On July 17th, EMCM Richard S. Vobornik relieved GMCS Christopher C. Kukla as the Silver Ancient Mariner. By putting on the hat of the 9th Silver Ancient Mariner, Master Chief Vobornik ensures the Coast Guard continues its proud maritime traditions. With 14 years, 5 months and 19 days of cumulative sea time, there is no doubt that he knows a thing or two about maritime tradition.
The names of his past afloat units read more like a book of maritime museums and vessels than a resume. He has served onboard CGC MACKINAW, CGC DURABLE, CGC CAPE JELLISON, CGC STEADFAST, CGC MOBILE BAY, CGC MUNRO, and CGC POLAR STAR. Master Chief Vobornik wears his Permanent Cutterman’s pin proudly, a pin that has accumulated quite a crust of salt over the past decade and a half at sea.
Master Chief Vobornik joins a small group within the Coast Guard that walks, floats or flies a little differently from other Guardians. In the world of uniformly dressed service members, this group is not quite like all the others. Who are they? What is this elite group? They are members of the Coast Guard’s own little League of Extraordinary Ladies and Gentlemen, and some of the names may be very familiar.
This group of is made up of the Gold Ancient Mariner, the Silver Ancient Mariner, the Ancient Albatross, the Enlisted Ancient Albatross and the Ancient Keeper. When they gather it is known as a gathering of the Ancients, a concept that evokes images of a meeting of the elders in a cave somewhere. While most people might be offended to be called ancient, this group stands tall and takes pride in the honor and tradition.
The Gold Ancient and Silver Ancient Mariners are an officer and enlisted member respectively who personify the dedication and professionalism associated with long service at sea and who have held the distinction of “Cutterman” longer than any other personnel. They are charged with ensuring the proud sea-service traditions of the Coast Guard are protected and maintained. The current Gold Ancient Mariner is VADM Robert J. Papp and the current Silver Ancient Mariner is, of course, EMCM Vobornik.
As stated on the Ancient Albatross Award Web site, the Ancient Albatross is “the Coast Guard Aviator on active duty holding the earliest designation in recognition of clear defiance of the private realm of the albatross and all it seabird kin while in pursuit of the time-honored Coast Guard duties.” The Enlisted Ancient Albatross is “the Coast Guard enlisted aircrew member on active duty with the earliest graduation date from an aviation technical school.” The current Ancient Albatross is VADM Vivien S. Crea and the current Enlisted Ancient Albatross is AMTCS Peter G. MacDougall.
The Ancient Keeper is the most recent addition the “Ancients” and is described as “the person who displays longevity and outstanding performance in Coast Guard boat forces.” The current Ancient Keeper is CWO Thomas Guthlein.
As Ancients retire from the Coast Guard, they pass the torch on to the next Ancient. To add to the tradition, the Ancients exchange ceremonial garb when they change watch (as you can see in the picture). The Silver Ancient wears a replica of a traditional lighthouse keeper’s hat, the Ancient Albatross wear traditional flight gear, and so on.
Congratulations to Master Chief Vobornik and his new title as the Silver Ancient Mariner.
Do you know someone in the Coast Guard that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations for Guardian of the Week at coastguard.dodlive.mil.