Sailor of the Yr Cale Foy trains to save lots of lives

Before joining the United States Navy, Cale Foy was not one to focus on fitness. That all changed when he joined him in March 2005. His uncle David Foy spoke to him about the Navy after Cale graduated from high school. At the time, Cale was working in his father's electrician's shop.

"After six months at this job, I didn't want to do it anymore," Foy said. David guided young Cale through the initial stages of the process, but when he was in a recruiter's office and saw images of a soldier jumping out of a helicopter, he knew what he wanted to do.

"I was like, ' more talking. Let's do this,'” he recalled.

Fitness became an important part of his life because of this commitment, and it is now an integral part of his life. The training includes five days of weights and cardio, as well as various exercises with simulations of situations in which he has to act. All of that training and preparation was key to what would become the most memorable act of his military career.

Courtesy of Cale Foy

As of May 2, 2021, Cale Foy had served his country and people for almost 16 years. While his family was hiking at Point Loma in San Diego, California, they noticed a boat approaching shore. When Foy's wife saw people jumping out of the boat, Foy knew he had to help. He would be accompanied by another person who volunteered to help.

"I would say the boat was 20% fiberglass and 80% wood," he said. “There was wood everywhere. Life jackets were on display. I would say the majority of people were chest deep and the waves were crashing on them.”

Foy didn't remember how cold the water was when he went in, but he said he didn't feel it because of the adrenaline rush at the time. There are rocks at the bottom of the water and they can't see where they're stepping, which meant they risked stepping on a rock or twisting their ankle before they could even start swimming toward the boat's passengers.

"I would say we rescued 10 to 15 people who were chest-deep at first and just put them on shore," Foy explained. "They couldn't swim and didn't have life jackets on. They had half their stuff with them and it weighed on them.”

There was another survivor standing on rocks, so Foy asked him to point in the direction he saw people fighting back so he and his fellow volunteer rescuer could reach them. The two meter waves made the effort even harder, but they didn't give up.

“We went through a current that took us two to three minutes to get through and waves that pounded on us. I remember getting stuck against a rock once, but you just have to keep swimming.”

At one point Foy was able to reach a part of the boat that was still buoyant, so he paused briefly to lean on it. Even with the fiberglass digging into his arm, the brief pause was crucial. He and the other swimmer could hear people screaming for help, so they quickly regrouped and moved on. Before they continued, Foy gave his cohort one last piece of advice.

"If someone is drowning and you're trying to help them, all they're thinking about is staying afloat, which means they might be trying to hold you down. You have to make a decision. Do whatever you have to do to survive.”

Marine Cal Foy with another rescuerCourtesy of Cal Foy

Cale Foy said the partner was able to save five other people by getting them into the still-floating cabin. Foy himself had saved a few more. When they saw no more survivors, he decided to focus on recovery and pulling the bodies of those who did not survive from the water as well. Once he swam with two people at the same time. All this in simple clothes and without his bathing suit.

He had seen a Coast Guard boat in the distance but was unable to catch up with it or get its attention. Eventually, a lifeguard boat emerged to offer further assistance. They rescued another survivor and retrieved other people when they saw them. Foy even provided CPR and shocks to another victim while riding the lifeboat.

"I remember feeling the shock every time because I was still wet," he recalled. Eventually, firefighters and other responders arrived, but they had to evacuate everyone in the area. Foy's family had to go home not knowing what had happened to him. When he had time to rest and briefly decompress, he called his family to reassure them that he was safe. Three people would not survive this event, but Foy and the other swimmer were responsible for saving numerous lives. He would feel the after-effects of his efforts for several days, both physically and mentally.

"I was bloody sore," he said emphatically. “Training will not prepare you for this. Training five days a week certainly helped, but it was the mental aspect that hit me the hardest. I had to talk to a buddy about it and get it out. I brought in another lifeguard because we always see the weirdest and scariest things."

Foy expressed that other trained lifeguards had done the same. For some reason he was the one who was there and he made a tremendous difference that didn't go unnoticed. For his efforts, he was honored by being named Military Times Sailor of the Year.

Petty Officer Cale Foy receives the Sailor of the Year awardCourtesy of Cale Roy

"It was the pinnacle of my career," Foy said proudly. He actually found out he received the honor during a family vacation. When he received the first call, he thought it was a prank and actually ended the call. The person who shared the news called him back and at the same time emailed him information to confirm he was truly honored.

"I was used to getting strange calls from my friends. So I thought it was a joke," he said. "Of course it turned out to be very serious."

Petty Officer Cale Foy is currently an E6 Naval Aircrewman, First Class. Aside from the Seaman of the Year award, he has received other honors for his bravery and dedication to service. If asked to reflect on his career to date, the husband and father of three wouldn't trade it for the world. He also extends an invitation to others who wish to do the same.

“Military service is about more than boot camp and hopefully a 9-to-5 job. It's about serving your country and being a part of bigger things in your life than yourself. If you are the kind of person who enjoys serving others and making them feel better and trying to better themselves, then we need you.”

You can follow Cale Foy on LinkedIn.

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