united states coast guard


R 091244 AUG 17
UNCLAS //N16100//
ALCOAST 239/17
1. IAW REF (A), this ALCOAST announces award of the 2016 AFRAS
Gold Medal. The AFRAS Gold Medal is awarded annually to a Coast
Guard enlisted member who exhibited exceptional courage and heroism
during a rescue at sea. The Silver Medal is awarded annually to a
deserving Coast Guard Auxiliarist for a heroic rescue for lives
saved in either inland or coastal waters.
2. AFRAS has selected Second Class Petty Officer Jacob M. Hylkema of
Station Grays Harbor, Washington, for award of the 2016 Gold Medal.
3. Petty Officer Hylkema is cited for extraordinary heroism on
the night of 06 October 2016, while serving as a crewmember on board
Motor Lifeboat INVINCIBLE, Station Grays Harbor, Washington, during
the rescue of the Master of the S/V GRACE.
   A. S/V GRACE was transiting from Tacoma, Washington, to San
Francisco, California, when it was caught in an approaching storm
while off Long Beach, Washington. At approximately 2230, INVINCIBLE
crossed the bar outbound to escort S/V GRACE across the bar into
port. While waiting for INVINCIBLE, S/V GRACE sustained additional
sail damage and was unable to steer or maintain heading in the 30-40
knots of wind and 15 foot seas.
   B. Once on scene, the INVINCIBLE determined that building weather
conditions and structurally weak deck fittings would preclude taking
S/V GRACE in tow. It was decided to have the Master don an
immersion suit, anchor the vessel, then evacuate into the water to
be recovered by the INVINCIBLE.
   C. By the time the anchor was set, the weather conditions
deteriorated on scene to 16-18 foot seas. With the combination of
night fall, cloud coverage, driving rain and 50-knot winds,
visibility was reduced to less than 100 yards.
   D. A life ring was transferred to the Master using a heaving line.
The Master donned the life ring and entered the water. Unfortunately,
the Master’s legs became wrapped in the heaving line resulting in
the seas and current dragging him under the water. At this point,
only the life ring was keeping the Master’s head above water.
   E. Astutely recognizing the Master’s perilous situation and in
danger of drowning as the seas pulled him under, Petty Officer
Hylkema selflessly volunteered to deploy as a surface swimmer. With
little time to act, Petty Officer Hylkema entered the ocean from
INVINCIBLE, battling now 18-20 foot breaking seas, to swim more than
150 feet to the Master in order to cut him free.
   F. By this time, the Master was suffering from extreme exhaustion
from fighting the building seas and was slipping out of the life ring
he desperately clung to, Petty Officer Hylkema freed the Master from
the entangling lines and held him in the life ring while being pulled
back to INVINCIBLE. Fully aware of the potential danger, Petty Officer
Hylkema placed the stricken Master’s life above his own while alongside
INVINCIBLE, remaining in the water as the crew recovered the barely
coherent Master first. The heavy seas swept Petty Officer Hylkema away
into the dark until finally pulled safely aboard after the victim.
   G. Petty Officer Hylkema demonstrated remarkable initiative,
exceptional fortitude and daring in spite of imminent personal danger. 
His courage and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest
traditions of the United States Coast Guard.
4. No 2016 Silver Awards were selected.
5. All of the nominees exhibited great courage and brought credit to
the service. Their performance honors our profession and life-saving
heritage. Other AFRAS award nominees include:
   A. AST2 Mark A. Fulgham, Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City,
North Carolina.
   B. AST2 Jason Yelvington, Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, Alaska.
   C. Auxiliarists Kenneth R. Babick, Paul S. Ploeger, John F. Stuhr,
Christopher Q. Roosevelt, Brian A. Rollins, Scott D. Robson and Perry
Eimen, District 13.
   D. Auxiliarists Randal McCormick, Curtis Han, and Charles Pina,
District 11 - Northern Region
   E. Auxiliarists Phillip T. Mammano, Rosemary Halldorsson,
Bradley S. Cochrane, William K. Weeks and Edward R. Ventress,
District 8 - Eastern Region.
   F. Auxiliarists Wilson Riggan, Thomas Powers and David Elliot,
District 7.
   G. Auxiliarists Robert S. and Patricia T. Brody, District 9 -
Eastern Region.
6. Petty Officer Hylkema will be recognized at a ceremony hosted by
AFRAS in the Rayburn Congressional Office Building, Washington, DC,
on 26 September 2017.
7. Congratulations to Petty Officer Hylkema and all active duty and
Auxiliary AFRAS award nominees for a job well done.
8. Ms. Dana S. Tulis, Director of Incident Management and
Preparedness Policy, sends.
9. Internet Release Authorized.