The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary recently concluded their national convention in Phoenix, AZ.
Representing the Association for Rescue at Sea was our Vice-President Wayne Spivak who gave a general presentation to the Executive Committee and Staff at a General Meeting on Saturday morning.
Later, at the Awards Banquet, attended by the USCG Commandant, Admiral Paul N Zukunft, Mr. Spivak has the honor and privilege to present the Silver Award Winner to the attendees which included numerous USCG Flag and other Officers, the USCG National Bridge, dignitaries from other nations, Auxiliarists and other guests.
Mr. Patrick Porter will be presented with his Silver Medal at the AFRAS Awards Ceremony held in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC in late September.
R 021545 AUG 16
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-5RI//
SUBJ: 2015 ASSOCIATION FOR RESCUE AT SEA (AFRAS) AWARD RECIPIENTS
A. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 021345Z MAR 16/ALCOAST 081/16
1. IAW Ref (a), this ALCOAST announces award of the 2015 AFRAS Gold and Silver medals.
The AFRAS Gold Medal is awarded annually to a Coast Guard enlisted member who
exhibited exceptional courage and heroism during a rescue at sea. The Silver Medal is
awarded annually to a deserving Coast Guard Auxiliarist for a heroic rescue either
inland or in coastal waters.
2. The AFRAS Gold Medal has been awarded to Aviation Survival Technician First Class
Benjamin A. Cournia, Air Station Clearwater, Florida. The AFRAS Silver Medal has been
awarded to Coast Guard Auxiliarist Patrick Porter, District Eleven Southern Region.
3. Petty Officer Cournia is recognized for his heroic achievement while serving as
rescue swimmer on Coast Guard Helicopters CG-6027 and CG-6009, on 01 October 2015.
A. While deployed to the Coast Guard Forward Operating Base in Great Inagua,
Bahamas, CG-6027 responded to a distress call from M/V MINOUCHE, a 212-foot freighter
that was rapidly taking on water 60 miles west of Haiti. CG-6027 launched into extremely
poor visibility and winds exceeding 50 knots from Hurricane Joaquin, a category four
storm whose eye was less than 90 miles from the stricken vessel.
B. As M/V MINOUCHE foundered, the 12 crew members were forced to abandon ship into
a small life raft. Once on-scene, Petty Officer Cournia was lowered into tumultuous
15-foot seas and battled his way to the raft. After instructing the frightened crew on
the impending rescue process, he took the first survivor and signaled for the rescue
basket. By the time the first survivor was being hoisted, the raft had been blown nearly
100 yards away, visible only when it crested waves. Again and again, Petty Officer
Cournia bravely fought his way through the dark churning seas to the raft. One survivor
panicked as he entered the water, grabbing Petty Officer Cournia around the head and
neck, dangerously forcing him underwater. Remaining calm, Petty Officer Cournia
conducted a front head-hold release and expertly placed the survivor in a cross-chest
carry, safely bringing him to the rescue basket.
C. After rescuing eight survivors over two hours, Petty Officer Cournia was hoisted
into the cabin as the aircraft returned to base for fuel. An hour later, Petty Officer
Cournia again deployed into the turbulent seas, rescuing the ninth survivor before the
flight mechanic found damage to the hoist cable, forcing the crew to return to Great
Inagua and transfer to CG-6009.
D. On the third and final trip, Petty Officer Cournia rescued the final three
survivors. The heroic actions and skill of Petty Officer Cournia were instrumental in
the saving of 12 lives. His courage, judgment, and devotion to duty are most heartily
commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.
4. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist Porter is cited for outstanding, meritorious achievement
and operational skill in performance of duty on 8 August 2015, while serving as a member
of the 2015 Bullhead City River Regatta patrol team.
A. While conducting a ten-hour patrol that ensured the safety of over 35,000 event
participants tube-floating a six-mile stretch of the Colorado River, the largest annual
Sector San Diego marine event, Auxiliarist Porter demonstrated outstanding operational
performance that prevented critical injury or death of two event participants.
B. During his patrol, Auxiliarist Porter observed a participant swimming against the
current without a personal floatation device. After noticing the person go under the
water three times due to fatigue, he navigated his personal water craft to the person’s
location, grabbed his clothing, and pulled him aboard. Auxiliarist Porter skillfully and
quickly navigated through the heavy congestion of participants while ensuring the
individual remained onboard to be successfully transported ashore for medical attention.
C. Later that day Auxiliarist Porter displayed expert situational awareness when he
noticed a person in the middle of a large group of over 70 participants unconscious and
foaming at the mouth. Executing careful and precise navigation, Auxiliarist Porter
retrieved the person, transited to a safe location, and transferred him to another boat
with medical personnel onboard.
D. As patrol team member and vessel operator, Auxiliarist Porter demonstrated expert
proficiency during an extremely challenging mission. His actions were essential to the
overall safety of event participants and prevention of further injuries or fatalities to
two individuals. His perseverance, dedication and devotion to duty are most heartily
commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.
5. Although there were several inspirational nominations, selection for the AFRAS Gold and
Silver Medals is limited to one awardee per medal. Nonetheless, all of the AFRAS award
nominees exhibited great courage and brought credit to the service. Their performance
honors our profession and life-saving heritage. Other award nominees include:
A. AST2 Daniel Harrity, Coast Guard Sector North Bend, Oregon.
B. AST2 Robert Granger, Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida.
C. AST2 Phillip Walker, Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point Kapolei, Hawaii.
D. AST2 Jason Yelvington, Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, Alaska.
E. Auxiliarists Bryan Teague, Mace Coleman, and Lynn Disque, Auxiliary Flotilla
054-23-03, West Annapolis, Maryland, and Ian Lickers, Auxiliary Flotilla 054-06-07,
F. Auxiliarists John Fewer, Paul Deafenbaugh, and Anthony Wisniewski, Auxiliary
Flotilla 054-23-03, West Annapolis, Maryland.
6. AST1 Cournia and Mr. Porter will be recognized at a ceremony hosted by AFRAS in the
Rayburn Congressional Office Building, Washington, DC, on 21 September 2016.
7. Congratulations to AST1 Cournia, Mr. Porter, and all Active Duty and Auxiliary AFRAS
award nominees for a job well done.
8. Ms. Dana S. Tulis, Director of Incident Management and Preparedness Policy, sends.
9. Internet release authorized.
Our Board of Directors has reviewed all submissions for our annual lifesaving awards program, voted on the heroes most deserving of recognition and have selected the following awardees:
- Vice Admiral Thomas Sargent III Gold Medal – Aviation Survival Technician 1st Class Benjamin Cournia, U.S. Coast Guard
- Silver Medal – Mr. Patrick Porter, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
- AMVER Award – Crew of the cruise ship Veendam, Holland America Line
- AMVER Special Award – Crew of the training ship State of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy
Petty Officer Cournia, a helicopter rescue swimmer from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, was nominated for the Gold Medal for a rescue on the evening of Oct. 1, 2015, during which his heroic actions saved 12 lives from the sinking 212-foot freighter Minouche. The crew of the Minouche abandoned ship 60 miles west of Haiti, and just 90 miles from the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, which was a raging category four storm. Cournia and the other rescuers aboard two Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopters battled 15-foot seas and 50-knot winds to complete the rescues.
Cournia battled churning seas to get survivors from their life raft – which was continuously blown hundreds of yards away from the rescue scene – into the helicopter’s rescue basket for hoisting to safety. He spent two hours in the water to rescue the first eight, then had to be hoisted himself so the helicopter could return to their forward operating base in the Bahamas for fuel. The crew was back on-scene an hour later, but after Cournia rescued the ninth survivor, a malfunction aboard the helicopter forced the crew to once again return to base – this time to switch airframes and return to the scene a third time and deploy Cournia into the turbulent water, where he expertly completed the rescue of the three final survivors.
Auxiliarist Porter was nominated for the Silver Medal for actions that potentially prevented critical injury or death to two participants of the 2015 Bullhead City River Regatta, an event in Arizona that attracted more than 35,000 participants for tube-floating on a six-mile stretch of the Colorado River. During his patrol, Porter witnessed a person swimming against the current of the river without a personal flotation device, and then go under the water three times, due to fatigue. Porter rescued the individual by pulling him aboard his personal watercraft. Later that day, he witnessed another participant, among the thousands of people in the water, unconscious and foaming and the mouth – he rescued this individual and transported her to another vessel with emergency medical technicians aboard. During both rescues, Porter had to navigate carefully through the throngs of participants crowding the river, ensuring his own safety, the safety of others and the safety of the rescuees.
The Amver participating ship Veendam’s crew rescued the pilot from a single engine plane after he ditched his aircraft in the ocean, after experiencing fuel and engine problems, 200 miles northeast of Maui, Hawaii, Jan. 25, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard authorities launched rescue assets after the initial call for help, but found that the Veendam was in the path of the aircraft, using the Amver system. After the aircraft hit the water, the pilot got into his life raft and was quickly recovered by the crew of the Veendam. The pilot was uninjured and remained on the ship until it reached its next port of call.
The Amver participating ship State of Maine rescued a lone sailor after his sailboat began taking on water 520 miles southeast of Halifax, Canada, June 10, 2015. After the initial call for help, U.S. Coast Guard authorities launched search and rescue aircraft from both the U.S. and Canada, but soon discovered, using the Amver system, that the State of Maine was only 29 miles away from the sailor in distress and was willing to divert to attempt a rescue. Cadets aboard the ship readied rescue equipment, fast rescue boats and rigged a Jacob’s ladder to allow the sailor to board the ship. Within a few hours of the initial notification, the survivor was safely aboard the training ship.
The Association for Rescue at Sea will present these maritime lifesaving awards at our annual awards ceremony. The event will be held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington D.C., Sep. 21, hosted by Congressman Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Coast Guard Subcommittee.