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My Coast Guard
Commentary | June 4, 2024

Air Station Detroit aircrew recognized by Naval Helicopter Association

By Lt. William Colomb, Air Station Detroit

An Air Station Detroit aircrew was recently recognized by the Naval Helicopter Association as the 2023 Aircrew of the Year (Non-Deployed) for demonstrating the most professional airmanship and overall performance as a crew during helicopter operations.  The aircrew consisted of Lt. Keith Kraker, Lt. Kyla Hughley, AST2 Benjamin Woodward, and AET3 Dan Brown.  

“Be Ready” was this year's symposium theme, which was aptly titled for the rescue the aircrew was awarded for. On Sept. 4, 2023, the crew responded to a kayaker in distress on the south shore of Lake Erie in Erie, Pennsylvania. When the crew arrived on scene, a local fire department zodiac team was assisting the survivor and placing them in a litter to be transported. The fire department’s ropes team had attempted to facilitate a rescue but were unable to safely transport the survivor.  Due to high surf, steep cliff terrain, and dense vegetation, the helicopter crew were the only ones able to conduct a safe rescue. 

After assessing the situation, the crew determined they would have to conduct a challenging left seat, 150-foot hoist of the survivor and rescue swimmer to mitigate turbulent winds from the cliff. Lt. Kraker lowered AST2 Woodward down to the scene where he assessed the situation. The fire department decided it was safer and more expeditious for the survivor to utilize their litter for the hoist and had already prepared the survivor for the hoist.  AST2 Woodward, recognizing that the litter was non-standard, diligently inspected the fire departments litter, and determined that the hoist could be safely executed. The crew recovered both the survivor and the rescue swimmer prior to departing the scene and brought the survivor to a local hospital for a higher level of care.

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“As always, this rescue was a team effort,” said Lt. Kraker. “We are extremely grateful for the coordination by Sector Eastern Great Lakes and Station Erie as well as the incredible work of the Fairfield Hose Company zodiac-boat crew and line crew who provided initial care and assistance in evacuating the patient." 

Air Station Detroit is honored to be recognized for the work of the aircrew and are dedicated to the continuous efforts of search and rescue on the Great Lakes. 

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