Astoria rescue swimmer named USO Coast Guardsman of the Year

Coast Guard District 13 NewsASTORIA, Ore. – Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher R. Austin, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Astoria, Ore., was awarded United Service Organizations (USO) Coast Guardsman of the Year at a ceremony in Wash., D.C., Thursday.

Austin, a native of San Diego, Calif., was chosen by the USO and recognized for superior performance of duty during his first day as a qualified rescue swimmer after a vessel capsized in the pounding surf of Willapa Bay, Wash., Dec. 18, 2010.

Austin was a crewmember aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter conducting a maritime and coastal patrol. The crew received a report that a boat had capsized and two fishermen were in the water. After arriving on scene and following a trail of debris, the crew was able to spot a lone fisherman in the dense fog.

Austin plunged into the violent waters below the hovering Jayhawk. Using his exceptional strength and stamina he was able to maintain control of the hypothermic fisherman, who at this point had lost consciousness, until both were lifted to safety.

Once aboard the helicopter, Austin administered CPR to the unconscious survivor. The survivor regained consciousness and was transferred to a local hospital. He eventually made a full recovery.

The USO is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the U.S. Military. The USO works in partnership with the Department of Defense to provide support and entertainment to the armed forces.

Annually, the USO formally recognizes the bravery and sacrifice of an enlisted member from each branch of the military.

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