NY NATIVE EARNS DISTINGUISHED COAST GUARD AWARD
"YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN THE FEELING; TO SEE WHAT THESE PEOPLE WERE GOING THROUGH..."
Story and photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Etta Smith
The Distinguished Flying Cross is considered one of the Coast Guard's most esteemed awards reserved for "heroic achievement in flight." The Distinguished Flying Cross was first awarded to Charles Lindbergh in 1927 following his completion of a 3,600-mile solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean. As forLt. Jason J. Dorval, from Aug. 29, 2005 until Sept. 6, 2005, he served as an HH-60 Jayhawk aircraft commander. He and his crew flew the helicopter nearly 50 hours, facilitating 332 rescues in only seven days.
"The first four nights down there, we flew 27 hours. We normally fly 30 hours in a month and we did it in four nights flying with night-vision goggles the entire time," says Dorval. Dorval piloted the helicopter through tropical-storm-force winds, mostly at night, to hoist stranded hurricane victims to safety. Rescue efforts became increasingly precarious when victims had to be hoisted through broken windows and crude access holes in roofs of flooded buildings.
After performing numerous rescues in the state of Mississippi, Dorval and his air crew were diverted to Louisiana to aid in rescue efforts after the levees of New Orleans gave way, flooding over 80 percent of the city. On Sept. 1, Dorval and his crew rescued 40 patients from a hospital that had become flooded after the levees had broken. Dorval says that rescue accounted for the most hoists he had ever performed in a single location.
"The motivation that kept me going was that there were always more people to be saved out there. That's what drove me all week. I didn't really feel any fatigue until we returned to the air station in Cape Cod," says Dorval. Dorval has been in the Coast Guard for 11 years. He attended the Coast Guard Academy from July 1995 until May 1999. He has been a pilot since May 2002.
"The Katrina rescues were the highlight of my career so far. To be able to help so many people at one time was amazing. An experience like that probably won't happen in my career again, or at least I hope that it doesn't," Dorval says. Dorval is currently assigned to Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod where he continues to fly as a pilot of the HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, executing Coast Guard missions and rescue operations in the New England area. Dorval's supervisor at the air station Cmdr. Tom Maine, describes the pilot as, "A highly conscientious and reliable officer who can be counted on to work independently and get the job done... whatever the job is." Since the hurricane, Dorval has served as a public speaker for the air tation as their "Âface of Katrina," says Maine. "He was the aircraft commander of the first HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to arrive on scene in the Mississippi coastal region following the storm's passage, and began rescuing survivors almost immediately. He truly was one of the heroes of Katrina," says Maine.