2018 Coast Guardsman of the Year
Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Omar Alba
When Puerto Rico was pummeled by the 2017 hurricane season, it left the island without power, access to essential supplies or drivable roads.
Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Omar Alba, who was stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, realized he had the equipment to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Alba, who enjoys off-roading when he’s not working, has a modified Jeep that could handle the island’s tree-strewn terrain. He loaded the Jeep up with water, food and supplies and took off across Puerto Rico.
Alba spent about 40 days delivering food, water and medical supplies to churches around the island, cutting through the trees to create a path until the roads were cleared.
“I would literally make a road,” he said. “I was plowing through everything finding these people.”
Alba, now 34, also was among the first rescue swimmers to reach the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
After 12 years in the Coast Guard, Alba says he found a career that is perfect for him.
“Something about the medical world and water brought a lot of happiness to me.”