Do you think you are a “salty” member of the United States Coast Guard? Well think again.
How about 22 years, 2 months and 15 days of sea time; that is what it would take to be considered the “saltiest,” an honor which goes to the 10th, and newest, Silver Ancient Mariner of the Coast Guard, Master Chief Petty Officer Steven B. Hearn.
“It’s truly an honor and privilege to preside over the Silver Ancient Mariner Change of Watch,” said Adm. Bob Papp, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, who as the 13th Gold Ancient Mariner presided over the ceremony. “The Ancient Mariner is one of our most cherished traditions. It celebrates our identity and heritage as a unique seagoing service and is a sign of respect to experience, seamanship and seniority.”
The Gold and Silver Ancient Mariner awards, established in 1978, honor the officer and enlisted member who personifies the dedication and professionalism associated with long service at sea and has the distinction of being called a “Cutterman” longer than any other active duty member.
Being a Cutterman runs through Master Chief Hearn’s blood; his father, retired Capt. John R. Hearn Jr., was the Coast Guard’s Gold Ancient Mariner from 1985 to 1987 and commanded seven cutters. The Hearns have made history, as they are the first father and son to have held the Ancient Mariner title.
“To me it feels like I have been in the Coast Guard my whole life,” said Hearn reflecting on both his and his father’s service time. “My dad did about 37 years in the Coast Guard, going from enlisted to warrant and then retiring as Captain.”
From a young age, Hearn would go on day trips aboard ships his dad commanded where he says the crew treated him like one of their own. From there his desire to serve at sea only grew stronger and led him on the journey to Silver Ancient Mariner.
Through his years at sea, you can guarantee he has some fantastic sea stories! His sea stories go back to before he even joined the Coast Guard, as a young boy, when he was visiting a small boat station his father commanded.
“When the SAR alarm went off, I would jump into the small boats before the crew even got there, ready to go out on the water,” said Hearn. “When the crew got there, they would tell me to get out of the way and I would unfortunately have to get off the boat.”
Hearn also recalls how he seemed almost destined to become an Ancient. At one point in his career he was the officer in charge of CGC Cimarron, a unit where two other Ancients – Donald Urquhart (4th Silver Ancient Mariner) and Michael Gibbs (6th Silver Ancient Mariner) were previously officers in charge. He also happened to live on the same street in the same city of Murray, Ky. as both of them.
Validating his love for sea service, Hearn is also one of very few Coast Guardsmen who have earned a Master Cutterman certificate, which recognizes over 20 years of cumulative sea time. Hearn, currently serving as officer in charge of CGC Kankakee, has served aboard eight Coast Guard Cutters, commanding five.
“Sea time is the backbone of the Coast Guard,” said Hearn. “It prepares you for any and all future challenges you will encounter throughout your career.”
As the 10th Silver Ancient Mariner with 7,995 days at sea, Master Chief Hearn does not have to prove himself to anyone, expect maybe to one more person – his father.
“We are always debating about who is the better ship handler,” chuckles Hearn.
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