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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Receives U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Commendation

May 4, 2001

Citing assistance with a number of highly visible projects and a productive long-term relationship, RADM George Naccara of the U.S. Coast Guard presented the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with its Public Service Commendation April 24, 2001, during dockside ceremonies at the Group Woods Hole facility. WHOI Director Robert Gagosian and Associate Director For Marine Operations Richard Pittenger accepted the award on behalf of the Institution.

In comments read by Captain Russ Webster, Commander of Group Woods Hole, the Coast Guard thanked the Institution specifically for providing scientific information, use of pier space and for logistical and technical support between July 1998 and April 2001. Among the specific examples cited were the Institution’s assistance in the search for and recovery of John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s aircraft and Egypt Air Flight 990. “From July 17-23, 1999, and again from October 31-November 8, 1999, WHOI supported the Coast Guard by providing pier space and critical oceanographic information on winds, tides and currents during the searches and recovery efforts for the aircraft carrying John F. Kennedy, Jr., and for Egypt Air Flight 990,” the award citation reads in part. “These efforts greatly facilitated the Coast Guard’s search and recovery efforts as well as the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation.

The commendation also mentions other activities, including use of WHOI facilities and the expertise of Institution staff in assisting Coast Guard personnel doing engine repairs and other maintenance on several Coast Guard vessels. “The use of WHOI’s pier not only kept mission critical Coast Guard assets in their area of operation, but it also gave their crews the opportunity to spend much needed time with their families,” Captain Webster noted.

“WHOI shared critical scientific information and provided necessary support services to the Coast Guard in the spirit of mutual cooperation, collegiality and in recognition of the long-standing, historic relationship between the two organizations,” the commendation states. “Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s support and cooperative spirit to U.S. Coast Guard Group Woods Hole reflects great credit upon its organization and is in keeping with the highest traditions of humanitarian service.”

Before presenting the award, Captain Webster noted the long relationship between the Institution and the Coast Guard. “WHOI and the Coast Guard’s relationship began many years before the Coast Guard Group here at Woods Hole was established in 1966,” Captain Webster said. “The Coast Guard Base at Woods Hole has been in existence and seen various usages since about 1850. I guess the first real written connection I could find between WHOI and the Coast Guard came shortly after a significant event involving an iceberg in 1912. In Mary Lou Smith’s “Woods Hole Reflections”, there is a passage that indicates that in 1912 the Titanic collision had a direct effect on the Woods Hole Base.

“A Coast Guard International Ice Patrol was formed and headquartered here until it was moved in 1963 to Groton, CT, where it remains in operation today. The Ice Patrol in Woods Hole began to use the techniques of oceanographic investigations. A method of water current computation was adopted by the Ice Patrol under the direction of Edward Hanson Smith. Thanks to Admiral “Iceberg” Smith, USCG, and his colleagues, the natural history of icebergs like the one that sank Titanic has been charted. In 1950, Admiral Smith became the third director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and I suspect that it was at this time when our relationship started to really heat up. I can tell you that our relationship has matured into a true partnership over the years and has expanded in many ways, as will become evident when I read the following Public Service Commendation.”

Three individuals were also honored at the April 24 ceremony. Maurice Gibbs, a founding director and later President of the United States Life-Saving Station Heritage Association, was presented the Coast Guard’s Meritorious Public Service Award for “outstanding voluntary support in the preservation of U.S Coast Guard service heritage”. Douglas M. Bingham also received the Meritorious Public Service Award “for his extraordinary volunteer efforts to preserve and promote U.S. Coast Guard history as a founding member and Corresponding Secretary of the American Lighthouse Foundation, Historian for the first-ever U.S. Lightship Sailors Organization, and as the historian for the WLV 612 Friends of Nantucket 1 Lightship”.

The third individual honored was Chief Boatswain’s Mate Sheila A. Lucey, who received the Coast Guard’s Meritorious Service Medal for service “in the performance of duty as Officer in Charge, Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) Woods Hole, Massachusetts, from July 1998 to February 2001.” The Meritorious Service Medal is generally given to senior members of the Armed Forces of the United States who have distinguished themselves by outstanding non-combat meritorious achievement or service to the United States. Captain Webster, in his remarks, noted the medal is the non-combat counterpart of the Bronze Star Medal.

Group Woods Hole is one of several Coast Guard Groups within the First Coast Guard District whose primary missions are search and rescue and maritime law enforcement. The group’s area of responsibility covers some 3,000 square miles and spans 600 miles of coastline from the Connecticut-Rhode island border north to Duxbury, MA. RADM Naccara has been Commander, First Coast Guard District, Boston, since February 2000. The First District stretches from the Maine-Canada border to the middle of New Jersey and includes Group Woods Hole.