An ‘ancient’ transfer of controls

Written by Lt. Sarah Bradley

Wearing the traditional Ancient Albatross flight gear, Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill accepts a set of wooden Air Crew wings from Air Station Barbers Point Engineering Officer, Cmdr. Gene McGuinness, on behalf of CAPT Palmeri and the Office of Aeronautical Engineering, CG-41. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

Wearing the traditional Ancient Albatross flight gear, Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill accepts a set of wooden Air Crew wings from Air Station Barbers Point Engineering Officer, Cmdr. Gene McGuinness, on behalf of CAPT Palmeri and the Office of Aeronautical Engineering, CG-41. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

Why the Albatross? It is a short, fat, stubby bird with thin long wings.

Despite its initial appearance, the albatross is known for its endurance and ability to fly regardless of age or weather conditions. It is these traits that made it a natural choice to be the face of a tradition that recognizes the Coast Guard’s most senior aviators.

While the Ancient Albatross distinction dates all the way back to1966, the title of Enlisted Ancient Albatross was first given in 1988 to honor the enlisted member on active duty with the earliest graduation date from “A” school in a Coast Guard aviation rating. It has been held by senior ranking Coast Guard enlisted members such Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Trent, who served as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard from 1994 to1998.

Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira passes on traditional flight gear to Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill during a change of watch ceremony at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii on August 20, 2015. Hill relieved Ferreira as the Coast Guard’s 10th Enlisted Ancient Albatross. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira passes on traditional flight gear to Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill during a change of watch ceremony at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii on August 20, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

For a little over a year, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira held the coveted position of the Enlisted Ancient Albatross, but in a ceremony held at Air Station Barbers Point on August 20, Master Chief Ferreira passed the torch to Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill under the watchful eye of the current Ancient Albatross, Vice Adm.Charles Ray, commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area.

“The Enlisted Ancient Albatross Change of Watch Ceremony is one of Coast Guard Aviation’s most important rites of passage,” said Ray, who conducted his own change of watch ceremony earlier this year. “In a career field that is both inherently dangerous and richly rewarding, it is fitting that we take time to recognize the transfer of honors between these two distinguished aviators, both of whom epitomize the very best of Coast Guard Aviation.”

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the ninth Enlisted Ancient Albatross,” said Ferreira. “Coast Guard Aviation is truly outstanding for too many reasons to list. The fine men and women who maintain and crew our aircraft are certainly at the very top of that list as are all of the folks who support Coast Guard Aviation. Next year in 2016, Coast Guard Aviation will celebrate its 100th anniversary. There is no doubt in my mind that through the next 100 years, Coast Guard Aviation is in good hands and will continue to set the example for professionalism and remain an integral part of the world’s finest Coast Guard.”

Air Station Barbers Point has served as the “Guardians of the Pacific” for over 40 years, making it an ideal site to host such a historical event.

“The Enlisted Ancient Albatross ceremony is a great tradition that celebrates an aviation history where the talented men and women who maintain the aircraft also play an essential role in crewing the aircraft,” said Capt. Frederick Riedlin, commanding officer of Air Station Barbers Point. “I couldn’t be happier to participate in a ceremony that honors the past, present and future of Coast Guard Aviation. To witness such a rite of passage for both Master Chief Ferreira and Master Chief Hill is a great honor. Having worked with Master Chief Ferreira when he was Command Master Chief at Air Station Barbers Point makes this day even more important to me.”

Following with tradition, Ferreira took time during the ceremony to pass along his aircrew wings – the Coast Guard aviation insignia- to the most junior enlisted member in the aviation rate, Petty Officer 3rd Class Class Kate Sonagere, an avionics electrical technician assigned to the air station.

Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill poses slightly in front of Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira to signify the transfer of the title of the Enlisted Ancient Albatross is complete. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill poses slightly in front of Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira to signify the transfer of the title of the Enlisted Ancient Albatross is complete. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

“It is truly an honor to be invited to partake in the recognition of such an illustrious Coast Guard aviation career, one that has been in the making longer than I’ve been alive,” said Sonagere. “In receiving Master Chief Ferreira’s wings, I can only aspire to achieve and perhaps one day embody the excellence and wisdom as an aviator that has earned him the designation of Ancient Albatross.”

Hill, who currently works as the Aviation Survival Technician Rating Force Master Chief at Coast Guard Headquarters, has served as a rescue swimmer in the HH-3F, HH-60, HH-65 and as a flight mechanic aboard the HH-65, completing tours at Air Station Barbers Point, Aviation Training Center Mobile and Air Station Humboldt Bay.

In his new role, his primary goal is to encourage the professional growth of both officer and enlisted members as they continue to hone their chosen profession. Hill also plans on working for a more active engagement, particularly in the junior enlisted workforce, with the Coast Guard Aviation Association, also known as the Pterodactyls.

“I am honored to assume the title of the Coast Guard Enlisted Ancient Albatross,” said Hill. “This position represents the culmination of my aviation career and I am proud to represent the Coast Guard’s enlisted air crewmembers. I am excited to meet with the Coast Guard’s distinguished current and former aviators and air crewmen to share our Aviation legacy.”

Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira takes his final flight today on a Coast Guard C-130 at the change of watch ceremony held at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii on August 20, 2015. Hill relieved Ferreira as the Coast Guard’s 10th Enlisted Ancient Albatross. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira takes his final flight today on a Coast Guard C-130 at the change of watch ceremony held at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii on August 20, 2015. Hill relieved Ferreira as the Coast Guard’s 10th Enlisted Ancient Albatross. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Second Class Tara Molle.

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