Training, training and more training. Time and again Coast Guard crews pull away from the pier or take flight to train and prepare for missions. It’s in the service’s culture for every member to constantly prepare, including the volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
The crew aboard Auxiliary boat 25371 was training one June afternoon, practicing man overboard drills on Bogue Sound, N.C. Aboard the boat were Auxiliary members Ronald Johnson, Dennis Szeba, Jim Mauk, Bill Gerdsen and Fred Jelinek. A man overboard drill requires strong communication between the crew and is one of the most important a crew can practice; practicing a man overboard drill could mean the difference between saving or losing a fellow shipmate.
As they continued their drill, with each crewmember in place, something unexpected happened. The crew noticed a boat circling. The operator of the boat was slumped over the helm in what appeared to be medical distress while the passenger aboard the boat was frantically waving her hands .
Their practice of saving a life just became reality.
Johnson, serving as coxswain, sprang into action and maneuvered the Auxiliary vessel alongside the out-of-control boat. Once alongside, Jelinek – who is also the flotilla commander – and Gerdsen were able to get the boat under control and climb aboard. As they assessed the situation they discovered the operator was in cardiac arrest. The two started CPR while Johnson, Mauk and Szeba rigged the boat for an alongside tow.
They made a call to Coast Guard Station Emerald Isle to coordinate additional assistance from Station Emerald Isle’s boatcrews and local EMS. The Auxiliary members continued CPR as they towed the boat toward shore while the station dispatched one of its rescue boats to assist. With the station boat on scene, the two boatcrews continued attempts to revive the boater until they reached the pier and the rescue team successfully employed an automatic emergency defibrillator, restarting the boater’s heart.
The fast action, perseverance and devotion to duty displayed by Johnson, Szeba, Mauk, Gerdsen and Jelinek proved critical to saving the boater’s life and resulted in his full recovery from the events of that June afternoon.
Training can become monotonous. Training can become routine. But for the Auxiliary crew of the 25371, training can become something much more; training can become a lifesaver. The more than 32,000 members serving in the Coast Guard Auxiliary train every day across the nation so that they too may rise to the occasion like the crew of the 25371.