Written by Lt. Jodie Knox.
Whenever a response boat leaves the pier – whether it’s for routine training, a security patrol or rescue mission – Coast Guard coxswains are the men and women in charge. A coxswain makes sure missions are complete and that all the people aboard are safe and secure. When a boat crew is called at a moment’s notice, it is the coxswain who leads the way.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Connick is a coxswain who epitomizes what it means to lead. While assigned to Station Los Angeles – Long Beach, Connick, a boatswain’s mate, was launched on a mission that would push him and his crew to their limits.
Coast Guard Cutter Halibut was investigating a panga-style vessel suspected of illicit activities after detection by a Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft. When Halibut’s response boat approached, the suspect vessel maneuvered at a high rate of speed directly towards the small boat and struck it before fleeing the scene.
Two Coast Guard crewmen were thrown from the boat into the water, and both members were immediately recovered. Tragically, one of these crewmembers was fatally wounded, Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne.
The vessel sped toward Mexican territorial seas. Connick quickly assembled his crew and launched a separate Coast Guard boat to pursue the suspect vessel. Connick coordinated with supporting air assets, for three and a half hours, while navigating more than 60 miles in more than six-foot seas and darkness.
The mission took the crew to the limits of their training as they relentlessly pursued the vessel, which required three separate attempts at a successful interdiction. They gained control of the vessel on the third attempt, but by then were more than 90 miles offshore, well beyond their normal operating area, and in close proximity to Mexican territorial waters.
Demonstrating tireless determination and skill as a boat coxswain, Connick proceeded back towards Los Angeles with the vessel in tow, two detained suspects and an asset nearing its fuel limits; all in the face of heavy seas and emotional strain over his injured fellow shipmates.
Due to Connick’s dedication to duty, he was selected as the recipient of the Cmdr. Ray Evans Outstanding Coxswain Trophy. This prestigious annual award recognizes a Coast Guard coxswain who demonstrates exceptional boat handling skills and leadership.
The award’s namesake, Ray Evans, fought alongside Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Evans and Munro both served aboard landing craft under heavy fire on Guadalcanal Sept. 27, 1942. During action that day, Evans ensured the successful evacuation of Marines and piloted his craft to safety following the loss of Samuel B. Roberts, his Navy coxswain. Evans was awarded the Navy Cross for his courage and Munro made the ultimate sacrifice later that day, evacuating Marines from the beach with Evans by his side.
Evans recently crossed the bar, but with coxswains like Connick leading the way, there is no doubt that his legacy lives on.