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Recap of the 2017 Tribute to the United States Coast Guard in Houston

2017 Houston
May 31, 2017

The second annual Tribute to the United States Coast Guard in Houston was held on May 24 to honor Coast Guard heroism in the Lone Star State. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston's Air Station Houston crew CG-6581 received the Coast Guard Foundation Award for rescuing two fishermen whose vessel capsized leaving them stranded in Galveston Bay for more than 60 hours.

The search and rescue operation began on April 25, 2016, with Coast Guard rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, small boat crews and numerous state and local partners involved. During the first aerial search, Air Station Houston crews discovered the men's abandoned fishing boat. Using this navigational data, the watchstanders at Command Center created search points for aerial crews with the fishermen's most likely location.

With this knowledge, CG-6581 launched their MD-65D helicopter in the early morning of April 27 to search for the men. Pilot LT Zachary Gross, Co-Pilot LT Josh Scritchfield, Flight Mechanic AMT2 Nikki Moore, and Rescue Swimmer AST2 Jesse Weaver focused throughout the day to find the men, and before returning to Sector due to low fuel their final aerial search located the two men injured but alive, clinging to the rusty pipes of an old oil wellhead.

"This case, in particular, will hold a special place in my heart," said LT Gross, accepting the Coast Guard Foundation Award. "There was so much teamwork that went into this, and our crew was really just the final piece of this intricate puzzle. It is truly a great example of what goes into every Coast Guard mission; the Sector, the small boat station, the helicopters, the fixed-wing aircraft - us all working together for a tremendous outcome."

Also at the event were LT Dave Rehfuss, OS1 Ramona Mason, and OS1 Justin Feussner representing Sector Houston-Galveston's Command Center who were recognized for their role in this rescue.

Author, motivational speaker, and former NFL football player Reggie Rivers served as the evening's MC. This year's Guardian Award was presented to ConocoPhillips with Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance accepting this year's award. The Guardian Award annually recognizes an individual, company, or organization that has provided significant support to the Coast Guard Foundation, the Coast Guard, or other members of the Armed Forced and their families.

The event's Keynote Speaker was Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft. During Admiral Zukunft's keynote address he thanked the Coast Guard Foundation for its support of the men and women of the Coast Guard in providing the support that he and the Coast Guard cannot.

"The Shipmate Fund, the scholarship fund, the things you do that I cannot do - legally, cannot do - make all the difference in the world, and which makes us the gold standard of all the Coast Guards in the world. It would not be possible without the Coast Guard Foundation," said Zukunft. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do for the men and women of the Coast Guard, and for our families."