One fateful evening in 1974 after dropping his girlfriend at home in Shelby County, Alabama, Bob Trainor heard a U.S. Coast Guard radio ad that would change his life.
“Within those 60 seconds, I was hooked,” said Trainor. “I visited the recruiter the next day and within a couple of months was on my way to Alameda, California.”
Trainor decided to join the United States Coast Guard because he wanted to drive boats and save lives. Little did he know at the time he was about to become a life-long “Black Hull” sailor who would help maintain the U.S. Aids to Navigation (ATON) system, the buoys and beacons that help to keep mariners and the U.S. economy on course.
The U.S. Coast Guard maintains over 48,000 buoys and beacons across more than 25,000 miles of the U.S. navigable waterways that make up the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS). The Coast Guard ATON system mitigates maritime transit risks by promoting the safe, economic and efficient movement of vessel traffic. The U.S. MTS contributes more than $4.6 trillion to the U.S. economy annually.
“Joining the ATON community was blind luck but once assigned to the Coast Guard buoy tender Rambler (WLIC-298) in 1975 out of Mobile, Alabama, I never looked back,” said Trainor, who was born in White Plains, New York, and raised in upstate New York and Massachusetts before moving to Alabama, while still in high school.
Trainor served 24 of his 31 active duty years in the Coast Guard’s ATON mission. Of his 18 years of sea duty, he served on seven different ATON cutters and two Aids to Navigation Teams, including two commanding officer tours and one officer in charge tour. From the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast, he traveled thousands of miles and helped maintain thousands of the buoys and beacons that safely guide mariners transiting the MTS.
Early in his career on the Corpus Christi-based construction tender Anvil (WLIC-75301), Trainor and his crewmates demonstrated the multi-mission capabilities of ATON cutters following the 1979 blowout of a Campeche Bay, Mexico, oil rig.
Working from sunup to sundown for six weeks, the Anvil crew set oil containment booms across many of the inlets along the coast to protect Texas wetlands.