During the 2005 hurricane season, Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast causing an estimated 1,833 people to be killed in the hurricane and the flooding that followed. Millions of people were left homeless along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. The hurricane caused approximately $161 billion in damage, and is the costliest hurricane on record.
As an HH-60J Aircraft Commander, LT Vislay distinguished himself as part of the Coast Guard’s response to Katrina. His citation reads “Demonstrating exceptional aeronautical skill, Lieutenant Commander Vislay flew in excess of 44 day and night hours. Commanding the second HH-60J on-scene, Lieutenant Commander Vislay surged through winds exceeding 50 knots, delivering Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency leaders to ground zero, ultimately providing a real-time assessment of the unfolding disaster which reached the highest levels of the federal government. Following this critical mission, Lieutenant Commander Vislay bravely flew to rooftop level, navigating through a network of utility wires and power lines while using night vision goggles to successfully rescue 15 survivors, all the while fighting 45 knot wind gusts.”
His citation continues “On the night of 31 August 2005, Lieutenant Commander Vislay undertook a second night mission. After skillfully avoiding four helicopters within a one square block area; he safely evacuated two critically ill patients from an unlit hospital pad. He then located a family frantically signaling from a home engulfed by the flood. While sustaining a motionless hover, Lieutenant Commander Vislay directed a litter hoist to rescue a comatose, handicapped survivor in the attic; the hoist involved threading the litter through a four foot jagged hole and any movement would have caused certain injury to the swimmer and survivor.”
His citation continues “On 1 September 2005, Lieutenant Commander Vislay displayed incredible physical endurance, saving 96 lives from a hotel roof, while operating his aircraft at its maximum performance capability. On 3 September 2005, he located a family of six trapped in their backyard. From 100 feet, he lowered the basket through an intricate web of wires hidden in the shadows of night, barely avoiding entanglement on each hoist.”
As a result of his actions from 29 August 2005 to 6 September 2005, LCDR Vislay saved 167 storm victims. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his aeronautical skill and valor in Hurricane Katrina.