On Sunday, May 1, Sea Cadet Joseph Wilkins, 17, was spending the day like many coastal Californians do – surfing. What started as a normal day on the ocean took a dramatic turn.
“I was paddling out and felt that the conditions were pretty rough. As I’m paddling out, I see that a group of five were caught in a rip current and my immediate thought was to jump into action,” Wilkins told us.
Wilkins is a Sea Cadet with Ben Moreell Battalion. Having surfed at Hueneme Beach before, he was familiar with the strong rip currents that are common to this area.
Wilkins was able to see that three of the five were capable swimmers so he gave them specific instructions on how to ride the waves back to shore and moved his attention to the other two individuals.
“I could see that the other two couldn’t swim, so I put them on my surfboard and let them use it to get to shore,” Wilkins recounted. He got everyone safely to shore and placed the two individuals in rescue positions. Reassessing the situation, he saw that one of them was in bad shape. Thinking on his feet, he asked a bystander to call 911 and relay to the operator that he had two individuals in “red condition” and three in “yellow condition.”
First responders arrived quickly to assist. Duncan Shuler, one of the first on the scene from the Ventura County Fire Department, said, “Without the actions of this individual, two of the swimmers would have drowned; and the other three may have been in a much worse situation.”
Wilkins said that his time as a Sea Cadet and his training with the Ventura County Lifeguard Team gave him the skills he needed to act quickly. All of the cadets in Ben Moreell Battalion were certified in CPR and First Aid this past October, reports the unit’s commanding officer Lt. Randy Montrose.
On May 8, Wilkins was honored for his quick thinking and bravery at a ceremony where he received the NSCC Honor Ribbon. Also in attendance were the Mayor of Port Hueneme, members of the City Council of Port Hueneme, the Chief of Police of Port Hueneme, members of the Ventura County Fire Department, his school’s assistant principal, and various teachers.
Wilkins is a senior in high school and plans to join the Navy after graduation. He would like to become a Master-at-Arms (MA).