SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On Aug. 26, National Commodore Nicholas Kerigan will open the 2010 Coast Guard Auxiliary National Conference at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale. While the Arizona desert seems an unlikely venue for seafarers to meet, some 200 members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary serve on Arizona’s lakes and rivers.
Auxiliary members will share experiences, review policies, train and elect a new National Commodore, a new National Vice Commodore, and three new regional Area Commodores for the Atlantic, Midwest, and Pacific regions. About 800 Auxiliary members are expected as well as active-duty Coast Guardsmen and women and guests.
A Force Multiplier
The conference will focus on “Leadership, Performance & Readiness.” Coast Guard Auxiliary members, all civilian volunteers, train as boat coxswains, boat-crew members, aircraft pilots and observers, radio operators, cooks, and in other roles to support the many and varied missions of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a force multiplier to the Coast Guard.
Boating always has been one of America’s favorite pastimes. Rowing and yachting races were among the most popular spectator sports through the 1930s. The wealth generated in post Civil War America, along with the growth of railroads, spurred the development of resorts, country homes, and the suburbs — all places to go boating.
The federal government began to construct large dams, reservoirs, and lake systems during the Depression, adding to waterways. With the development of the single-operator motorboat and the outboard engine at the turn of the twentieth century, the number of recreational boaters skyrocketed.
In 1939, the Coast Guard reported that there were more than 300,000 boats operating in federal waters. In the previous year it had received 14,000 calls for assistance and had responded to 8,600 “in peril” cases — a record number.
Boaters needed to be better trained in seamanship and federal law. At the same time, civilian yachtsmen were pressing the Coast Guard to establish a volunteer arm of the service.
Birth Date: June 23, 1939
As a result of these demands, on June 23, 1939, the Congress passed legislation that established the Coast Guard Reserve, its volunteer civilian component, to promote boating safety and to facilitate the operations of the Coast Guard.
Groups of boat owners were organized into flotillas and these into divisions within Coast Guard Districts around the country. Members initially conducted safety and security patrols and helped enforce the provisions of the 1940 Federal Boating and Espionage Acts.
Then in February 1941, a military reserve was created and the volunteer Reserve was renamed the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Following America’s entry into the World War II in December of 1941, recruits flooded into Auxiliary flotillas in a burst of patriotic fever. June 1942 legislation allowed Auxiliarists to enroll in the Coast Guard Reserve on a part-time, temporary basis. Throughout the war, some 50,000 Auxiliarists constituted the core of the temporary Reserve membership.
These reservists, along with newly enrolled civilians, performed coastal defense and search and rescue duties. They patrolled bridges, factories, docks, and beaches. They fought fires, made arrests, guided naval vessels, and conducted anti-submarine warfare.
As their ranks grew, thousands of active duty Coast Guard personnel were freed up for service overseas.
Four Cornerstone Missions
Following the war, by 1950, the four traditional Auxiliary cornerstone missions of public education, operations, vessel examination, and fellowship had been established. The public education program yearly trains tens of thousands of boaters in seamanship, piloting, rules of the road, and weather, among other topics.
Specially qualified coxswain and crew members conduct search and rescue missions in their own boats and support Coast Guard missions. Auxiliary pilots and air observers search for boaters in distress, floating hazards, pollution spills, and ice-locked vessels.
Communications watch standers handle distress calls at Coast Guard and Auxiliary radio stations. Vessel examiners conduct Vessel Safety Checks under which recreational vessels are examined for properly installed federally required equipment and systems.
The Auxiliary has continued to grow with more than 30,000 members in the United States and its territories. Training is held at every level from the flotilla to national training schools. Leadership and management training, award programs, and data management systems ensure a high level of professionalism.
In 1996, new legislation expanded the Auxiliary’s role to allow members to assist in any Coast Guard mission, except direct law enforcement and military operations, as authorized by the Commandant. Auxiliarists can be found examining commercial fishing vessels, flying in C-130 aircraft, working in Coast Guard offices, and crewing with regulars.
Active Duty Coastguardsmen, Reservists, civilian employees, retirees, and Auxiliarists constitute Team Coast Guard.
Lives, Dollars Saved
In 2009, Auxiliary efforts resulted in 256 lives’ being saved, 4,351 persons’ being assisted, and $29.6 million dollars in property being saved. The Auxiliary fields over 5,000 watercraft and 200 aircraft and mans more than 2,641 radio stations throughout the USA.
The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the largest volunteer marine safety organization in the world and has fostered similar ones in other countries. During its more than sixty years, it has lived up to its motto of “A Proud Tradition, A Worthy Mission.”
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