Coast Guard Deepwater Horizon Responders meet the President

POTUS with Saints

WASHINGTON - President Obama speaks to the New Orleans Saints coach, Sean Payton. U.S. Coast Guard photo by LT Sue Kerver.


A handshake with the President of the United States, autographs from the New Orleans Saints football players, a chat with the National Incident Commander and a tour of the White House

Over the past two days, five of the first responders to the Deepwater Horizon incident were hand-selected to do just that. 

LT Sue Kerver, LTJG John Thomas, IS1 Wendell Averitt, MST2 Zaid Ahmed and AST3 Dustin Bernatovich from Coast Guard District Eight were chosen by senior leadership to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend President Obama’s recognition and celebration of the Saints Super Bowl 2010 victory

IS1 Averitt and AST3 Bernatovich

WASHINGTON - IS1 Averitt (front) and AST3 Bernatovich watch as President Obama congratulates the New Orleans Saints for their 2010 Super Bowl victory in East Room of the White House. U.S. Coast Guard photo by LT Sue Kerver.


“It was an honor to be chosen,” said Bernatovich. 

“To get the invitation was actually very humbling,” said Kerver. “You just do your job and for someone to call and say ‘we would like you to represent the service at the White House,’ is really unbelievable. It’s such an honor.” 

“It was phenomenal. I know I shouldn’t say this… but I was tickled pink,” Ahmed said with a grin from ear to ear. 

All five members met the Saints players and shook hands with President Obama. 

“I got my five seconds of fame as [the President] was making his rounds,” said Averitt smiling. “I shook his hand and he said, ‘good job and keep up the good work.’” 

Thousands of Coast Guard men and women were crucial during the initial response effort but these five members took on a particularly noteworthy role. 

LT Sue Kerver, District Eight Public Affairs Officer, worked almost around the clock to provide public affairs guidance and handle the thousands of media requests that inundated the district office during the first 96 hours. Kerver also established the initial Joint Information Center and served as the Press Aide for the District Commander, Rear Adm. Mary Landry, who was designated the Federal On-Scene Coordinator

From the onset of the incident, LTJG John Thomas was instrumental in setting up the Situation Unit of the Unified Area Command in Robert, La. Shortly thereafter, his expertise made him the chosen candidate to travel to Mobile, Ala., and establish the Situation Unit in that Incident Command Post. 

LT Kerver and Marques Colston

LT Kerver poses with New Orleans Saints player, Marques Colston. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of LT Sue Kerver


IS1 Wendell Averitt embedded with the interagency remote sensing coordination cell and developed comprehensive analytical tools to help leadership understand the location, dispersement and thickness of the oil and allow responders to knowledgeably determine the placement of boom. 

MST2 Zaid Ahmed was on duty in the District command center the night of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. He helped coordinate the initial search and rescue response including four Coast Guard aircraft, four Coast Guard cutters and several civilian vessels. 

AST3 Dustin Bernatovich, Air Station New Orleans, was one of the first rescue swimmers to arrive on scene to triage and medically evacuate injured survivors on the night of the explosion. 

“There have been a lot of people putting forth a lot of effort,” said Kerver. “Although we are five people who are representative of this effort, it was thousands and thousands of Coast Guard personnel and other agencies [who responded].” 

While it is great to honor and recognize those who immediately took action during the Deepwater Horizon incident, some of the hardest work still lies ahead to fully restore the Gulf region and recover from this incident. 

Deepwater Horizon First Responders

WASHINGTON - Coast Guard members, the first to respond to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded April 20, 2010, meet with retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. Pictured from left are IS1 Class Wendell Averitt, AST3 Dustin Bernatovich, Thad Allen, MST2 Zaid Ahmed, LTJG John Thomas, and LT Suzanne Kerver. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA1 Luke Pinneo.

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