Shipmates take decisive actions

Petty Officer 2nd Class Derrick Dyess, a crewmember of the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive, poses for a photo near the medium endurance cutter at its homeport, Jan. 20, 2012.U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Andrea Psimer.

Pick any adjective that describes efficiency and action, and you will find a Coast Guardsman who either embodies it or makes it so. At any given hour, on any given day, they give their lives freely to those in peril.

Since Aug. 14, 1848, when Congress established the U.S. Life-Saving Service to address the problem of crowded vessels running aground with immigrants aboard on the New Jersey shore, the Coast Guard and its long line of shipmates have rescued nearly a million people. That is 999,999 plus one other person who did not cross the bar.

One commonality everyone shares is an organizational DNA linked and coiled into the fabric of the Coast Guard’s history and communities. In the course of their duties, Coast Guardsmen train, maintain and operate with speed, adaptability and skill. The only question is, who responds first when a Coast Guardsman lays into danger and requires rescue?

For a crewmember on the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Pascagoula, Miss., there was one who took quick action and became a first responder for a fellow shipmate.

On Jan. 10, 2012, Petty Officer 2nd Class Derrick Dyess, a boatswain’s mate, walked onto the mess deck and found Seaman David Mertes bleeding profusely from his right hand. Dyess, and some other crewmembers, grabbed the closest gunbag and began basic first aid.

A boatcrew of boarding teammembers with the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive (right) interdict a vessel with migrants aboard in the Straits of Florida, Sept. 26, 2011.U.S. Coast Guard photo.


While assessing the situation and considering the fastest method to get him advanced medical care, Dyess decided it would be faster to transport Mertes directly to the emergency room vice waiting for an ambulance. Meanwhile, he donned some gloves, applied direct pressure and then elevated Mertes’ arm.

“To me a shipmate means being a friend, comrade, relying on others and having others rely on you,” said Dyess.

The U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Decisive home ported in Pascagoula, Miss., is one of two medium endurance cutters assigned to the eigth district. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey Ranel.

Mertes sustained three lacerated fingers to the bone. Doctors at the emergency room stitched them and he was referred to a hand specialist. Dyess also ensured Mertes had crewmembers as caretakers for the next several days, specifically Seaman John Harper, Seaman Tye Ballinger and Seaman Lucas Bartkowiak, who escorted Mertes to doctor and surgery appointments.

As Coast Guardsmen and shipmates, especially on a cutter, members often must protect, defend and save each other from time to time. The Decisive deploys 180-200 days a year. Several hundred miles from the nearest coastline, they are their own emergency room and fire department. But more importantly, they are the environmental watchdog, cop on the beat and border guard for the nation.

“There is no room for error,” said Dyess. “Everyone has to be on their ‘A’ game to conduct the mission safely.”

The Decisive and its shipmates have a history of removing scores of people from danger and swift response. During 1993 and 1994, the cutter and its crew rescued approximately 2,500 Haitian and Cuban migrants, whose dilapidated vessels were barely seaworthy. In November 1995, the Decisive again led the way and executed the second largest migrant interdiction in history by intercepting a 75-foot freighter overloaded with 516 Haitians. Recently, in September 2011, the crew assisted with the interdiction of 101 Cuban migrants in the Straits of Florida and saved 10 Cubans, who were without food and water, after a crewmember spotted a faint light in the ocean just before midnight.

Now in its fourth decade of service, the cutter and its crew make a decisive asset for the nation.



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