Over the past two days, five of the first responders to the Deepwater Horizon incident were hand-selected to do just that.
LT Sue Kerver, LTJG John Thomas, IS1 Wendell Averitt, MST2 Zaid Ahmed and AST3 Dustin Bernatovich from Coast Guard District Eight were chosen by senior leadership to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend President Obama’s recognition and celebration of the Saints Super Bowl 2010 victory.
“It was an honor to be chosen,” said Bernatovich.
“To get the invitation was actually very humbling,” said Kerver. “You just do your job and for someone to call and say ‘we would like you to represent the service at the White House,’ is really unbelievable. It’s such an honor.”
“It was phenomenal. I know I shouldn’t say this… but I was tickled pink,” Ahmed said with a grin from ear to ear.
All five members met the Saints players and shook hands with President Obama.
“I got my five seconds of fame as [the President] was making his rounds,” said Averitt smiling. “I shook his hand and he said, ‘good job and keep up the good work.’”
Thousands of Coast Guard men and women were crucial during the initial response effort but these five members took on a particularly noteworthy role.
LT Sue Kerver, District Eight Public Affairs Officer, worked almost around the clock to provide public affairs guidance and handle the thousands of media requests that inundated the district office during the first 96 hours. Kerver also established the initial Joint Information Center and served as the Press Aide for the District Commander, Rear Adm. Mary Landry, who was designated the Federal On-Scene Coordinator.
From the onset of the incident, LTJG John Thomas was instrumental in setting up the Situation Unit of the Unified Area Command in Robert, La. Shortly thereafter, his expertise made him the chosen candidate to travel to Mobile, Ala., and establish the Situation Unit in that Incident Command Post.
IS1 Wendell Averitt embedded with the interagency remote sensing coordination cell and developed comprehensive analytical tools to help leadership understand the location, dispersement and thickness of the oil and allow responders to knowledgeably determine the placement of boom.
MST2 Zaid Ahmed was on duty in the District command center the night of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. He helped coordinate the initial search and rescue response including four Coast Guard aircraft, four Coast Guard cutters and several civilian vessels.
“There have been a lot of people putting forth a lot of effort,” said Kerver. “Although we are five people who are representative of this effort, it was thousands and thousands of Coast Guard personnel and other agencies [who responded].”
While it is great to honor and recognize those who immediately took action during the Deepwater Horizon incident, some of the hardest work still lies ahead to fully restore the Gulf region and recover from this incident.