Recognizes Two U.S.
Officers for Help in Sub Rescue
of Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace and Russian
Ambassador Yuri Ushakov meet after the ceremony
that presented the highest honor awarded to non-Russian citizens,
the Friendship Medal, to two American officers at the Russian
Embassy in Washington. U.S. Air Force Maj. Patrick
Poon and U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steven Smith were presented
the medals for their actions in the rescue of the Russian
submarine crew on Aug. 7, 2005.
by D. Myles Cullen / DoD Photo
a portrait of Czar Peter the Great, the Russian Ambassador
to the United States presented two U.S. officers with the Order
of Friendship for their parts in rescuing submariners trapped
underwater off the Kamchatka peninsula in August.
Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov presented the awards, the highest honor to non-Russian
citizens, to Air Force Maj. Patrick Poon and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Smith at
the Russian Embassy here. Both men said it was due to the combined efforts
of all on the team that seven Russian submariners survived their Priz AS-28
deep submergence submarine ordeal.
Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace and Undersecretary of State
Robert Joseph attended the ceremony.
On Aug. 5,
2005, the 45-foot long craft became entangled in discarded
fishing nets in Russian Far East waters. The disabled submarine
was stuck at 600 feet, and time was a crucial factor in rescuing
the call at 8 a.m. and by 1 p.m. I was on a plane heading toward
Kamchatka," said Poon, commander of Detachment 1, 36th
Contingency Response Group, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
was alerted to go to the site from his naval base at North
Island, California, there was talk that the Russian crew only
had 12 to 14 hours of oxygen. "That was revised up as
we went to the area, but you never know for sure," he
and their units joined Russian Navy and Air Force, British
Royal Navy and Japanese Navy personnel in the rescue effort.
A Royal Navy remotely operated vehicle – the Scorpio – cut
the Russian sub free. The craft rose to the surface with just
six hours of oxygen left, according to published accounts.
Smith said the
experience in Kamchatka was unforgettable. There was a lot of "relief
and backslapping," he said, when the submarine popped to the
surface and the Russian crew came out.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steven Smith speaks to the audience of both
American and Russian citizens after he was presented
the Order of Friendship Medal by Russian Ambassador Yuri
Ushakov at the Russian Embassy in Washington. Smith
and U.S. Air Force Maj. Patrick Poon were both presented
the medals for their actions in the rescue of a Russian submarine
crew on Aug. 7, 2005, in waters off the country’s Kamchatka
by D. Myles Cullen / DoD Photo
there was "fantastic cooperation" from the Russian
servicemembers on the ground and among the international crews.
the international rescue mission. "Thanks to their courage
and efficient well-coordinated work, the submarine was released
from underwater captivity, and all seven crewmembers were brought
to safety," the ambassador said.
He said that
even the Cold War never interrupted the tradition of mutual
assistance at sea. "Even while Russian and American submarines
and battleships were playing their cat-and-mouse game, naval
officers were always ready to extend a helping hand to each
other," Ushakov said.
Smith are just the latest examples of this aid, and the latest
in a series of people helping to forge a close partnership
between the United States and the Russian Federation, the ambassador
said. The award, he said, signifies Russia’s desire for the
two countries to live and work together as friends.
the effort to rescue the submariners was a global response. "It
was Russian seamen and Japanese and Brits and Americans who
came together to do the right thing for those in need," he
said. "It is interesting that given different circumstances
that naval forces will do their countries’ duty against each
other, but that naval forces – when seeing someone in need
– revert to the basic instincts of saving life and reaching
out to one another.
know that had that been a U.S. submarine asking for help, that
our Russian friends would have responded to try to assist in
any way that you could, because that is the human instinct
to help others at sea."
the ceremony, a Russian children’s choir serenaded the assemblage
with a Russian song, "Katyushka," and American World
War II song "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition."