Let's Celebrate.With A Rescue!

November 2010 Feature Brady L. Kay

You know those people that just can't seem to stop working, even when they're off the clock? Most of the time it's self-inflicting for these workaholic types that just don't know how to take a break for a moment and relax. I guess it's by instinct that these people feel compelled to keep working, even after the time clock has been punched.

Of course, then there are those who wouldn't mind the break, but the call of duty springs them into action and they're forced to go back to work. Just ask Petty Officer Third Class and veteran rescue swimmer Jason Dahl who fully understands the U.S. Coast Guard is always prepared-even at its own party.

This past spring the Coast Guard threw a celebration for the 25th anniversary of its Rescue Swimmer program. This program, which began at Air Station in Elizabeth City, Va. in 1985, has trained more than 750 swimmers who have gone on to save about 25,000 lives, according to the Coast Guard.

But just as the silver anniversary party was getting started and hundreds of current and former swimmers, along with family and friends, were gathering for the event in Elizabeth City, an emergency call came in: a boat had sunk off Virginia Beach. The lone occupant had managed to send a Mayday then quickly went silent.

"He set off his radio beacon, and that was the last we heard from him," U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Andrew Kendrick told reporters.

This is when Dahl sprang into action and quickly left the party to respond to the call. He boarded a Jayhawk helicopter and the crew quickly found fisherman Nolan Agner floating amid the debris of this boat Knockdown about 15 miles south of Rudee Inlet.

The hero of this story dove into the chilly water and upon reaching Agner determined he was suffering from hypothermia.

"I came up on the guy and asked him if he was injured. He said he wasn't injured, but that he was pretty cold," Dahl said. "He was shivering, so I made the decision to bring him up into the aircraft."

"He definitely set himself up for success," added Matt Herring, the Coast Guard pilot. "As far as being rescued, he had a life raft as well as a life jacket, an emergency locator beacon, so he had done a lot of things beforehand to help himself get rescued successfully."

Agner was treated at a nearby hospital and has since made a full recovery. And in true Clark Kent fashion, after delivering the victim to the hospital, the helicopter returned Dahl back to the party. The entire operation took less than 30 minutes. It takes longer than that to get a pizza delivered these days! I'd call that heroic, but I guess Dahl just looks at it like another day in the life of a rescue swimmer.

Vice Admiral John Currier, chief of staff for the U.S. Coast Guard and keynote speaker for the event, told the crowd of 200 that the ceremony was important for many reasons.

"First of all, it's honoring one of the most successful Coast Guard programs ever in our history, but more importantly, it's a gathering of the folks that made that happen," he said. "The dedicated professional Coast Guard men and women that fought against negativism, fought against all kinds of people saying you can't do it, but they stood up for it."


He went on to call it "one of the most successful Coast Guard programs ever in our history." There is at least one fisherman who will fully back him up on that statement that there were trained people in place to save his life. Here's to another 25 years of success!

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