Saluting The Heroics Of America’s Coast Guard: “Semper Paratus”

Nationwide, on average, the United States Coast Guard responds to almost 20-thousand search and rescue calls each year, resulting in over 3,500 lives saved and about $77-million in property preserved.  That averages out to about 55 S&R missions, and close to 10 lives saved per day!  And that doesn’t include the vital drug interdictions performed constantly by air and sea, coastal port shipping inspections and security, and the prevention or subsequent mitigation of environmental mishaps amidst our coastal and inland waterways.  All of this, and more, carried out throughout the nation, by an active force that, in total, is actually smaller than the New York City Police Department !

Recently, we’ve witnessed some amazing heroics courtesy of the great man and women of the United States Coast Guard.  There was that daring take-down of a drug-running semi-submersible, when a Coastguardsman made a daring leap from his boat onto that moving drug vessel, then, while still underway, pounded repeatedly on the hatch until it opened, and with his colleagues close by, captured that drug crew, its boat, and its significant dollars’ worth of contraband, preventing all from reaching our shores.

And then, following Hurricane DORIAN’s recent Category 5-level destruction that devastated portions of the Bahama Islands, U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopters were on the scene immediately after the storm had safely passed, making continuous trips to hoist and evacuate, especially, those residents needing medical care.  Clearly saving countless lives in the midst of tragic chaos.

Closer to home, Savannah Air Station ready-crews responded last week to middle-of-the-night distress calls from a huge vehicle transport ship, leaning dangerously in the channel, just after departing from the Port of Brunswick, Georgia.  Upon arrival, with the ship then listing at about a 75-degree angle from the water, as two Air Station helicopters hovered overhead, they lowered their Rescue Swimmers onto the severely-slanting deck, where, with great effort, they were able to free from the bridge, and help hoist to safety, both the ship’s Captain and the Brunswick-based Harbor Pilot, along with three other  survivors, some with injuries. The start of that nighttime rescue began, and was conducted, while a portion of the ship burned from an internal fire!

Subsequently, another 18 of those on board were successfully rescued.  But four of the crew still remained missing, there in the darkness.  Later, with the ship now listing a full 90-degrees on its side, in daylight at last, a Savannah helicopter actually set-down on the exposed upper-side of the transport ship, as the task of now locating the remaining crew began, all the while that fire continued to burn at one end of the vessel!

Nearly 30-hours into the rescue operations, ultimately involving three four-person helicopter crews, Air Station Savannah delivered five specialized rescue personnel and 1500-pounds of tools to be rappelled down the side of the ship to the engine room hull skin panels.  Having realized that the angle, and thus the danger, was way too great to attempt to enter the ship for the search from the deck top-side, our Coast Guard, along with those shore-based rescue experts, began the laborious task of tapping on the up-turned hull in the area where they were informed the remaining crew members might be trapped.  Eventually, they heard the tapping they had hoped for, come back from the inside.  It appeared, then, that the trapped crew men, hopefully all, were still alive!  An extraction hole was cut into the hull, and those remaining four men were rescued, after facing those many hours of fear in the dark, confined there as they were in suffocating heat (as high as 110-degrees!).  Thankfully, all of the ship’s crew, including the Harbor Pilot, emerged safely, in a totally successful, and heroic, multi-agency effort.  An effort, began that night, that effectively more than doubled the national per-day average of Coast Guard lives saved (10)!!  Savannah’s Air Station personnel were rapidly on the scene and deserve great credit for their essential role in preserving those crewmen.

For years, continuing to the present, the Navy’s submarine branch has been known as the “Silent Service,” given our subs’ ability to lurk, undetected, without radio contact, amidst the oceans of the world, in defense of our nation.  The Coast Guard, too, has often seemed like a ‘silent service,’ with their tradition of going about the nation’s work, every day and night, in all kinds of weather, all too often, little noted. And with even less media promotion or publicity, something our proud Coastguard men and women never seek. These terrific “Coasties” are exceptionally well-trained and well-prepared for the tasks they face, totally dedicated, with courage, to their calling, and to their teammates.

They have significant jobs to do, often dangerous, with satisfaction usually coming solely from knowing that they’ve performed a great (often life-saving) service, for individuals, for communities, and for our nation.  Given all that they do for us, here at home, and with U.S. security interests overseas, through these most recent daring actions, it is satisfying to see the United States Coast Guard receive the wide notice and appreciation such crucial and demanding events provide.

Seeing their signature bright orange helicopters in flight across our day and night skies, responding to distress calls on the waters (ever supported by their boat & port safety crewmates), brings to life their historic motto “Semper Paratus: Always Ready”.  These dedicated men and women skillfully go about fulfilling that promise each and every day. And so, from the grateful citizens of America, to our outstanding Coast Guard, very special thanks for all that you do, for all of us.

(Statistics via, September, 2019; Ship Rescue Detail Confirmation via USCG Commander Brian Erickson, Commander, Air Station Savannah).