Mineman Third Class Travis Kirckof Receives Navy and Marine Corps Medal
By Harold Hutchison
When the mine-countermeasure ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) hit a reef in the Philippines, it began a two-day ordeal. Now, one hero of that ordeal is being recognized for his actions during the fight to save the vessel.
According to a report by the Navy Times, Mineman Third Class (Surface Warfare) Travis Kirckof was sleeping in his bunk when he was jolted awake by the ship hitting the reef and the sounds of the collision alarm. What happened next would be legendary, as Kirckof, who also qualified as a search-and-rescue swimmer, would proceed to help dozens of his shipmates to safety.
When orders came to abandon the stricken vessel, a senior chief jumped overboard in an effort to reassure other crewmen who were frightened. The sailor soon was in trouble, slammed by the surf and captured by a rip tide. Kirckof went in to the ocean to rescue him. For the next five hours, Kirckof would continue efforts, aiding shipmates to life rafts, completely disregarding the fact that the ship had run aground in waters infested with sharks.
Kirkoff made repeated swims of 70 yards, working past exhaustion. Shipmates tossed him sodas and canned food to keep up his energy, while Kirckof ignored the toll his efforts were taking.
“I was amped,” he told the Navy Times. “I never thought I would get the opportunity to rescue anyone, so this was a chance to do my job.”
After the entire crew was safe, Kirckof’s body finally gave out, and he was pulled onto a boat. No member of the crew suffered injuries worse than minor cuts or sunburn.
On 11 April, Kirckof was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.