There are many titles used in the Coast Guard. Some are earned as you move up in the ranks while some are given based off your chosen profession. Amongst all of the titles Coast Guard members earn there is one that perhaps warrants the most bragging rights – plank owner. Plank owner is the term given to a member of the ship’s original crew. The name stems from tradition that the original crew would receive wooden deck planking as part of the vessel decommissioning process. Today, while decks may not be wooden, crews still hold the title of plank owner in high esteem. To be a plank owner means you are part owner of the ship; you are part of its legacy.
There is a proud group of plank owners aboard the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boat, cutter Robert Yered. The ship’s commissioning is this weekend and for months the crew has spent long days preparing. “It is very demanding work commissioning a new cutter. However, with this comes tons of pride,” said Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kelly. “I have been in for 10 years now and I have never had so much pride into one unit as I do this one. We have had the opportunity to watch this ship come alive.” From drills, to training, to organizing and planning the crew has been in a constant swirl of activity.
“The responsibility of a plank owner is fast paced and very demanding. It’s an assignment with much reward for those seeking a challenge,” said Ensign Colin Weaver. “Being a plank owner is a tremendously rewarding opportunity. It is a privilege to the part of the very first crew on this cutter. We take a lot of pride in our ship and have set high standards for the Robert Yered and the crews that follow,” added Seaman Tara Campbell. It’s Campbell’s first cutter out of boot camp and while excited about performing Coast Guard operations and what the future holds, she is also quick to point out the past is just as important. For all of cutter Robert Yered’s plank owners it’s about the legacy of their namesake. Engineman Robert Yered was a member of the explosive loading detail at the United States Army Terminal, Cat Lai, Vietnam. On the morning of Feb.18, 1968, the terminal was attacked by enemy rocket, mortar and small arms fire. With the terminal on fire and barges dangerously close to exploding, Yered courageously exposed himself to enemy gunfire as he helped extinguish fires. His bravery averted not only the destruction of his own ship but also that of the entire terminal. “Serving on a ship that is named after one our service’s enlisted heroes is humbling. As we carry out our day to day routines and prepare for missions to come, it reminds me that our job is important. Especially to stand a tout watch and not be complacent in the fact that danger can happen at any time,” said Campbell.
Yered’s fearless actions set him apart and the crew hopes to honor that fearlessness. “Having a Coast Guard hero as our ship’s namesake gives her an identity. The crew has learned about Robert Yered and how he served his shipmates and nation,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Foster. As the crew honors the ship’s namesake, they look to the future and the potential missions they will be a part of aboard the new generation in a long history of Coast Guard patrol boats. “I came to the fast response cutter fleet to be a part of the newest technology the Coast Guard has to offer,” said Foster. “I was looking for experience in the cutter fleet and an opportunity to learn how the Coast Guard is changing.” “With these new platforms, we should be able to catch the bad guys trying to traffic illicit drugs easier and keep our waters safe,” said Kelly. “And of course I can’t wait to get out there and do the best thing that the Coast Guard knows how to do which is to save the lives of the people who are desperately in need of our assistance.” After months upon months of hard labor, cutter Robert Yered is ready. The dedicated plank owners aboard the service’s newest patrol boat stand by to execute Coast Guard missions. To be a plank owner is hard work. To be a plank owner is an honor.