Hurricanes Harvey and Florence were no match for these Coasties

Julia LeDoux
October 09, 2019 - 3:49 pm
Coast Guard awards

United States Coast Guard


When Hurricanes Harvey and Florence devastated coastal communities in the southern United States in 2017 and 2018, Coast Guard personnel from Air Station Atlantic City answered the call to help.

On Wednesday, a group of pilots, rescue swimmers, avionics electrical technicians and aviation mechanics were honored for their bravery and actions that saved 66 lives and helped 84 others.

During the ceremony, 16 Air Medals were awarded for "single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement while participating in flight," and one Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight."

"One of the things I hear consistently is that Coast Guard has the finest aviators that the United States has to offer," said Capt. Gregory Stump, 5th Coast Guard District chief of staff, who presided over the ceremony.  "What you're seeing behind you here, they are the best of the best."

Coast Guard awards
United States Coast Guard

The recipients risked being electrocuted while entering rising water to make rescues during the storms. They hoisted the sick and injured onboard helicopters and set down copters in areas flanked by power lines and trees. They contended with low visibility, instrument failure and low fuel as water interfered with their helicopters' mechanical systems.

Among the honorees was Lt. James Rader, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was stationed in Texas when Hurricane Harvey made landfall and flew 18 "day-and-night" hours, fighting winds over 50 mph, visibility under a quarter-mile and torrential rainfall as he rescued residents trapped by floodwaters from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, 2017.

Lt. Rader
United States Coast Guard

"Lt. Rader's actions, aeronautical skill and heroism were instrumental in saving the 57 people," Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City Commander Capt. Sean O'Brien said. "His courage, judgment, and devotion to duty in the face of hazardous flying conditions are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard."

Others were recognized during the ceremony for actions taken in four search-and-rescue missions that took place between 2018 and 2019 in the New Jersey area.

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Thank you for your service: 6 heart-stopping rescues performed by the U.S. Coast Guard

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