current” picture of the actual rubber chicken (Ricky), but he looked something like the chicken in the photo below. I acquired Ricky Chicken about a year before taking command while I was deployed to Kosovo with KFOR8.
The purpose of the Ricky Chicken Award was to recognize the Soldier who did or said the dumbest thing during drill weekend. An example could be a Soldier who tripped while carrying food, a Soldier who asked a stupid question or just about anything else. Therefore, everyone in the unit was busy looking for people doing or saying dumb or things. That way they would have someone to nominate for the award.
At the end of every drill weekend during final formation, Soldiers were allowed to nominate someone for the award based upon something that happened that drill weekend. They had to explain what the other person did or said. The story didn’t always have to be true, but it had to believable. Also, Soldiers could nominate anyone from the Company Commander to the lowest ranking Private.
Once we had a few nominations our Soldiers would vote for the person they thought deserved the award for that drill weekend. We would simply have Soldiers raise their hand to cast their vote. I tallied up the votes on the spot and notified the lucky winner in front of his/her peers.
That lucky Soldier got called to the front of formation, along with the previous month’s winner, so they could “pass the chicken.” It was a formal ceremony that lasted a few minutes. The “winner” would say some closing remarks after receiving the award. In most cases, it was down right humorous. Everyone had a good sense of humor about it.
Your goal was to not win the award yourself and hopefully not let anyone in your platoon win the award either. We had a few folks who won the award several times. That always made me laugh. As the Company Commander, I never won the award myself, but I could have. I was nominated a few times, but got saved by the skin of my teeth.
I got the idea from the Ricky Chicken Award from a previous unit. While assigned to an Active Duty Forward Support Battalion many years earlier, our battalion did a “chalk block” award where they followed a similar nomination process and criteria. The only difference was that you couldn’t nominate someone who outranked you and if you won, you got to carry around a heavy “chalk block” at all social events. The award/event was always fun so I wanted to have something similar when I became a Company Commander.
Although I have been out of Company Command for almost three full years now, the Ricky Chicken Award is still going strong in my old unit, F Company, 128th Brigade Support Battalion. That makes me very proud! I’m glad the NCOs and officers kept this tradition going. From what I hear on Facebook, there are still some funny stories every drill weekend.
If you are in charge of a small unit (or big unit) you should develop something similar to the Ricky Chicken Award. It will have a great impact on morale and esprit de corps. Best of all, it’s free and easy to do.
If any of you “Spartan” Soldiers are reading this post, I would love to hear your favorite Ricky Chicken Award Story. Maybe you could even send me a couple photos of Ricky, or a photo from one of your award ceremonies. Just leave a comment to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.
If your unit has something similar to recognize dumb things, you can share them too. Thanks.
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12 thoughts on “The Ricky Chicken Award in F Company, 128th BSB”
Haha. Quite the funny video and post. I think this kind of award may show the difference between what brings up morale fo men vs. women. While men may see this kind of award as a humorous and hilarious “new tradition” for your unit, I feel like women might become offended and feel singled out if they were chosen to receive the award. Were there women in your unit at the time? If so, how did they react towards the idea of the Ricky Chicken award?
Yes, we had women in our unit. I don’t ever remember a woman winning the award though. You might be right. I never imagined that this would both a female soldier until you mentioned it. I’d be curious to hear what some female soldiers think about the Ricky Chicken Award.
Thank you so much for sharing how humor can make all kinds of good things happen such as tradition and motivation. I think of Tevye’s words in Fiddler on the Roof: “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!” All types of groups and organizations (i.e., military, family, clubs) can learn from the Ricky Chicken award. For example, Hash House Harriers tend to have a tradition of not wanting to be caught in the act of not taking good care of the organization’s important symbols. If they do, they may have to carry something like a highly decorated toilet plunger for an undetermined amount of time.
Traditions are definitely a very effective way to motivate others. I always enjoyed the Army traditions, customs and courtesies. I think “traditions” are what make every organization unique. And it never ceases to amaze me what someone will do for an award.
I have always loved the traditions of the Army, as well. I must say, Chuck, you took it a whole new level…LOL! Lisa, I think you are right, all kind of groups can take a page out of Chuck and Ricky Chicken’s book.
Katelyn, I was surprised at your concern that women would feel singled out or offended. I wouldn’t have even thought of that, as I would have loved it and been right in the middle of it. You have to be able to laugh, especially at yourself. There are too many things we have to take seriously, so any opportunity for levity, in this case in the form of Ricky Chicken, should be grabbed with both hands ( I didn’t plan that choice of words, it just came out. The mental imagery was comical, so I’m going with it.). Chuck, realistically, did that have anything to do with why no woman ever received the award while you were there?
No, we gladly would have nominated a woman to receive the Ricky Chicken Award. However, we only had a few women in our unit, compared to guys. And the guys said or did enough dumb or silly stuff every month, that they always ended up winning the award.
I know the unit continues with the award today (3+ years later) so I’m sure a few women have won the Ricky Chicken Award by now.
I love the camaraderie that actions like this can help build. Frankly, with all the tension that service members contend with as well as the risks they take every day, humor shared can undoubtedly provide the glue that will hold the company together during the really tough times. The added bonus is the fact that the commander was included in nominations. When subordinates see their superior officers/supervisors as accepting of their missteps, it makes it easier to follow and support that leader.
Good point, Neil. We had a similar award in a previous unit I served in, but you could not nominate anyone who outranked you. It really took the fun out of it. Plus, the command team was exempt from the award. I think that defeats the purpose of having a funny award like this.
Motivation can come in all shapes, sizes and forms! Plus it’s always the best when a tradition can last and last even after you’ve left. Awesome.
You are so true, Kevin. I am constantly amazed at what motivates people. I’ve found that a little bit of humor is a great way to motivate others. Speaking from personal experience I can tell you that the Ricky Chicken Award was more effective than an Army Medal, and sometimes even a promotion.
I love it! It is funny how sometimes what seems to be a silly thing can be such a powerful motivator. Obviously, the men and women that you worked with appreciated the recognition and the ribaldry. Good to hear that it lives on even after you have left.
Thanks for the comments, Lisa. The Ricky Chicken Award was always the highlight of my training weekend. Like you, I’m glad that it lives on. To any of you that don’t know what ribaldry means (I didn’t either), it is defined as “humorous entertainment that ranges from bordering on indelicacy to gross indecency. It is also referred to as “bawdiness”, “gaminess” or “bawdry”.