Coast Guard aircrews honored for excellence

Although the birth of naval aviation is traced back to 1911, it wasn’t until almost 30 years later that one of the Coast Guard’s most powerful assets, the helicopter, became part of naval flight. In the spring of 1943, then Lt. Frank Erickson graduated from helicopter training and became Coast Guard helicopter pilot No. 1. Through the decades, those carrying on Erickson’s legacy have gone on to excel in flight, and today, another group of aviators add to the storied history of naval aviation.

Today thirteen Coast Guard aviators are being recognized for their outstanding achievement in the international helicopter community by Helicopter Association International. From the calm resolve of a pilot that led to the safety of his aircrew after an aircraft failure to the aviation mechanic who led six dozen maintenance personnel during a time of national crisis, Coast Guard aviators are ensuring the torch of aviation excellence they have been entrusted with is burning brightly. Of the nine possible categories in the award’s program, the Coast Guard was honored with four. Take a look at these awe-inspiring acts that set these aviators apart.

Pilot of the Year Award

Lt. Audie Andry

Lt. Audie Andry in front of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in St. Paul, Alaska. Andry is being honored for his exceptional airmanship and decisive action in landing a Sikorsky HH-60J safely aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy after it suffered a main-transmission input failure while. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The oldest of the Salute to Excellence awards, this honor is awarded for an outstanding single feat performed by a helicopter pilot. Lt. Audie Andry, from Air Station Kodiak, did just that in the waters off Kodiak, Alaska, in September 2010. Showing not only his airmanship but also his composure, Andry landed his MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter safely aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy after the aircraft suffered a main-transmission input failure while in a 40-foot hover 100 feet from the ship.

“The thing I remember the most is how quickly the events transpired,” recalls Andry. “We were hovering on a normal training flight and then a few seconds later we were doing everything we could to avoid going into the water.”

His skill and decisive action were crucial during the aircraft’s failure and undoubtedly stem from Andry’s experience with helicopters, which dates back to 1990 when he joined the Army as a helicopter mechanic.

“Receiving an award from an organization that is always at the leading edge of the rotary wing industry is both extremely humbling and gratifying,” said Andry.

Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award

 Deepwater Horizon fire

The CG6605 aircrew was the first air asset on scene with the Deepwater Horizon fire, and were later joined by fire boat response crews and other Coast Guard assets. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The first to arrive at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig after its explosion in April 2010, the CG6605 aircrew from Air Station New Orleans proved themselves as the aircrew that, “best demonstrated the value of helicopters to society by saving lives.”

The aircrew assumed on-scene command of rescue and recovery efforts and included Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Hickey, aircraft commander; Lt. Cmdr. Craig Murray, copilot; Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Lloyd, flight mechanic and Chief Petty Officer Kurt Peterson, rescue swimmer. As part of the rescue, Peterson was lowered to an offshore supply vessel where he took charge of a improvised medical team and triaged 115 survivors. The 6605 flew five survivors to safety, and continued to fly for seven more hours, refueling at a nearby platform.

“I was brought up in the Coast Guard to be a quiet professional. But I have to admit, I’m extremely proud of my aircrew and their relentless effort that night,” said Hickey. “I’m equally proud of the other Coast Guard surface and aircrews, civilian Good-Samaritans and support staffs that participated in the rescue effort. Our crew could not have executed this particular case alone.”

Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award

Aircrews cannot perform their mission without their aircraft operating at its best, and one particular mechanic demonstrated just how crucial maintenance is to mission excellence.

Deepwater Horizon response helicopter aboard Decisive

Coast Guard personnel and assets were pulled form across the Coast Guard to support the Deepwater Horizon response. Petty Officer 2nd Class Baisden ensured the 72 mechanics deployed to Air Station New Orleans prepped the aircraft every night before their morning flights. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas H. Baisden, an aviation maintenance technician at Air Station New Orleans, was the lead mechanic during the Coast Guard’s aerial response to Deepwater Horizon. His maintenance shop tripled in the course of a few hours to 72 mechanics that he was directly responsible for. His leadership proved vital to ensure all air assets were ready to fly when they were needed most.

“We were working on nine or ten helicopters at a time,” recalls Baisden. “Because the aircraft were out flying all day, we had to work the night shift the whole time. These aircraft couldn’t go out until we checked them and without our work in the hangar fixing in the aircraft these aircraft couldn’t fly at first light.”

MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award

The crew of CG6597, based out of the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., was recognized for interdicting six go-fasts, four of these in one mission alone, during their deployment with Coast Guard Cutter Sherman in the waters off the southeastern U.S.

CG6597 mechanics

The CG6597 aircrew mechanics worked to ensure their “bird” was ready to fly during a Joint Interagency Task Force South patrol. Their ability to ensure the aircraft was ready resulted in six stopped go-fasts. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dugal.

The 6597 aircrew, deployed as part of Joint Interagency Task Force South, included Lt. Cmdr. Robert Workman, Capt. Joseph Baker, Lt. j.g. Matthew Van Ginkel, Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Dechmerowski, Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Masell, Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Paulson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dugal and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Dickson.

“As we flew behind the four go-fasts at 600 feet, the inner two go fasts were criss-crossing with each other,” said Workman. “Little did they realize that an armed MH-65C helicopter was watching them from a quarter mile away…They had no idea we were there until it was too late.”

While the mission resulted in n four interdictions in one night, it was all about having the aircraft performing at its best for the 6597’s maintenance team.

“I was glad that our hard work and maintenance hours paid off and our bird was able to launch on this go-fast case,” said Dugal. “We kept the plane flying while out in the harsh oceanic elements and any maintenance issue that arose was quickly and safely fixed by our experienced maintenance crew.”

Dechmerowski, Dugal, Dickson and Paulson

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Dechmerowski, Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dugal, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Dickson and Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Paulson stand besides the 6597. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dugal.

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  • Yahoo

    Nice unit t-shirts…hmmm…

  • Whitehorsedave_dave

    What unifrom regs are these fine members using????

  • Concussion68

    that would be the authorized underway uniform

  • Guest

    Wow, really? You choose to talk about the uniform regs and not the actions of the members? Come on!

  • Guest

    Its called the hot weather uniform. CMDTINST M1020.6F 4.D.7.

  • ETC (USCG Ret.)

    You would think if you were asked for a pic that would represent you or your crew for an award you could send something a bit more professional then t-shirt and shorts regardless of the Uniform Regs. I guess this is what they are talking about when I hear the term Juniorosity of the CG.

  • LTJG S. M. Young

    ETC (USCG Ret.),

    Thanks for your comment and for reading Coast Guard Compass, Chief.

    As the author of this post, I wanted to clarify that I was the one that selected this photograph and it was not part of the awards themselves or a choice made by any of the awardees. While its great to see our people in dress uniforms the reason this crew was selected for this award was because of their tremendous work on their aircraft while on deployment, which this photograph represents.

    Very Respectfully,
    LTJG S. M. Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs

  • Vl180

    To LTJG Young, way to go on your picture selection. Too often we see our service men and women in staged pictures. As a former USCG AMT is was refreshing to see a pic fresh from the flight deck on the job with blue gloves and all.
    Semper Paratus

  • Daniel E Morisset

    Either way this picture represents a crew that has taken PRIDE in thier work and apprears that morale while underway is not an issue. Thanks for standing the watch.

    AETC-RET

  • Coastiedude1988

    Its funny to think of those who are sitting at home all cozy while are deployed shipmates are doing awesome things for our service and they some how manage to complain about there uniforms, haha. Semper P.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mvittone Mario Vittone

    Excellent flying Mr. Andry!

    Kim, Brian, Jacob, Joe – great work.

    (PS – You guys look great. Here are two prior service guys who wouldn’t care at all what you are wearing: )

  • Jpaulab

    Thank you Mario. Oh, and by the way, that link to the pic you posted is awesome!

  • Michael Rasch

    Great job to all the crews and thanks for once again making the CG look great! As to the negative comments posted…I’ll pass great advice I once heard. “If you’re not willing to sign your name, maybe you shouldn’t be writing it.”

    –LCDR Michael Rasch, 20+ years and still having fun!