This year’s Pacific Northwest Awards Dinner will recognize Coast Guard members involved in a dramatic Feb. 3 rescue of a mariner on the Columbia River Bar that made national news. The rescue included students attending the Coast Guard's Advanced Rescue Helicopter School and National Motor Lifeboat School as well as a motor lifeboat crew from Coast Guard Station Disappointment.
Instead of a routine school day finishing up training tasks and preparing for graduation, the students of the two schools were called into action when multiple Coast Guard units responded to an urgent request for assistance from the disabled 35-foot vessel Sandpiper six miles west of the Columbia River bar. Battling 20-foot seas and high winds, Coast Guard rescue swimmer Branch Walton recovered the lone occupant of the vessel after it capsized and he was thrown into the water. Walton and the survivor were then hoisted from the surf into a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter.
This was Walton's first life saved. Hours later he and his classmates graduated from the Advanced Rescue Helicopter School with advanced rescue swimmer qualifications. The motor lifeboat students that responded to the distress call also graduated, from the National Motor Lifeboat School, having achieved the rare designation as Coast Guard surfmen. In addition to the noteworthy credentials, the students also returned to their units with a great answer to a routine question asked of students returning from Coast Guard schools, “How did training go?”
The event will also honor Mike Flood, Seattle Seahawks Vice President of Outreach & External Affairs. A Seattle native, Flood has played an essential role in developing relationships between the Seahawks and local military units in the Pacific Northwest since 1997. He also spent 22 years as a Coast Guard pilot conducting search and rescue missions along the Oregon and Washington coasts.
The Pacific Northwest Awards Dinner brings together industry leaders, government officials, and U.S. Coast Guard members from the region and beyond to celebrate the missions and heroism of Coast Guard personnel. The Coast Guard’s top national and regional leaders are scheduled to attend, including the Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Linda Fagan, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Steve Poulin, and commander of Coast Guard operations in the Pacific Northwest, Rear Admiral Chuck Fosse. Coast Guard personnel from the local area will also attend and be honored.
The event, which includes a reception and dinner, will be held at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, Tuesday, Sept. 12, beginning at 6 p.m. The Foundation is grateful to the many corporations and individuals who are sponsoring the event. Sponsorship and ticket information are available here.
Title Image: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Branch Walton is interviewed by a news crew in front of the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon, Feb. 3 2023. Walton rescued a man from 20-foot seas near the Columbia River on his final day of attending the Coast Guard's Advanced Helicopter Rescue School. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)