During the unprecedented hurricane season of 2017 six hurricanes became major storms that wreaked havoc and caused billions of dollars of damage.
One of the storms, Hurricane Harvey, was the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in more than 10 years. Harvey made landfall on three separate occasions destroying approximately 1,500 homes and unleashing some 52 inches of rain across the Greater Houston area and parts of the Texas coast during a five-day deluge.
As an MH-65D Aircraft Commander, LT Bukata distinguished himself as part of the Coast Guard’s response to Harvey. An award citation recognizing his contribution states, “As the right seat pilot, Lieutenant BUKATA heroically conducted the Coast Guard’s first rescues in Houston, launching at 0230L well below operational weather minimums, into unfamiliar operating area at night with winds gusting over 80 knots, visibility below 50 feet and torrential rain to respond to a critically ill pregnant woman trapped by rising waters in her attic. Timing the 150-foot hoists between bands of life-threatening weather, he surgically placed the swimmer between high-voltage power lines and 125-foot trees to reach the roof. Due to massive amounts of water intrusion, the crew endured multiple aircraft emergencies during the rescue of additional family members. The loss of critical avionics, internal communication, and aircraft stabilization systems coupled with the violent motion of the aircraft from 60 knot gusts made just hovering an arduous act and hoisting a true aeronautical feat. Following a hoist failure on the subsequent rescue, the crew was forced to leave the swimmer on scene.”
The citation continues “As the only available resource at this early stage of the response, the crew returned with a new aircraft to complete the rescue. Confined by power lines and below the tree line, Lieutenant BUKATA performed a high-risk physical grip rescue at 20 feet to save an infant swept into swift water. Despite additional water intrusion once again causing more systems and aircraft stabilization to fail, the crew performed a historic on-load in a nearby neighborhood, packing the cabin with 14 survivors along with the 4 crew members. Lieutenant BUKATA’s aeronautical skill and heroism were instrumental in the rescue of 108 people.”
LT Bukata was instrumental in the service’s rescue and recovery effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. As a results of his aeronautical skill and heroism from 26 August to 01 September 2017, LT Bukata was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.