Coast Guard Alaska, a docu-series on The Weather Channel, follows the lives of brave Coast Guard personnel and their families as they navigate the challenges of living and working in the far flung reaches of Kodiak and Sitka.
LT Audie Andry is a rescue pilot and flight instructor stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, who has been featured on the show. In 2006, LT Andry was recognized at the Coast Guard Foundation's national Salute to the Coast Guard in New York City. He and his crew were honored for heroism in the line of duty for a challenging rescue they conducted while stationed at Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
"The Foundation has been so good to me," LT Andry said. "We really appreciate everything the Foundation does. In the active duty Coast Guard, it's pretty well known the cool things the Foundation does."
Being in the spotlight is an unusual position for members of the Coast Guard. Typically, Coast Guard personnel serve their country with a quiet dignity out of the desire to help others, so being filmed doing what is already an exceedingly difficult job required an adjustment period.
"It takes a little getting used to," LT Andry said in a recent interview with the Coast Guard Foundation. "At first we may have been a little apprehensive to have everything we say or do be recorded."
But once he and his fellow crew members developed a rapport with the film crews, though, LT Andry admitted "It's actually pretty cool."
LT Andry stressed that the film crews operate on a "not-to-interfere basis," and that crew safety is the overriding factor in whether or not search and rescue cases can be filmed in the first place.
The show offers a glimpse at what life in the Coast Guard is like, for both families and those who are serving.
"I think it's a little more difficult on the families being stationed in Alaska," said LT Andry, who is married with three children. Andry has been in the Coast Guard since 2003, when he received a direct commission after spending more than 20 years as an Army helicopter pilot.
The remoteness of being deployed to Alaska can be tough on personnel, since it's hard to visit with other relatives in the lower 48 states.
Appearing on Coast Guard Alaska has allowed LT Andry to connect with old friends who he's fallen out of touch with, and he gets calls from relatives expressing their pride of seeing him work.
It's apparent that LT Andry takes deep pride in his work. In addition to the Coast Guard Foundation award he received in 2006, in 2011, he won the Helicopter Association International Pilot of the Year Award for a daring landing he made with his HH-60 on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
He was doing a routine training flight on the Healy, practicing deck landings during a night training exercise when a driveshaft broke, killing one of the helicopter's engines.
"We were hovering probably 50 yards away from the ship, when we started hearing a howling noise, which turned into a shrill squeal. At that point we knew there was something very wrong mechanically with the aircraft," LT Andry said.
At that point, his experience and training kicked in, and he dropped the nose of the aircraft, committed to the ship and "just tried to fly the helicopter on one engine the best I could."