Alaska Coast Guard swimmer to receive heroism award for Washington state rescues

KODIAK, Alaska – Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Erick Leib, an aviation survival technician currently stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, is to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross from Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, commander of the Seventeenth Coast Guard District, during a presentation at Air Station Sitka Thursday at 1 p.m.

“I realized that we were going to be in for one interesting flight when I couldn’t even walk to the helicopter without almost being knocked down by the wind gusts,” said Leib.

Lieb’s heroic actions during the 2007 flooding of Chehalis, Wash., on Dec. 3, 2007, saved 39 lives during a ferocious winter storm in winds of up to 80 mph. The rescues ranged from entering flooded homes and plucking survivors off roof tops, to being lowered into flood waters to rescue children and elderly.

“I remember being concerned about the 97-year-old man’s well-being when it came time to pull him through the water to the rescue basket,” Lieb said. “The effects of the rotor wash, loud engine noise and cold water can’t be very pleasant to anyone without the proper gear, not to mention being put into a tiny basket when you are unable to walk on your own.”

The Distinguished Flying Cross is America’s oldest military aviation award and on July 2, 1926, Congress authorized the Distinguished Flying Cross to be awarded to any officer or enlisted man of the armed forces of the United States who exhibited heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to Nov. 11, 1918.

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