Coast Guard honors retired Surfman

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Boatswain’s Mate Wayne M. Bauer, center, was inducted into the ranks of the service’s elite “Surfmen” during a ceremony at USCG Station Depoe Bay last week. Flanking Bauer were, left to right, BM1 Andrew Port, MKC (ret.) Paul Carver, BMCS Christopher Hinote and BMC Derek Seehagen. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

DEPOE BAY — A living legend of the U.S. Coast Guard was saluted last week by a new generation of heroes.

Surrounded by the men and women of USCG Station Depoe Bay, retired Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Wayne M. Bauer, 73, was inducted into the elite ranks of the Surfmen, intrepid experts at driving motor lifeboats into the most harrowing conditions.

Bauer, an Oshkosh, Wisc. native who settled in Depoe Bay after a 26-year career, began his service in 1967 at Coast Guard Station Chetco River in Brookings, one of nine USCG “surf stations” on the Oregon coast that specialize in heavy-sea rescues.

His quiet competence elevated him through the ranks, serving aboard cutters and making chief at Port Isabel, Texas. But he said he was content in the busy and self-reliant surf stations on the Umpqua and Chetco rivers and the harbors of Depoe Bay and Garibaldi.

“I enjoyed my career and the people I worked with,” commented Bauer, who accepted a “shadow box” with a U.S. flag and a collection of the many awards and honors he acquired. “This is a real honor and I appreciate it very much.”

Among the commendations in the display was the lofty Coast Guard Medal, awarded for a hair-raising rescue on the Umpqua River bar where Bauer saved the lives of two people aboard a sinking boat.

“It’s one of our highest awards, and he earned it,” said BM1 Andrew Port, Surfman No. 426, who explained that Bauer met the high standards of the elite badge-holders before the registry was formed. “This ceremony was a tradition that wasn’t around then, and in my opinion he deserved it.”

Bauer was also presented with a “check,” a bronze coin emblazoned with “No. 120,” his new place in the exclusive ranks of Surfmen. There are currently about 200 Surfmen in the Coast Guard, and only about 500 badges have ever been issued. Four of those are held by women.

The Dec. 21 formation was led by Senior Chief Chris Hinote, with 35 members of the station and a contingent of on-duty and retired Surfmen from Depoe Bay and Station Yaquina Bay in Newport at the event. Among the Surfmen in attendance were BM1 Port, BMC Walter Morey, BMC Derek Seehagen, Chief Hinote, BM1 Jake Albinio (retired) and BMC Steve Frey (retired)

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