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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Jan. 13, 2022

U.S. Space Force celebrates its second birthday; USO Coast Guardsman of the Year 2021; and Silver Lifesaving Medal awarded to two-time bodyboarding champion

By Nicole Bertrand, MyCG writer

Happy second birthday Space Force. The U.S. Space Force (USSF) was created Dec. 20, 2019. The USSF organizes, trains, and equips space forces in order to protect and defend American and allied interests in space. It also provides space capabilities to the joint force. The USSF was established within the Department of the Air Force, under the guidance and direction of the Secretary of Defense. Space has become essential to our security and prosperity, so much so that we need a branch of our military dedicated to its defense. Unfettered access to space is vital to national defense. Space systems are woven into the fabric of our way of life affecting almost every part of our daily lives, and arefundamental to our economic system. For example, satellites not only power the GPS technology that we use daily but also allows us to surf the web and call our friends, enable first responders to communicate with each other in times of crisis, time-stamp transactions in the world financial market, and even allow us to use credit cards at gas pumps. The establishment of the USSF resulted from widespread recognition that space was a national security imperative. When combined with the growing threat posed by near-peer competitors in space, it became clear that there was a need for military service focused solely on pursuing superiority in the space domain.

Congratulations to the United Service Organizations’ Coast Guardsman of the Year. Petty Officer 3rd Class Gerrod J. Britton received the United Service Organizations (USO) award for 2021 due to his bravery rescuing three men from severe injury and possible death. Britton was off-duty and traveling on Highway 101 in California when he witnessed the vehicle in front of him cross the median and crash into oncoming traffic lanes. Without hesitation, he pulled over, contacted emergency response and assessed the scene. The vehicle was overturned and resting on its roof with three male occupants still trapped inside.

Immediately jumping into action, Britton extracting two of the individuals and getting them to safety. The third person was severely injured and trapped underneath the vehicle when it began to catch fire. Without regard for his own personal safety, Britton and an additional bystander were able to lift the unstable vehicle on its side. This gave Britton the room needed to extract the now-unconscious man through a broken window, just seconds before the vehicle was completely engulfed in flames. Recognizing the threat posed by the growing fire, he pulled the victim away, performed CPR and attempted to control bleeding from multiple severe injuries. His actions demonstrated unparalleled levels of courage to rescue those in peril. Britton serves with the U.S. Coast Guard at Station Morro Bay and is from Plattsmouth, Neb.

Coast Guard awards 2-time world bodyboarding champ with Silver Lifesaving Medal. Bravo Zulu to Andre Botha, who was honored in Ehukai Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii Dec. 29, 2021, for rescuing surfer Evan Geiselman back on Dec. 6, 2015. Geiselman had been surfing at Banzai Pipeline in Oahu. He was wiped out, leading his airways to subsequently fill with saltwater and render him unconscious. Botha retrieved him from the bottom of the ocean and kept him afloat while administering lifesaving breaths until help arrived. “The Coast Guard is grateful for watermen like Andre [who] remain alert for the safety of others in the ocean, and especially the heavy surf,” said Kevin Cooper, the Coast Guard 14th District search and rescue program manager. “His brave actions that day made the difference in a life and death situation.” Rear Adm. Matthew Sibley, commander Coast Guard 14th District, presented Botha with the award. Botha was born in Cape Town in 1981 and became a professional bodyboarder at the age of 15. He won his first world title at the age of 17 and his second at 18, winning both the Global Organization of Bodyboarding World Tour Series and the Pipeline World Championship.