by Jason Kucera, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi
April 10, 2018
Troy Ramsdell, a native of Lindale, California, is not a household name, but his name is familiar to the Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump.
Shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi sent AST2 Ramsdell, and many of its ASTs, to Houston to help with search and rescue operations.
According to Ramsdell, he was only one rescue swimmer among so many pulling families off of their roof tops or pulling individuals from windows of their homes. He said he did not count how many people he personally was able to help, but knows that look of relief someone has once they are in safer hands.
Becoming a “rescue swimmer takes going through rigorous training and is not an easy task according to Ramsdell.
“They really just ‘kick your butt’ throughout the course,” he said. “I worked out with a swimmer shop in Astoria, Oregon, for 16 weeks before going to our ‘A’ School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, for another 18 weeks.”
Ramsdell said it was stressful and physically demanding.
“We had a lot of tests, it’s very fast paced, and they’re pushing everyone to their limits. Early on, I was struggling to pass some of the tests so as I managed to progress I nearly had to be perfect in order to graduate.”
Ramsdell attributes the rigorous training from the school and the constant training he participates in now with the Sector CC Air Station AST team as what gives him, and his teammates, the ability to perform under the pressure of rescuing lives in some of the most dire of situations.
His first assignment as an AST was at Air Station Detroit where the challenge of SAR missions differed due to climate.
“We rescued a lot of duck hunters who became stranded due to heavy ice and snow during the winter,” Ramsdell said. “During the summer time, we had a lot of cases of boaters becoming stranded on the lakes as well, but I would take working in warm weather over the cold any time.”
After 4 ½ years stationed in Detroit, he arrived in Corpus Christi July 2016.
“The mission is definitely different here, which every case is different, but here we are rescuing a lot of people from shrimping vessels that are stranded at sea or boat wrecks, and then of course dealing with hurricane season is a great challenge.”
Being critical to the Coast Guard’s SAR mission, one of the obstacles of a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on your residence said Ramsdell, a native of Lindale, California, was being able to evacuate his family while also being ready to answer the call to rescue in a moment’s notice.
“We were notified by our command we would be evacuating the air station to another location, so in between leaving for that I had to prepare my home and evacuate my wife.
“The next morning I departed for Edinburg, Texas,” where the Sector briefly relocated and responded to calls for help while Harvey came ashore to Corpus Christi, he said. “We then re-staged in Alice, Texas, as the hurricane began to push up the coastline towards Houston.”
Ramsdell said it was impressive because this was a staging area for USCG aircraft from all over the country that were coming in to support SAR operations.
“There were so many crews from all over, including San Diego, California; Mobile, Alabama; Miami, Florida; and of course Corpus Christi.
“After returning to Corpus briefly, I worked a case (SAR) that actually involved a capsized Coast Guard boat, and thankfully all of the crew was ok with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers and our team getting to them quickly,” he said. “Then I was able to spend the night at my house finally before being woken up by my chief the next morning who greeted me by asking if I wanted to meet the President.
“I really wasn’t sure if he was serious, but my chief said the President had called and said he wanted to meet me.”
A particular photo that became “viral” circulated of Ramsdell holding an infant child in his lap while aboard a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. The photo caught the attention of President Trump, who then asked to meet Ramsdell personally on his trip to visit the Houston area in early September.
“That was pretty wild,” Ramsdell said. “I felt very honored to be recognized by name and to meet the President.”
Ramsdell was able to take his wife with him, which was a whirlwind of a trip that by the end of he was back at the air station conducting maintenance on the station’s aircraft.
Ramsdell said he also rescued a lot of infants while in Houston but this particular baby was being transported under duress from one hospital to another.
“This baby girl had sickle cell anemia, I believe,” he said. “The doctors told me that she could not be off the machines they had her hooked up to or she might die.
“So as soon as we got her on the helo and took off, I had to begin suctioning her airway so she would not drown in her own fluids.”
Along the way, while Ramsdell was checking the baby’s mouth and nose for saliva build-up, his flight mechanic snapped a photo that has now been circulated across the internet with millions of views across news sites and social media platforms.
He said he does not have any social media accounts, but it was not long until friends and family started calling and messaging him telling him about the photo they recognized him in.
He said during the SAR operations throughout Harvey, including observing the damage to area communities Rockport, Port Aransas, and Aransas Pass, it never felt overwhelming because he knew this is what he is trained for; to help those in need.
Ramsdell said the team is always ready every day and that, “you never come to work expecting a relaxing day. When people need the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard shows up.”