The Coast Guard Foundation proudly celebrated the achievements of Coast Guard personnel serving in the Pacific Area on Wednesday, August 3. The 26th annual awards dinner held in San Diego, California featured keynote addresses from Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Robert J. Papp, and the commander of the Pacific Area, Vice Admiral Manson Brown.
The Foundation presented the Admiral John B. Hayes Award for Unit Excellence to the Marine Safety Detachment from American Samoa, accepted by LT Trevor Parra, as well as the Admiral James S. Gracey Award for Professional Excellence to BMC Seth Carter of the cutter Blackfin. AST2 Thomas Henry was awarded the Chester R. Bender Award for heroism.
The marine safety detachment in American Samoa -- a remote team comprised of only three members -- was recognized for outstanding achievements as a unit. Over the last year, the unit was involved in a number of challenging maritime law enforcement and environmental missions. The detachment coordinated efforts to safely remove 65,000 gallons of aviation fuel from a tanker that sunk more than 50 years ago. The marine safety detachment deployment is a one-year, unaccompanied tour, meaning the personnel serve there without their families. LT Parra noted the special bond that comes from such an intense billet, and accepted the award on behalf of his fellow Coast Guard members.
"It's definitely challenging," Parra said. "You have to rely heavily on your colleagues for support. Not only at work, but in your personal life as well."
Chief Carter was cited for his outstanding performance as the senior enlisted member on the cutter Blackfin. His leadership in both operational and administrative excellence has set an example for junior enlisted personnel on the cutter. Chief Carter is involved in the community and provides support to the cutter's Partnership in Education program enabling the crew of Blackfin to positively impact underprivileged children in their homeport community.
AST2 Thomas Henry, a rescue swimmer stationed at North Bend, Oregon, was recognized for two harrowing air rescues he conducted last year. On March 25, 2010, Petty Officer Henry responded with the helicopter crew of CG-6514 to a distress call of four surfers pulled into a small enclave surrounded by steep cliffs and jagged rocks. Pummeled by tumultuous waves and confronting the dangerously panicked surfers, he was sent into the water to hoist all four individually out of the water to safety despite peril and tremendous physical challenge. Petty Officer Henry was also honored for a courageous act performed on the evening of July 5, 2010 during a rescue of four people clinging to a 70-degree cliff, 120-feet above a beach. Demonstrating unwavering composure for more than 20 minutes, he bravely hung below the aircraft until he was safely delivered to a runway.
Petty Officer Henry demonstrated tremendous humility in accepting his award.
"I really appreciate this award, but there are hundreds of other rescue swimmers who would have done exactly the same thing," Henry said.
Admiral Papp thanked the awardees and their families for the sacrifices they make to serve their country, and the Coast Guard Foundation for its years of support. In 2010 alone, the Coast Guard Foundation supported the Coast Guard throughout the Pacific Area, from Hawaii to Alaska to Southern California, with more than $100,000 for morale projects and scholarships.
"You are our lifeline," Admiral Papp said of the Foundation.
The event was held at the Marriott Coronado Hotel with more than 270 people in attendance, including 130 Coast Guard members and their guests. Chevron Shipping Company and Marinette Marine Corporation, A Fincantieri Company, were the lead sponsors of the event.
"It is an honor to be here to host the Coast Guard Foundation's Pacific Area Awards Dinner. We couldn't pay tribute to the Coast Guard's finest, or support the many programs and projects of the Foundation, without the partnerships of our corporate, foundation and individual donors who attended this event. On behalf of the board of trustees, please accept my heartfelt thanks and appreciation," said Anne Brengle, Coast Guard Foundation President.