The Coast Guard Foundation's Alaska Awards will be given out on Wednesday, August 13 in Anchorage to the personnel of Sector Anchorage and a helicopter flight crew from Air Station Kodiak for their actions following the day of November 11, 2013.
With Bering Sea winds blowing 35 mph and the seas rolling at up to 10 feet in height, the 160-foot fishing vessel Alaska Mist, with 22 crew members aboard, radioed it had lost power and was adrift 30 miles northwest of Amak Island, a small uninhabited island near the end of the Alaska Peninsula. The Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, on patrol in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, was deployed to the scene to help remove the crew members to safety. Further assistance came after a civilian tug and fishing vessel responded to an urgent marine information broadcast issued by Coast Guard watchstanders at the 17th District Command Center.
Petty Officer Travis Obendorf was mortally wounded during the Alaska Mist rescue.
A helicopter crew out of Air Station Kodiak also came on scene to pull non-essential personnel off the Alaska Mist. Battling 35-knot winds and building seas, they successful hoisted several crew members over a 3-hour period that involved 172 miles flown.
The Waesche then took the Mist under tow and pulled it east to near Unalaska Island where a civilian tug took over to take the disabled vessel to the port of Dutch Harbor. Through the use of the cutter, the professionalism of the crews, and their coordination, the Coast Guard was able to ensure the safety of the crew and the vessel.
Petty Officer Travis Obendorf suffered a major injury during the operation while attempting to secure a line from the Waeshe to the Alaska Mist.
The flight crew of CG-6554 from Air Station Kodiak was dispatched to medevac Obendorf from the scene. The weather conditions were terrible at the time of the rescue, with the crew enduring 40 mph winds and 10-foot seas.
Due to the massive injuries he had suffered, and the weather conditions, removing Obendorf to safety was incredibly challenging for the helicopter crew. They performed their duties admirably, perfectly executing the rescue swimmer from the helicopter and retrieving Obendorf to safety despite the raging seas.
The crew flew to Cold Bay Harbor Airport, where they awaited a civilian medical flight to transport Obendorf to a hospital in Anchorage. At one point, Obendorf's condition significantly worsened, and the civilian medical flight was still 40 minutes away, so one of the pilots of the Coast Guard helicopter crew, LT Russell Merrick, a former EMT, had to assist the rescue swimmer in providing aid and comfort to Obendorf.
When Sector Anchorage received notice that a Coast Guard member in critical condition was in transit to Anchorage, they immediately put personnel in place to assist Petty Officer Obendorf and his family. During dorf's stay in the hospital in Anchorage, Sector personnel maintained a constant Coast Guard presence. Staff coordinated logistics of the family coming to Anchorage, arranging accommodations and transportation, as this occurred over Thanksgiving the Chiefs Mess provided a Thanksgiving meal to the family.
Obendorf was later transferred to a Seattle, Washington hospital for additional medical. Tragically, Petty Officer Obendorf eventually succumbed to his injuries a month after the incident.
Despite the tragic outcome of this event, the efforts of Air Station Kodiak and Sector Anchorage resulted in many lives assisted. Their heroism, bravery, dedication and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.