High honor for a Menemsha Coastie

Petty Officer Poe awarded the Commendation Medal for ’outstanding heroism’.

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Petty Officer Tanner Poe is decorated with the Coast Guard Commendation Medal by Chief Stephen White as Senior Chief Justin Longval recounts Poe’s act of “outstanding heroism”.

On Friday morning, a Menemsha Coastie was decorated with the U.S. Coast Guard Commendation Medal for rescuing and resuscitating a shipmate after he fell from a pier. 

Prior to receiving the award, Petty Officer Tanner Poe was congratulated via direct video link by Admiral Karl Shultz, Coast Guard Commandant, the highest ranking member of the Coast Guard, and Master Chief Jason Vanderhaden, the highest ranking enlisted member of the Coast Guard. 

“It’s an honor for us to thank you for looking out for your shipmate,” Admiral Shultz said.

Poe was joined by Petty Officer Brian Wood, the shipmate he saved. 

Shultz thanked both petty officers for their service to the U.S., and wished them success in their careers in the Coast Guard. 

“I’m honored to serve in the Coast Guard alongside you guys,” Vanderhaden said.

At Station Menemsha, Senior Chief Justin Longval, officer in charge of the station, recounted the events that lead to Poe’s decoration.

Poe and Wood were on a pier near the Station Menemsha boathouse on the evening of May 20. Wood succumbed to a sudden medical event, and fell unconscious from the pier. “Without hesitation and disregarding his own safety,” Longval said, “Petty Officer Poe entered the 50° water to rescue his shipmate, wearing only his regular uniform and no excess or lifesaving equipment. With incredible determination and strength, he kept Petty Officer Wood’s head above the water and swam him around the dock to the boat ramp — an exhausting 10-minute endeavor.”

Poe then applied first aid techniques to his shipmate that purged water from his lungs and allowed him to regain consciousness, Longval said. Poe subsequently kept Wood warm with blankets, and used other techniques to treat him for potential shock while calling for EMS and station personnel. 

“His courage to act saved Petty Officer Wood’s life,” Longval said. “Petty Officer Poe’s dedication, judgment, and devotion to duty are most heartily commended, and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.” Longval described the rescue as a feat of “outstanding heroism.”

Poe, who served his last day at Station Menemsha on Friday before rotating to another assignment, said briefly following the award that he enjoyed his time at the station. 

Also recognized Friday were Culinary Specialist 1st Class Stephen Smith and Petty Officer Jacob Waters-Maciel. 

Smith was recognized as a runner-up for the Forrest O. Rednour Galley of the Year Award. He was also thanked for excellence in his duties, in particular resourcefulness during a COVID-19 lockdown that kept food ample at the station, and also kept Coasties from having to travel to grocery stores where they might be unduly exposed. 

Waters-Maciel was recognized as a runner-up for the Capt. Quentin R. Walsh Excellence in Living Marine Resources Enforcement Award. Waters-Maciel was thanked for his strong record of maritime law enforcement and boating safety, and for a particular vessel boarding that yielded notable fisheries violations.