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Coastguardsman Receives Air Medal for Medical Evacuation
Story by Gregory Mitchell on 04/08/2019
PENSACOLA, Fla. — A U.S. Naval School of Aviation Safety (SAS) student was awarded the Coast Guard Air Medal during a ceremony at the SAS headquarters onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola April 5.
Lt. Tessa Clayton, recognized for her efforts during rescue efforts off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, was presented the award by U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., Cmdr. Chuck Webb, Clayton’s executive officer.
“It is an extreme honor for me to receive this award,” Clayton said. “This was a testament to the preparation and training that we do every day in the Coast Guard. I just felt that it was upon me to take action to hopefully save someone’s life.”
Clayton, who was in command of an MH65c Dolphin helicopter in May 2017, received orders to medically evacuate a heart attack victim from the fishing vessel Settler, more than 60 miles offshore of Cape May, N.J. Despite inclement weather and heavy fog, Clayton successfully piloted the helicopter to the Settler, where other crewmembers evacuated the civilian mariner.
The other service members aboard the helicopter during the medical evacuation were recognized by Commander, 5th Coast Guard District, Rear Adm. Keith M. Smith, in separate ceremonies.
“This is an award for individual action and bravery,” Webb said during the ceremony. “Clayton’s leadership to inspire her crew to execute this under such difficult conditions coupled with her advanced aviation skills are directly responsible for saving a person’s life.”
The Coast Guard Air Medal is designed to recognize service members in a current crew member or non-crew member flying status requiring them to engage in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in pursuit of their primary duties. Established in May 1942 and awarded retroactively to September 1939, the Air Medal is awarded to service members for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.
The award can also be awarded in acknowledgement of single acts of merit or heroism.
The Naval School of Aviation Safety educates aviation officers in identifying hazards, managing risks, investigating and reporting hazards and mishaps, developing and administering command safety programs, fostering and conducting safety-related research and providing assistance to the fleet in support of the Naval Aviation Safety Program.
NAS Pensacola, situated in Escambia County, employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. This includes major tenant commands: Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Technical Training Center, Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 and 23, the Blue Angels and is the headquarters for Naval Education and Training Command.