Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Peter MacDougall wore a bright orange flight suit, full leather bomber jacket, white scarf, and a leather aviator hat with goggles.
With arms stretched outward, he bolted full-speed toward the stage with Top Gun’s “Highway to The Danger Zone” blasting throughout the aircraft hangar and everyone applauded as the eighth Ancient albatross of the Coast Guard took the stage for a final approach.
Wearing aviator wings for 39 of his 40 years of service, MacDougall assumed the role of the Enlisted Ancient Albatross, affectionately called a Pterodactyl, in 2006, and has held the honorary title for the longest of any ancient, a record eight years. In 1988, the Enlisted Ancient Albatross was established to honor the longest serving enlisted aircrew member on active duty. MacDougall, while serving at duty stations from Sitka, Alaska, to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, has always played the role of mentor to cadets, enlisted members and senior staff alike.
On August 8, 2014, he took the stage one last time, at Air Station Cape Cod in Bourne, Massachusetts, to hand the title off, and hang his flight suit up in retirement.
He began by customarily greeting the commanding officer of the air station, and the high ranking officials. Addressing the crews in attendance, he said, “You are my legacy. Every one of you will carry on the tradition of this service, and be ready to go into the dark and stormy nights to rescue people you haven’t met.”
He recalled the dark and stormy nights he went out into, knowing his wife could hear the helicopter take off from their house, imagining the anxiety it caused her. He spoke about the close calls. He spoke about survivors he rescued from the grip of the sea, and the men and women he served alongside who made each of his 40 years of service special.
Semper Paratus, the Coast Guard’s song, played, and the change of watch began.
The prospective ninth Ancient Albatross, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira crossed the stage, and stood next to MacDougall.
MacDougall took off his scarf and draped it across Ferreira’s neck. He removed his jacket and shrugged it over Ferreira’s shoulders and finally pulled the worn leather hatand goggles from his head and placed them on Ferreira’s.
The look was complete.
Ferreira, now fully outfitted in the traditional Enlisted Ancient Albatross uniform, could have stepped off a 1919 NC-4 Flying Boat, the Coast Guard’s original aircraft, and not look out of place.
“This ceremony is our link to our history, it is a common thread that runs through the aviation community,” Ferreira said.
Ferreira said Senior Chief MacDougall inspired countless young Coast Guardsmen over the course of his career and has made this a better service.
MacDougall saluted and took his final pass at the tower as he walked off the stage.