Kodiak-based aircrews win national award for Alaska rescues

KODIAK, Alaska – Eight Alaska-based Coast Guardsmen from Air Station Kodiak will be awarded the American Helicopter Society’s prestigious William J. Kossler Award at the American Helicopter Society Forum in Phoenix May 12 for saving the lives of seven commercial fishermen in 2009.

Cmdr. Shawn Tripp, aircraft commander, Lt. David McCown, pilot, Aviation Maintenance Technician 1st Class Dennis Dewinter, flight mechanic and Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class Eric Stoecker, rescue swimmer, are being recognized for their rescue of two men from the fishing vessel American Way, grounded on Aghiyuk Island Jan. 4, 2009.

The crew battled 500-foot ceilings, three mile visibility, and driving snow for the 230 mile transit to the stranded crewmembers. On scene the crew’s rescue swimmer was lowered and fought crashing waves, zero degree Fahrenheit temperatures, and a rocky shoreline to reach the survivors. They were safely hoisted from a narrow strip of beach next to a 300-foot vertical cliff in steady 58 mph winds.

Lt. John Bartel, aircraft commander, Lt. Cmdr. Craig Neubecker, pilot, Aviation Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Chad Redmond, flight mechanic and Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class Alexis Torres, rescue swimmer, rescued five crewmembers from the fishing vessel Mar-Gun grounded on St. George Island March 5, 2009.

Despite darkness, visibility of a half mile, a 200 foot ceiling, blowing snow, icing conditions, and up to 58 mph winds and crosswinds, while also avoiding the swaying masts and antennas, as waves rocked the vessel and crashed over the decks, the aircrew safely hoisted the Mar-Gun crew.

The AHS’s Capt. William J. Kossler Award is given for the greatest achievement in practical application or operation of rotary wing aircraft, the value of which has been demonstrated by actual service during the preceding year. This program was initiated in 1944 and over the years has paid tribute to the leaders of the vertical flight industry.

AHS International – The Vertical Flight Society is a professional, technical society of more than 6,000 members founded in 1943 that represents the interests of the worldwide vertical flight industry and is dedicated to the advancement of vertical flight technology and its applications.

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