Honoring LT Colleen Cain, USCG Aviator

by Jess Clackum

LT Colleen Cain, USCG. First female HH-52A helicopter pilot. Portrait by Leonora Rae Smith.

LT Colleen Cain, USCG. First female HH-52A helicopter pilot. Portrait by Leonora Rae Smith.

LT Colleen Cain, Iowa native and graduate of the University of Santa Clara, made history when, as a Reservist, she became the third female Coast Guard aviator and the first female helicopter pilot in the United States Coast Guard.

LT Cain earned her commission at OCS in 1976, earned her private pilot’s license in 1977 and selected for flight training the following year and became Coast Guard aviator #1988 In June 1979.

Cain, who earned her qualifications as co-pilot, first pilot and aircraft commander, received the Coast Guard Achievement Medal in 1980, following her participation in the rescue of a three-year old boy who had fallen into the water during a fishing trip.

In the early morning hours of January 7, 1982, LT Cain, CDR Horton “Buzz” Johnson, and Petty Officer 2nd Class David Thompson departed Air Station Barbers Point in extremely rough weather in response to a distress call from a sinking fishing vessel with seven persons on board.

Just after 5 am, communications with the CG1420 were lost. Nine hours later, the wreckage of the Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard was discovered, having crashed into the side of a mountain in Molokai’s Wailua Valley.

In 1985, the USCG Reserve Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia honored the memory of LT Cain by naming its 100-room residence hall “Cain Hall”.