Happy 65th birthday, Coast Guard Auxillary!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 20, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

They are volunteers, whose devotion to America’s boating public is extraordinary! They range in age, economic backgrounds, prior military service, locations in the country, and their interest.

Some like to teach, some like to work search and rescue, while still others are very happy conducting a radio watch. In the post 9-11 environment they have filled gaps and taken on new responsibilities in unprecedented numbers – earning the admiration of a grateful nation.

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Who are they? They’re the most unique of volunteer organizations: the men and women of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, who celebrate their 65th birthday this week! They are a group so dedicated that every American owes them a debt of gratitude, especially those with recreational boats.

What is the Coast Guard Auxiliary? Established by Congress in 1939 the Coast Guard Auxiliary currently has over 35,000 volunteers across the continental United States and in locations such as the Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

They are involved in a wide range of critical functions, from conducting vessel safety checks, educating boaters, and conducting non-law enforcement patrols to search and rescue.

They willingly give their time, on weekends and at night, whenever there is a need. There &uot;can do&uot; attitude is simply extraordinary.

The amount of effort that these volunteers provide are impressive. According to a Coast Guard message called an &uot;ALCOAST&uot;, (in this case ALCOAST 550/03) the Coast Guard Auxiliary (as of December 18th, 2003):

saved 332 lives, assisted 9,548 others, and conducted 102,620 vessel safety checks and 1236 commercial fishing vessel safety exams. Auxiliarists spent over 11,000 hours in the air (yes they use their own aircraft on missions), 170,000 hours on surface patrols (in their own boats), and over 58,000 hours in the classroom conducting public education.

Auxiliary members who own Personal Watercraft (PWC)s even patrol in that type of vessel.

During the years that I spent in the Coast Guard, before retirement, I had the opportunity to work very closely with the Auxiliary on three occasions that validated there extraordinary effort. In 1992 I was onboard USCGC GALLATIN in the middle of New York Harbour for a tallship event. The Auxiliary was everywhere, contributing over 100 boats and crews to the events. They responded when vessels got in trouble or when someone onboard was injured.

Fast forward to 1994, as a Search and Rescue Controller in San Juan Puerto Rico it was the Auxiliary out of St Thomas that conducted a dramatic Search and Rescue case, saving a crew in distress. In 2000, during OP SAIL MAINE the Auxiliary involvement made the event safe, secure and a model for future tallship events.

What does all this add up? Why, to your United States Auxiliary are a national treasure – and everyone of us should wish them a very happy 65th birthday.

Until next week…Boat Safe and Boat Smart!