Avalon Harbor Patrol officer to get Medal of Valor

Protectors of the coast, public to be honored at Lifeguard Medal of Valor Dinner on July 28

Courtesy photo Harbor Patrol Officer William Flickinger.

An Avalon Harbor Patrol officer will be honored for rescuing a fellow officer later this month.

The 2021 International Surf Festival Lifeguard Medal of Valor dinner returns this year after being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dinner’s theme “Protectors of the Coast and Public” succinctly reflects the actions of the evening’s diverse group of honorees, which run from white-knuckle heroic to exemplary. In addition to the Medal of Valor, two Distinguished Service Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented.

The Medal of Valor will be presented to Avalon Harbor Patrol Officer William Flickinger for his heroic rescue of a fellow Harbor Patrol Officer who was trapped underwater beneath his capsized patrol boat with the engine running and it spinning in circles out of control—in reverse.

Avalon Harbor Patrol Officer William Flickinger

On Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 William Flickinger, of the Avalon Harbor Patrol on Catalina Island, responded to a report of another Harbor Patrol vessel completely overturned, with its engine still engaged and spinning out of control — in reverse.

After requesting backup from Avalon Harbor Patrol and L.A. County Lifeguard Baywatch paramedics, Flickinger—without regard to his own safety and while fully clothed—jumped into the water, dove under the spinning boat and pulled the unconscious fellow Harbor Patrol officer out of this life-threatening situation.

With the assistance of other Harbor Patrol officers, the victim was rushed to the Green Pleasure Pier where Lifeguard paramedics treated him.

The injured Harbor Patrol officer has since recovered from this harrowing experience as a direct result of the heroic lifesaving efforts of Harbor Patrol Officer Flickinger.

• The Distinguished Service Award will be presented to the 70-member team of L.A. County Fire Department Ocean Lifeguards who were deployed to assist at the many Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites as a supplement to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health efforts to control the pandemic throughout the County.

The Distinguished Service Award will be presented to the Los Angeles County Department of Beach and Harbors staff in the Operational Services Division.

These unsung heroes ensure daily that the 55 million annual beach visitors find a safe and welcoming environment.

“We are delighted to recognize these individuals who embody going above and beyond the call of duty,” said Rob McGowan, president of the ISF.

“Whether it is white-knuckle heroism as demonstrated by Officer Flickinger, or a selfless commitment to help their community illustrated by the actions of the Lifeguards, or the unsung heroes of the Beaches and Harbors staff sharing the singular mission with the Lifeguards to create a safe and welcoming environment for beachgoers, these awards are well-deserved and the actions worthy of recognition,” said McGowan.

The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Rob McGowan in recognition of his more than 40 years protecting beachgoers, while rising through the ranks of the Los Angeles County Fire Departmentt Lifeguard Division and retiring as a captain.

McGowan’s philanthropic work continues with groups whose mission it is to promote beach and water safety, protect the coast, mentor the next generation of lifeguards and maintain high standards for the professional ocean lifeguard.

The 41st annual Lifeguard Medal of Valor Awards moves to a new location for 2021.

The dinner will be held at the King Harbor Yacht Club, which is not far from the Redondo Beach Seaside Lagoon, its previous location for decades.

The Lifeguard MOV Awards continue to be presented in conjunction with the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber is always honored to recognize these heroic and inspirational individuals, and to have supported the Lifeguard Medal of Valor dinner for over the past 40 years,” said Dominik Knoll, president/CEO of the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“It is always our pleasure to shine a deserving spotlight on the dedicated professionals who protect our beachgoers,” Knoll said.

The ISF is presented by Beachsport.org, the Chambers of Commerce and Cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as the L.A. County Fire Department and the Department of Beaches and Harbors.

The host city this year is Torrance.

The ISF promotes the four South Bay cities, the world’s finest lifeguard service, and physical fitness for thousands of its participants. The three signature events for the festival are the Judge Taplin Lifeguard Medley Relay, the Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim, and the Charley Saikley 6-Man Volleyball Tournament. Other great events include a surfing contest, beach run, body surfing contest, paddleboard races, dory race and youth events.

Other honorees include:

• 2021 Distinguished Service Award – Department of Beaches and Harbors

For more than 80 years, the Beach Maintenance crews of Los Angeles County have maintained and protected the 75 miles of L.A. County coastline.

During the last 40 years, those duties have fallen under the responsibilities of the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors.

Arriving before dawn, 365 days a year, the often-unsung men and women of the Operational Services Division keep the 75 miles of coastline and 25 miles of beaches in pristine condition.

They rake the sand, clean the restrooms, remove debris, maintain the facilities, repair, position and paint the lifeguard towers, in order to provide the over 55 million annual visitors to the beach a safe and welcoming environment.

They successfully accomplish these tasks quietly, expertly, and with a pride of service, which is always on display.

2021 Distinguished Service Award:

• L A County Fire Department Lifeguard Covid-19 Response Team

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles County Fire Departmenta created a Special Response Team (SRT) to help supplement the efforts of the L.A. County Department of Public Health in addressing the Covid-19 crisis.

For the past 15 months, the SRT — primarily consisting of highly-trained Ocean Lifeguards (recurrent employees) — staffed the numerous testing and vaccination sites available to the public throughout the County.

From Pomona to Inglewood, these 70 Lifeguards, worked within a unified command structure and assisted with logistics, planning and set-up.

Their many years of dealing with emergency situations—including medical responses, combined with daily interactions with the public at the beach and their ability to work and solve problems on their own—were all major assets in the Covid-19 response efforts.

As a result, the Lifeguards unequivocally demonstrated that without their unique and professional skill set, the overall response by L.A. County would not have been as successful as it was.

This Distinguished Service Award recognizes the talents and efforts of the SRT members.

• 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award – Rob McGowan

Rob McGowan spent 41 years protecting the beachgoers of California before retiring as a Captain Ocean Lifeguard from the L.A. County Fire Department Lifeguard Division in 2009.

He is currently the president of the International Surf Festival.

Throughout his career and following his retirement, Rob is active in groups whose mission it is to promote beach and ocean water safety, protection and enjoyment of the beaches, mentoring the next generation of aquatic lifesavers, while raising the awareness throughout the world of the important role of the professional Ocean Lifeguard.

In 2009, Rob retired as the Southern Section Lifeguard Headquarters Captain, ending 40 years of working at the beach.

However, if you were to include his time as an L.A. County Junior Guard starting at age nine, Rob has been actively involved in a professional lifeguarding environment for more than 60 years.

Rob was promoted to Senior Ocean Lifeguard in 1984 and became a Captain Ocean Lifeguard in 1992. During his tenure, Rob worked every L.A. County Lifeguard Department section in the county, except Catalina Island.

Early in his career, as a recurrent (seasonal) lifeguard for L.A. County, Rob taught Junior Lifeguards at Zuma and Torrance Beaches.

Several of his students would go on to become permanent ocean lifeguards and officers.

Rob competed as a lifeguard, placing in the Taplin and Intracrew at the ISF, and in several other events at regional, national and international competitions. Swimming, paddling and Ironman events were his favorite.

Rob has served and chaired the boards of the California Surf Lifesaving Association, as president, and as an executive committee member and Competition Committee Chair of the United States Lifesaving Association.

While serving the USLA, he had the honor to represent the United States in several international locations including Australia, Japan, Germany and South Africa.

In addition to his role as president of the ISF, he also is the event coordinator for the ISF Lifeguard Events, a two-night display of ocean lifesaving prowess and athleticism from the lifeguards of L.A. County, and beaches throughout California, who compete against each other.

Rob is the proud father of three sons, Morgan, Taylor, and Hunter and has one grandson, Carter. Morgan is a Huntington Beach City recurrent lifeguard, and Taylor is a recurrent L.A County Ocean Lifeguard.

Both are assigned as Junior Lifeguard Instructors.

They both are also school teachers.

Hunter is a world traveler who works for a prominent nationally ranked accounting firm.

Rob recently moved from Manhattan Beach. He currently resides in Huntington Beach so he can be grandson-adjacent.

Avalon Harbor Patrol officer to get Medal of Valor