Search and rescue officer Caleb Halle receives 2023 IMO Bravery Award

The 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to Caleb Halle, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) of the United States Coast Guard (USCG). He was recognized for the outstanding courage, endurance and determination he showed during the rescue of the seven-strong crew of the tugboat Legacy in January 2023.

AST2 Halle, based at the Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, received the award at the annual IMO Awards Ceremony in London, November 27.  

AST2 Halle was accompanied at the Awards ceremony by his parents, his wife and baby daughter. Accepting the award, he thanked them for their support, and described the pride he felt:

“I am honored to have been nominated and chosen for this award. I am also honored to have participated in this rescue with the excellent aircrews I flew with that night…This was a team effort in every aspect of the rescue, and I would have been unable to conduct this rescue operation without the combined efforts of both aircrews that night.”

Halle continued: “This is just one story among many that Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers and their aircrews quietly accomplish every day, and I am proud to be a small part of their time-honored tradition of saving lives.”

Courageous and determined rescue

Halle was part of a helicopter rescue team dispatched to assist the tugboat Legacy on 14 January 2023. The vessel and its seven-strong crew were adrift in violent seas 35 nautical miles off the coast of Maryland on the east coast of the United States of America.

Halle led a plan to hoist the crew members up to the helicopter from the stern of the Legacy but, having successfully helped one of them to reach the rescue basket, he determined it was unsafe to continue until he found a safer location on the boat’s main deck. He notified his colleagues in Helicopter CG-6566 to relocate to a position above it and was able to ensure two further survivors were hoisted to safety.

At this point the helicopter had to depart the scene due to a lack of fuel. But Halle volunteered to remain on site to reassure the four remaining tugboat crew and to assist a relief Coast Guard helicopter when it arrived. Darkness was falling by the time Helicopter CG-6024 reached the scene, and, to make already hugely challenging conditions even more difficult, communications between the search and rescue officer and the helicopter were lost.

Despite all this, Halle was able to help the rescue swimmer from the second helicopter reach the deck of the violently pitching tugboat and, together, they managed to hoist the remaining four crew to safety.

Before the two USCG officers were, themselves, to be winched off the Legacy, Halle undertook a final search of the tugboat during which the watertight seal of his survival suit was damaged. He and his colleague were then thrown off the boat into the freezing and tempestuous water, and worryingly close to the tugboat’s propellors. As Halle’s survival suit began to flood, the helicopter managed to reposition and, eventually, both rescue swimmers were lifted safely from the sea.

The Panel of Judges agreed that Halle’s actions clearly demonstrated exceptional bravery and determination in extreme and complex conditions. He was nominated for the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea by the United States of America.

Photo credit: IMO. AST2 Caleb Halle, United States Coast Guard.

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