TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — An Ancient Albatross made his final landing at Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.
A hum drummed through a piercing blue sky on June 4, signalling Vice Adm. John Currier’s arrival by helicopter.
He strode from his last flight as a Coast Guard officer into a hangar filled with commanders, local government officials and residents gathered for a Change of Watch ceremony.
“This is like coming home,” Currier told the crowd.
Only the Coast Guard’s longest-tenured active duty aviation officer can hold the title and wear the outfit — leather jacket, cap, goggles and pilot’s scarf — of Ancient Albatross. Currier passed the title to the 24th recipient, Rear Adm. Jake Korn, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle (http://bit.ly/1pLUvmZ ).
Currier requested the ceremony be hosted in Traverse City, where he was stationed from 1983 to 1988. He’s spending his retirement with his wife in a house they built on Old Mission Peninsula.
Ceremony speakers included Adm. Paul Zukunft, who assumed duties of Coast Guard Commandant on May 30. He said the ceremony allowed Coast Guard officers to look at past experiences as guideposts for the future.
“I share a bit of my direction with you today because our Ancients are the embodiment of those principles,” he said.
Zukunft recounted how Currier once flew a mission in “nearly impossible conditions” that ended in the rescue of 10 people from a burning ship.
This feat earned Currier a place on the Harmon Trophy, which annually honors the world’s outstanding aviator. Names on the trophy include Chuck Yeager and Howard Hughes.
Currier served as Coast Guard Vice Commandant and logged more than 6,000 flight hours in various aircraft.
He passed the Ancient Albatross title and its “smelly leather cap” to Korn after a speech thanking his mentors and peers.
Korn called it “surreal” to be surrounded by aviation legends like Currier.
Tim Dellot, of Saline, served in Traverse City with Currier, an experience he fondly recalls. He said now that he’s older Coast Guard ceremonies are can’t-miss events.
“Now I know everybody,” he joked.
“These kind of ceremonies really re-energize us,” said his friend Dave Spracklen, of Washington, D.C.
Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com