The lore of being at sea has inspired generations of sailors since the very foundation of our country. Life aboard a ship has a heritage that is rife with ritual and is the source of inspiration for every sailor’s favorite – the sea story. But perhaps what serves as an inspiration for those at sea is not necessarily the folklore that surrounds their way of life but the leaders who were there for them along the way. One of these leaders is Master Chief Petty Officer Lloyd Pierce.
Throughout his career, Pierce has led Coast Guardsmen in countless leadership positions. He has served as an executive petty officer, company commander, battalion commander, officer-in-charge and command master chief. More stunning is the time Pierce has spent at sea – 14 years, 11 months and five days to be exact. Or as Pierce himself would say, “I call it 15 years – but that’s my math.”
With all of these days at sea it comes as no surprise that Pierce is the Coast Guard’s 11th, and newest, Silver Ancient Mariner. The Silver Ancient Mariner has the distinction of being called a “cutterman” longer than any other active duty enlisted member.
“I can cite shipmates, lessons and milestones from each of my assignments that pushed me ahead to where I am. Every job has given me some knowledge or wisdom that I find myself using in my personal and professional life daily,” said Pierce. “That’s true from mess cooking and humping chain on a buoy deck, to standing 36 hours straight watch on a bridge, to teaching cuttermen to be cuttermen, to hanging on for dear life in the Bering Sea, to teaching recruits and company commanders, to commanding my own ship, to advising senior leaders and helping shipmates solve problems.”
When asked what his proudest operational achievement was, Pierce recalled a moment when he was an officer-in-charge and circumstances put his crew in a position to get underway without him. Staying true to his dedication to others, Pierce’s most fulfilling accomplishment was all about his crew.
“I got to watch them sail over the horizon and return after conducting a very successful patrol,” recalls Pierce. “I took personal satisfaction in knowing that I’d done my job preparing them to sail and conduct any mission under adverse conditions – with or without me. Watching that ship sail out was like watching a child excel and succeed. It stands as my proudest moment.”
Taking on the role of Silver Ancient Mariner is largely symbolic, but as command master chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Pierce aims to share his wealth of knowledge with future leaders of the service.
“Above the door of Henriques Room is the cadet mission statement that starts out, ‘To graduate young men and women with sound bodies, stout hearts and alert minds, with a liking for the sea and it’s lore.’ That sentence is a good foundation for a mission statement for the Ancient Mariner,” said Pierce. “At the Academy, I’m trying to make myself available and to ‘walk the decks’ as much as possible. I share what I have and listen to what sailors passing through here report on current conditions and issues on our cutters.”
As the 13th Gold Ancient Mariner, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Adm. Bob Papp presided over last week’s Silver Ancient Mariner ceremony and shared the important role tradition plays in our service’s future.
“We cannot know what duties we will be called upon to perform, what challenging maritime missions our nation will ask us to undertake or even what fate will hold. But, we do know one thing – ensuring our Coast Guard men and women are fluent in our history and traditions will positively influence, inform and impact how we perform our duties,” said Papp.
After Pierce was handed the keeper’s cap and long glass, both symbols of the ancient mariner, Papp passed on his final words of wisdom to the newest ancient mariner.
“It will now be your duty to keep watch over our professionalism and leadership associated with long sea service,” said Papp. “I know you will keep our lamp of tradition burning brightly, and as the Gold Ancient Mariner, I am honored to share this duty with you.”
Times have changed since men and women first begin sailing the high seas. But with change, there remains a constant. For the service’s newest Silver Ancient Mariner, this constant is sharing his legacy, and the legacy of those before him, as only a man who has been to sea for 15 years can.
“I’m always ready to tell a sea story and I can talk all day about my love for the sea and it’s lore; especially my love for going to sea on a Coast Guard cutter!” said Pierce.