Coast Guard Auxiliary hits the big 6-6 mark

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 26, 2005

They are one of the greatest volunteer organizations in the United States, yet they don’t even receive 1/50th of the recognition that they should. They fill critical roles on the water, ashore and in the classroom supporting the United States Coast Guard.

They dedicate hundreds of thousands of hours to training and contribute to actual operations while becoming one of the most trusted authorities on boating safety around the world. They wear the same basic uniform as an active or reserve member of the Coast Guard, yet their buttons and shoulder boards (which are silver and bear an &uot;A&uot; on them) are a little different. They hold no rate or rank.

Who is this great group? It’s the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, which celebrated its 66th birthday on Friday, recognizing an organization which I believe is one of the best aspects of the my service, going about their work in a quiet professional manner – the epitome of selfless service.

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Started on June 23, 1939, the Auxiliary is best known (and have been spotlighted before in this column) for their Boating Safety classes and instruction. Here in Hampton Roads local units such as Flotilla 58, operating in Portsmouth and Flotilla 61 in Hampton are examples of those local members who conduct public education and outreach.

Auxiliary members not only teach boating classes, but they also work with the boating public conducting safety checks pier-side helping to ensure the safest possible experience for recreational boaters on the water.

What most people often forget about the Auxiliary is that their contribution goes well beyond teaching.

In fact, since the passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 the Auxiliary has been involved in all types of support including search and rescue operations.

To re-enforce the level of support the Auxiliary provides let me give you some facts and figures from the Coast Guard Headquarter G-OCX Web site which will probably be an eye-opener:

On an average Day, the Coast Guard Auxiliary……

-Completes 62.5 safety patrols

-Completes 6.2 regatta patrols

-Performs 10.2 vessel assists

-Assists 28 people

-Saves one life

-Saves $341,290 in property

-Participates in 100 operational support missions

-Participates in 48.7 administrative support missions

-Completes 13.4 recruiting support missions

-Educates 369 people on boating safety

-Performs 299 vessel safety checks

-Attends 70 public affairs functions

Pretty impressive huh!?

The Auxiliary is nationwide with volunteer members in all 50 states, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands of St Thomas and St Croix.

I have actually worked with Auxiliary members in Puerto Rico during high-speed jet boat races in San Juan harbor, in St Thomas on countless search and rescue and in Maine during OPSAIL. Their professionalism and dedication is second to none!

Interested in joining Auxiliary after hearing about all their activities? For more information contact the local Flotilla via the following Web site:

Until next week, Boat Safe…Boat Smart!

Joe DiRenzo is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and lives in Suffolk. He can be reached at