By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2006 – Underneath a portrait of Czar Peter the Great, the Russian Ambassador to the United States presented two U. S. officers with the Order of Friendship for their parts in rescuing submariners trapped underwater off the Kamchatka peninsula in August 2005.

Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov presented the awards, the highest honor to non-Russian citizens, to Air Force Maj. Patrick Poon and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Smith in a ceremony at the Russian Embassy here. Both men said it was due to the combined efforts of all on the team that seven Russian submariners survived their Priz AS-28 deep submergence submarine ordeal.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace and Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph attended the ceremony.

On Aug. 5, 2005, the 45-foot long craft became entangled in discarded fishing nets in Russian Far East waters. The disabled submarine was stuck at 600 feet, and time was a crucial factor in rescuing the crew. “I got the call at 8 a. m. and by 1 p. m. I was on a plane heading toward Kamchatka,” said Poon, commander of Detachment 1, 36th Contingency Response Group, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

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