He swam at night through 80 knot winds, ripped through a roof without the aid of a chainsaw and was repeatedly hoisted more than 100 feet into the air while battling turbulence and dangerous power lines around him as he aided in the rescue of 59 others in Houston, Texas, as Hurricane Harvey battered the area in August 2017.
For his heroic feats during Harvey, Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Gantt, a Coast Guard aviation survival technician, or rescue swimmer, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — the U.S. military’s oldest aviation award for heroism in flight — during a ceremony in December at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama.
His exploits in the rescue of 59 were detailed in award citation the Coast Guard posted in a news release. Two others, Coast Guard Cmdr. Scott Sanborn and Lt. John Briggs, also were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their heroism in response to Hurricane Harvey, a news release detailed.
Operating aboard a MH-65D Coast Guard helicopter, Gantt was deployed to Houston for rescue operations following flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
Gantt was launched “into an unfamiliar operating area at night with winds gusting over 80 knots, visibility below 50 feet and torrential rain to respond to a critically-ill pregnant woman trapped by rising waters in her attic,” the award citation reads.
While dealing with “severe turbulence," Gantt was hoisted multiple times “through a small opening between active power lines to search for and triage the ill woman,” the citation detailed.
In another rescue, “Gantt dove from the roof into the swift-moving water to grab an infant who was swept away from his father,” according to the citation.
Gantt “then located additional survivors signaling from a home being quickly engulfed by the flood waters. Without the use of a chainsaw, he tore through the roof to extract and hoist the seven people to safety before water overtook the home,” the award citation reads.
Sanborn was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in dangerous weather and thunderstorms with nearly 50 knot winds. His efforts led to the rescue of 24 people, according to his award citation.
Briggs was the aircraft commander about an MH-65 during Harvey relief effort, his heroism in Houston led to the rescue of 120 people, per the award citation.
The Air Medal was also presented to Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Yockey, for his heroism while serving as a mechanic aboard an MH-65. Yockey helped navigate the helicopter and rescue swimmer through multiple rescues in a number of dangerous situations. His efforts helped rescue 27 people during Harvey relief efforts, according to an award citation.
Harvey battered Texas and Louisiana in Aug. 2017, causing billions in damages. The medals were presented in December by Rear Adm. John Nadeau, the commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.