A call to duty on the high seas

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp passes on the honorary title of Gold Ancient Mariner to Rear Adm. Fred Midgette. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp passes on the honorary title of Gold Ancient Mariner to Rear Adm. Fred Midgette. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Built during the twilight era of sail, Coast Guard Cutter Eagle’s construction embodies centuries of development in the art and history of shipbuilding. Today, the teak deck of the barque served as a fitting platform for the time-honored tradition of the Ancient Mariner ceremony.

The Ancient Mariner is a ceremonial title given to the officer and enlisted person with the earliest date of qualification as a cutterman. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

The Ancient Mariner is a ceremonial title given to the officer and enlisted person with the earliest date of qualification as a cutterman. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

The Ancient Mariner is a ceremonial title given to the officer and enlisted person with the earliest date of qualification as a cutterman. The first “ancient” title was given in 1966 as a way for the Coast Guard to pay respects to its most experienced members but it wasn’t until 1978, that the Gold and Silver Ancient Mariner titles were established to honor the officer and enlisted Coast Guard cuttermen with the most sea time.

While being an ancient is an honorary position, those who earn the title represent a living link to Coast Guard history; they serve as a reminder of the call to duty on the high seas.

“The spirit of centuries of our fellow Coast Guardsmen and their forebears, who have met the sea and conquered it, or have gone to their Maker while trying, is keeping watch with you, the Ancient Mariner. Keeping a sharp eye out to ensure their tradition is continued and the time-honored reputation of the Coast Guard is kept intact,” wrote Coast Guard Commandant James S. Gracey in 1984 in the Ancient Mariner’s Log, which is passed down from one Ancient Mariner to another.

The phrase “pass the torch” is often used when one person passes on responsibility to another. At today’s ancient ceremony, a torch took the form of the Ancient Mariner’s Log and a nautical long glass.

Master Chief Petty Officer Lloyd Pierce passes on the Silver Ancient Mariner title to Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Cantrell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Master Chief Petty Officer Lloyd Pierce passes on the Silver Ancient Mariner title to Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Cantrell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Handing off the long glass at today’s ceremony was Master Chief Petty Officer Lloyd Pierce, the 11th Silver Ancient Mariner. He was relieved by Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Cantrell, now the 12th Silver Ancient Mariner.

Passing on the log was Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp, the 13th Gold Ancient Mariner. As both commandant and Gold Ancient Mariner, Papp was in a unique position to advocate for new platforms for future generations of cuttermen.

“Serving as Ancient Mariner was an honor and a privilege,” said the Commandant. “I’m most proud of the fleet recapitalization success and proficiency improvements that have occurred on my watch and I wish Admiral Midgette continued success.”

Rear Adm. Fred Midgette, who assumed the duties as the 14th Gold Ancient Mariner, now holds the log. It is as place where the ancients can leave behind words of wisdom, words that ensure the time-honored reputation of the Coast Guard is maintained. After the ceremony, Midgette shared his thoughts about his role as ancient; his role in paying tribute to those who came before him.

“Sea duty has always been a demanding and dangerous business. It was in the past – it is today,” said Midgette the 9th Coast Guard District commander who is both a cutterman and a U.S. Navy surface warfare officer. Midgette has served more than 12 years afloat aboard seven Coast Guard cutters and a Navy destroyer.

“There are 1,266 names on the Cutterman’s Memorial that remind us of the dangers,” added Midgette. “In spite of that danger, sea service continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences that the Coast Guard has to offer.”

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