Gold medal awarded to Coast Guard boatswain’s mate for 2016 rescue off Long Beach

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor, stood for a photo in front of the station on Aug. 9. Hylkema has been selected to receive the 2016 Association for Rescue at Sea gold medal for his extraordinary heroism on the night of Oct. 6, 2016, during the rescue of the master of the sailing vessel Grace in the Pacific Ocean west of the Long Beach Peninsula.-U.S. Coast Guard photo

From the Chinook Observer
http://www.chinookobserver.com

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard announced Wednesday that the Association for Rescue at Sea has selected Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema, a boatswain’s mate at Station Grays Harbor, to receive the 2016 AFRAS Gold Medal for a rescue offshore the Long Beach Peninsula.

The AFRAS Gold Medal is awarded annually to a Coast Guard enlisted member who exhibited exceptional courage and heroism during a rescue at sea.

Hylkema is cited for extraordinary heroism on the night of Oct. 6, 2016, while serving as a crewmember aboard the 52-foot Motor Lifeboat Invincible, during the rescue of the master of the sailing vessel Grace.
The Grace was transiting from Tacoma to San Francisco when it was caught in a storm off Long Beach. “Considering weather conditions and structurally weak deck, it was decided to have the master wear an immersion suit, anchor the vessel, then evacuate into the water to be pulled to safety,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the master’s legs became wrapped in the heaving line, with only a life ring keeping the master’s head above water.”

Hylkema volunteered to deploy as a surface swimmer. He battled 18- to 20-foot breaking seas and swam more than 150 feet to the master in order to cut him free. Hylkema remained in the water as the MLB crew recovered the barely coherent master first.

“I’m honored daily to work with some of the finest men and women in the Coast Guard, and I am extremely proud of Hylkema’s heroism to freely give of himself in such a way as to bring honor to his family, those he serves with, and the Coast Guard,” said Chief Warrant Officer Cheston Evans, commanding officer, Station Grays Harbor.

The award will be presented to Hylkema at a ceremony held at the Rayburn Congressional Office Building, Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26.

The motor life boat used in this rescue is one of four in the Coast Guard, with each being more than 50 years old. “These unique vessels are all located in the Pacific Northwest and each is known for its exceptional sea-keeping and rescue capabilities that far exceed that of the newer vessels when facing breaking surf and hurricane force winds,” the Coast Guard said. The four vessels are named Invincible, Triumph, Victory and Intrepid and are stationed in Grays Harbor, Cape Disappointment, Yaquina Bay and Coos Bay. They are the only Coast Guard vessels smaller than 65-feet in length that have official names.

Cyber threats prompt return of radio for ship navigation

Our Chairman, Dana Goward is quoted in this article that appears not onlyin Reuters, but the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

“LONDON (Reuters) – The risk of cyber attacks targeting ships’ satellite navigation is pushing nations to delve back through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology.

Ships use GPS (Global Positioning System) and other similar devices that rely on sending and receiving satellite signals, which many experts say are vulnerable to jamming by hackers.”

https://reut.rs/2uyaoSX

2016 Maritime Lifesaving Award Winners Announced

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 1st Class Ben Cournia, a rescue swimmer at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., poses for a photo after being awarded the Coast Guard Air Medal at the station Feb. 24, 2016. Cournia was honored for saving 12 lives during Hurricane Joaquin. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Joe Perez)
Petty Officer 1st Class Ben Cournia, a rescue swimmer at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., poses for a photo after being awarded the Coast Guard Air Medal at the station Feb. 24, 2016. Cournia was honored for saving 12 lives during Hurricane Joaquin. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Joe Perez)

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.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopters who rescued 12 mariners in the Caribbean while Hurricane Joaquin raged. They are displaying a personal flotation device from the freighter Minouche, with details of the rescue case written on it. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopters who rescued 12 mariners in the Caribbean while Hurricane Joaquin raged. They are displaying a personal flotation device from the freighter Minouche, with details of the rescue case written on it. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.

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.

AFRAS Vice President on Motion Picture “The Finest Hours”

Association for Rescue at Sea Vice President Wayne Spivak is featured on this radio interview with the program Breakthrough Entertainment to talk about AFRAS and its missions, sea rescue challenges and Disney’s motion picture “The Finest Hours.” The movie details the U.S. Coast Guard’s historic 1952 Pendleton rescue, during a fierce storm off Chatham, Mass. Have a listen:

AFRAS Supports Rescuers in Mediterranean and Aegean

Refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea on a boat, heading from Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, 29 January 2016.
Refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea on a boat, heading from Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, 29 January 2016.

“I’ve been alone in a life raft out of sight of land, and it’s not a good feeling – even when it’s just training and you know they’re coming back for you,” said retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and helicopter pilot Dana Goward. “I can’t imagine what it’s like if you’re also fleeing for your life, have your children with you and have no idea if you will be rescued.”

Goward is Chairman of the Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS), a U.S. charity that supports volunteer humanitarian maritime rescue organizations around the world.

“Most people in America don’t realize it, because we have such a strong Coast Guard,” said Charles “Skip” Bowen, President of AFRAS, “But most of the world’s sea rescue services are charities with volunteer crews. They rely almost entirely on donations from individuals and companies for funding.” Bowen’s last posting during his active duty military career was as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, the service’s highest ranking enlisted member.

Volunteer services from across Europe have responded to the maritime refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas by deploying boats and crews. They have saved tens of thousands of lives. “While governments run the Rescue Coordination Centers and issue press releases, it’s often the charities and their volunteers who are actually pulling survivors from the water,” said Goward. “They do many, if not most, of the rescues.”

Responding to the crisis for the last few years has strained the budgets of these charities, many of which are operating far from their home bases.

AFRAS raises money in the United States to support these organizations. “People in the U.S. can make tax deductible donations to AFRAS, and we use it where it is critically needed worldwide,” said Bowen. “Donors can specify which maritime rescue service they want to support, or leave it to us to ensure it gets where it’s needed most.” Bowen likes to quote retired Admiral Thad Allen, former Coast Guard Commandant, who once said, “Beyond any other consideration, safety of life at sea is paramount.”

Individuals and organizations wanting to make donations can do so through our website donation page. Corporations and donors making larger contributions will be recognized at a reception and ceremony on Capitol Hill in September. The event will be hosted by Congressmen Duncan Hunter and John Garamendi. Other members of Congress, senior Coast Guard, MARAD and industry leaders also attend.