In 2014 Trevor Sly, a U.S. Coast Guard officer stationed near Seattle, was part of a government mission to Koge Bay in Greenland testing new equipment for the Duck Hunt. As Global Exploration and Recovery plans for our return trip to Greenland in 2016 to conduct a new search for the 3 missing aviators, we have been consulting closely with Trevor to draw on his experience. With his input we are confident we are developing a search strategy that will maximize our chances of finding the Duck and the missing men. On a recent visit to Seattle Trevor sat down with GEaR’s Nick Bratton to discuss his work and involvement in the 2014 mission.
After the slideshow and presentation that Nick gave to the Coast Guard personnel at Port Angeles Air Station in 2013, Trevor was determined to join the effort to search for the lost plane and his fellow aviators. He was ideally suited to the job. Between his mechanical qualifications, weapons skills, and mountaineering experience, Trevor was a walking Swiss Army knife. After his initial application to the announcement for the 2014 mission was rejected, a second chance came up on short notice and Trevor leapt at the opportunity. He was elated to be a part of the team.
Looking back on the 2014 mission Trevor recounts the most valuable lesson he learned: humility.
“When you are in an overwhelming battle with the elements which make Greenland so uninhabitable, you have to be 100% on your game every second of every day. It's not in the nature of Greenland to forgive.
It wasn't about triumphing over the adverse climate, but rather more about proving yourself worthy by withstanding it. Whether it was the sun exposure, the wind, the cold, or just feeling under the weather that day...it was hard. A little humility helped to put things in perspective. There is a reason only a handful of people have ever stood on those rocks in the history of mankind.”
If Trevor had the chance to go back to Koge Bay he would do a few things differently,
“Like effective equipment arrangements for the excavation site, communal tent configuration, mostly logistics stuff. If I were to go back, all I know for sure is that I would do more. There was always more to do. I was just trying to keep up with everyone else (who were all probably trying to do the same). We all handled way above and beyond what our team positions encompassed.”
When asked about his most memorable experience during his Coast Guard career, Trevor doesn’t hesitate.
“It is absolutely the Greenland expedition. Hands down. To be part of the search for the only two MIAs the Coast Guard has, there is nothing like it (I use present tense because I still feel very much involved with the ongoing efforts). It is an indescribable connection. I made some incredible friends along the way. I've not worked with better or more capable people before or since.”
Reflecting on his career, Trevor returns to a theme that GEaR has heard so often in our partnership with the Coast Guard. The most rewarding part is service, being able to help those in need where others cannot.
“I have traveled through villages in Central America after a cartel presence was diminished by the efforts of the task force my unit was a part of. I delivered supplies and medicine to Port Au Prince, Haiti during the 2010 earthquake, and spent 30 days flying rescue and assistance missions in and around the rubble that used to be their capital. I learned and reprogrammed the software in our helicopters' radios so we could communicate with search & rescue units on the ground during the Oso, WA mudslides in 2014. I worked with local rescuers near St. Louis to retrieve people from cars, trees, and patches of high ground during a major flood in the region. I was part of the biggest ice rescue case in recent history on Lake Erie near Ohio when 134 fishermen and snowmobilers were trapped on a 3-mile wide ice floe in 2009. I have helped rescue people with no other chance for survival. I have served my community, and humanity in general. I think that is a very unique opportunity that the Coast Guard affords its members.”
It is this ethic of service with a paramount focus on helping those in need that embodies what the Coast Guard is all about. It was the motivation for the daring rescue mission undertaken by John Pritchard and Benjamin Bottoms on that fateful day in November 1942, a choice that ultimately cost them their lives in the course of saving their countrymen.
When people ask GEaR why we are pursuing this mission to find these men who vanished 73 years ago, a big part of the answer is reflected in the ethic of the Coast Guard. If it had been us stranded on the ice with no chance of rescue, Pritchard and Bottoms would have come for us. We owe it to them to bring them home, that they may be reunited with their families and laid to rest on home soil with the honor they deserve.