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Robert R. Williams


Coast Guard Medal

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The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Coast Guard Medal to Aviation Survival Technician Third Class Robert R. Williams, United States Coast Guard, for heroism on the evening of 1 September 2005 while serving as Rescue Swimmer aboard Commanding General-6539, a Coast Guard HH-65-B helicopter. In the aftermath of Hurricane KATRINA, the levee system in New Orleans was breached, flooding the city and causing a major evacuation of the metropolitan area. Commanding General-6539 was dispatched to conduct rescue efforts for over 150 remaining flood victims stranded on the roof of the Day's Inn in Lake Front near Lake Ponchartrain. Petty Officer Williams was fully briefed on the situation's volatility prior to deploying to the hostel roof. As he disconnected from the hoist, three men brandishing knives and claiming to have a gun accosted and threatened to kill him if they were not rescued first. Without regard for his own safety, Petty Officer Williams heroically faced down the men, stated his rescue priorities and threatened the use of his survival knife to gain control of the situation. He established a recovery order based on need and sent six injured victims to the helicopter waiting above, opting to remain on the hotel roof with the armed men as Commanding General-6539 departed to rescued the injured survivors. He continued to establish order and diffuse the situation, assuring everyone they would leave the roof before he did. When Commanding General-6539 returned, Petty Officer Williams convinced the men to relinquish their weapons and be hoisted aboard the helicopter, greatly reducing tension levels on the roof. He then worked with four other helicopters to evacuate the remaining victims, rescuing over 150 flood victims from the hotel, and was the last one off the roof. Petty Officer Williams went on to perform 15 other direct deployment rescues that day and 113 in all. Petty Officer Williams demonstrated remarkable initiative, exceptional fortitude, and daring in spite of imminent personal danger in this rescue. His courage and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.

General Orders: U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

Action Date: 1-Sep-05

Service: Coast Guard