Kankakee keeps class at the helm
Posted by PA2 Bill Colclough, Monday, August 22, 2011
Hand salute, ready two.
A simple exchange sets sail a transition for two skippers. Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Hearn transferred command of the Coast Guard Cutter Kankakee in an official change-of-command ceremony to Chief Warrant Officer Nick L. Frascella, Aug. 19, 2011.
Like the 75-foot river buoy tender he commanded for three years, Hearn, too, is in a class by himself. He is the 10th Coast Guard Silver Ancient Mariner, a title which honors Coast Guardsmen who have served the most sea time in the Coast Guard; the Ancient Mariner award was established in 1978 to honor the enlisted Coast Guard “cutterman” who personify the dedication and professionalism associated with long service at sea. Hearn was authorized to wear the permanent enlisted cutterman insignia in 1986.
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., provided remarks as the presiding official. The commandant, by the way, is the 13th Gold Ancient Mariner of the Coast Guard. Papp commended Hearn for his ability to “listen to the Mississippi River.”
Following the official transfer of command, Hearn retired after 30 years of active duty service. Prior to the Kankakee, he captained the Coast Guard Cutters Chippewa, Obion and Cimarron; all three are river buoy tenders serving on the Mississippi River system in the Eighth Coast Guard District.
“It was always a goal of mine to receive,” said Hearn. “My dad was the 4th Gold Ancient Mariner; that will probably never happen again.”
Hearn and his family will settle in Murray, Ky.
“I spent about 12 years on the rivers; I never thought I’d enjoy the Midwest,” said Hearn.
Frascella is ready, too. He returns to the Kankakee for a second tour. Back in 2000, he was the executive petty officer for the 75-footer.
He is the first chief warrant officer to take command of the Kankakee. From August 2008 to August 2011, he was the commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Hudson, which is a 160-foot inland construction tender homeported in Miami Beach, Fla.; the Hudson was Frascella’s first tour as CO of a black hull.
“I learned a lot about driving ships on the rivers as an XPO,” said Frascella.
At the helm of the Kankakee, Frascella and his 19 crewmembers take care of 140 miles of the Lower Mississippi River and maintain 400-500 river buoys and shoreside aids to navigations. The Mississippi River system is one of the largest in the world.
Hearn and Frascella are a proud few from the long blue line who share nearly a half-century of sea service for the nation. Their salt is not the mere variety of dissolved crystals in distilled water, but rather, they embody the core values crystallized in solid shipmates. More than a change of personnel, the Kankakee replaced class with class.