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33rd Annual Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard Awards

The national honors for heroism and professionalism in the line of duty for the 2013 Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard in New York City are awarded to the crew of the cutter Mohawk for unit excellence, and AST2 Abram A. Heller, a rescue swimmer, for individual heroic action. These awards will be presented on Thursday, October 10 in New York City. 


Shortly after midnight on August 13, 2012, Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii received a distress call from a sailboat taking on water between the islands of Oahu and Kauai, approximately 26 miles from land. An hour later, all seven people onboard had abandoned ship and were in the water. The vessel had no life raft or dinghy.

The helicopter crew of CG-6571 was dispatched around 1:30 a.m. Upon arriving at the scene, AST2 Heller located all seven survivors in the water, and helped deliver a rescue life raft to them. The raft, however, malfunctioned and would not properly inflate. The crew lowered Heller into the water, so that he could perform triage on the exhausted sailors.

abram_heller_croppedBased on the individuals' condition, Heller determined which of the sailors needed immediate help, and calmly and professionally got four of the survivors from the pitch black ocean into the helicopter. At this point, the aircraft was running low on fuel and cabin space, forcing the crew to leave the scene of the rescue.

Selflessly, AST2 Heller volunteered to remain in the water with the remaining survivors, while they waited for additional Coast Guard support to arrive. Prior to leaving the scene the helicopter crew decided to deploy its own survival raft, into which Heller loaded the three remaining survivors. Heller's presence in the raft helped the fraught sailors remain calm as he continually worked with a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft to guide a 47-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Kauai to their location.

Heller's selflessness, technical expertise, and physical strength were critical in the success of this rescue case. His instinctive, disciplined actions and decisive leadership on scene saved seven lives that night.


The crew of the cutter MOHAWK is being recognized for unit excellence for their performance of duties during the period of May 1, 2012 to April 20, 2013. Over that period of time the crew of the MOHAWK excelled in a number of vital law enforcement operations.

Last November, the MOHAWK acted in a migrant repatriation of more than 50 Cubans. As a result of Hurricane Sandy, the crew and the migrants were forced to stay out to sea longer than expected. The crew of the MOHAWK exhibited great professionalism in handling the care of the migrants in a difficult situation.

Between January and March of 2013, the crew intercepted six go-fast boats carrying a total of 1,032 kilograms of cocaine, and 600 pounds of marijuana, which held an estimated street value of $35 million. MOHAWK worked in conjunction with aircraft from Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Navy.

Additionally, in August of 2012, the MOHAWK successfully led 12 cutters that were home ported in Charleston, South Carolina; Tampa, Florida; and Key West, Florida on a surface action group storm evasion from Hurricane Isaac. MOHAWK kept daily accountability of each cutter and refueled several of the cutters while underway for the four day voyage.

These patrols highlight the crew of the MOHAWK's ability to handle demanding missions and adaptability to challenges. The unit's efforts resulted in taking drugs off the street, and helped promote safety in the Caribbean and Florida Straits.


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