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Lisa M.
Republican AK

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  • Remembering Petty Officer Obendorf

    by Senator Lisa Murkowski

    Posted on 2013-12-20

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    MURKOWSKI. Madam President, I am here today to pay tribute to the life of PO3 Travis Obendorf, a Coast Guard boatswain mate, who passed away on December 18, 2013, from injuries he sustained during the successful rescue of 22 individuals from the disabled fishing vessel Alaska Mist in the Bering Sea on November 11, 2013.

    Petty Officer Obendorf, whose nick name was ``Obie,'' gave the ultimate sacrifice for his Nation, and in doing so he assisted in the rescue of 22 mariners who otherwise may have been lost to the sea.

    Petty Officer Obendorf was a native of Idaho Falls, IA. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2004 and quickly became a leader within his boot camp platoon. He proudly served aboard the Coast Guard Cutters Alert and Waesche and deployed to Bahrain as member of Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. He also served at Coast Guard Station Boston, MA.

    Upon reporting aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche on 26 June 2013, Petty Officer Obendorf quickly integrated into the Deck Division and began rapidly pursuing his qualifications. During Waesche's shakedown cruise prior to an Alaska deployment, Petty Officer Obendorf qualified as a helmsman and lookout and made significant progress in all other qualification areas. One month into Waesche's August to November 2013 Alaska deployment, Petty Officer Obendorf qualified in basic and advanced damage control, as boatswain's mate of the watch, helicopter tie-down crewmember, and boat crewmember on all three of Waesche's cutter boats. Less than a month later, Petty Officer Obendorf added boarding team member and antiterrorism force protection watch stander to his list of qualifications. Petty Officer Obendorf's rapid qualification in a wide variety of watch stations resulted in him being significantly involved in almost all aspects of Waesche's operations. His efforts as a boat crew and boarding team member were critical in the Waesche's execution of over 40 fisheries and recreational law enforcement boardings during the 2013 Alaska deployment.

    When Waesche was diverted for the search and rescue case involving fishing vessel Alaska Mist, Petty Officer Obendorf was selected as a boat crewmember for what would be a challenging rescue operation. Petty Officer Obendorf immediately began assisting his shipmates and preparing for the operation, which would involve removing 14 nonessential Alaska Mist personnel as well as passing a towing line to the vessel in order to take it in tow.

    Once on scene, Waesche launched Petty Officer Obendorf and the rest of the boat crew aboard a Coast Guard small boat to begin the rescue operation. As the Coast Guard small boat came alongside Alaska Mist, one boat crewmember went aboard the vessel to brief the crew and rig the rescue ladder. Once this was complete, Petty Officer Obendorf began guiding Alaska Mist crewmembers down the ladder and into the Coast Guard small boat. Petty Officer Obendorf showed exceptional skill and focus as he timed the rolls of both vessels and a significant swell to ensure the safety of the crewmembers descending the ladder. Despite deteriorating weather conditions, Petty Officer Obendorf courageously and successfully guided five Alaska Mist crew members to safety.

    The Coast Guard small boat returned to Waesche with the first group of passengers and entered the stern notch with Petty Officer Obendorf positioned on the bow to assist in securing the boat for recovery. During the recovery evolution, Petty Officer Obendorf received a severe head injury. Waesche completed the operation, ultimately rescuing 22 people and towing the fishing vessel to safety, but despite the lifesaving first aid of his shipmates and the excellent care of two medical centers, Petty Officer Obendorf succumbed to his injuries on 18 December 2013.

    Petty Officer Obendorf will surely be missed by his family, loved ones, and shipmates. I am thankful for his service and honored by his sacrifice.


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