What is it Like to Train with the Coast Guard Auxiliary?

I never knew there was a volunteer arm of the Coast Guard until I met a woman in town, and we started chatting. She started talking about all these cool things that she does with the Coast Guard, and I couldn’t believe it. She was well into her 50s, but yet was out there marching in parades, handing out life preservers, doing safety checks, and helping out in the community right along with Coast Guard Enlistees. I wanted to learn more, and now I’m a proud member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The Coast Guard officially started back in the late 1930s and early 1940s. On June 23, 1939, Congressional legislation formed the “Coast Guard Reserve” as a volunteer civilian organization designed to promote recreational boating safety and to help facilitate the operations of the U.S. Coast Guard.  In February of 1941 the name of the Reserve was officially changed to the Auxiliary, and in June 1942 Congressional legislation allowed Auxiliarists to enroll part-time as members of the Coast Guard Reserve.

So far, my experience has been a bit of a whirlwind. I first met with the Human Resources Officer back in December to fill out my initial paperwork and go through a background check. A couple of months later, I received approval to proceed and headed over to the Coast Guard Exchange in Warrenton to buy my uniform. Soon I was learning how to salute, plot navigation, and tie a variety of boating knots. My initial training was a combination of online and in-classroom instruction.

You can choose a host of duties as an Auxiliarist member. You can be in Public Relations, Human Resources, work in the kitchen, or go out on boat patrol, to name just a few. You can even help with air patrols or communications. Because I love the water, I decided to sign up for boat duty, and last weekend I went out for training on the Columbia River for the first time, right near the bar. It was a day I’ll never forget.

We spent the day practicing the correct procedures for boat towing. You would think that connecting a tow rope to the bow of a disabled boat and then connecting it to your stern would be a relatively simple procedure, but add rising swells, swift current, surrounding boat traffic, and new team members to the mix, and well, it wasn’t easy at all. Each time we practiced though it went smoother than the last. Next, we practiced side-by-side towing, which is what is required to bring a disabled boat into the dock. That procedure includes three tow lines. Line one connects the bows, line two is in the center, and line four secures both sterns. I have no idea why there isn’t a line three!

I learned many fascinating things. For example, on a side-by-side tow, the driving boat must have their stern beyond the disabled boat’s stern, or you won’t be able to make turns. I learned how to call out and repeat orders down the line because if you don’t call out the people on one end of the boat can’t hear the people on the other end of the boat. You have to be quick too. Things happen quickly out on the water and you have to stay alert. I was amazed at how fast the day went by.

That day I also received my cold-weather gear, including a dry suit, wetsuit, gloves, hood, and a bunch more official Coast Guard Auxiliary gear. It’s apparent that I have many more days of training ahead of me, and I’m excited to learn from the best.

My shipmates in Flotiila 62 are some of the most helpful people I’ve ever met. Many of them are retired Coast Guard enlistees, and they are very passionate about their work and keeping people safe when they’re out on the river or ocean. They come from diverse walks of life, yet share a comradery that is extraordinary. We have regular social gatherings, and the more time I spend with them, the more impressed I am with their service to others.

If you would like more information about joining the Coast Guard Auxiliary or would like to request its involvement in a community event, please reach out. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is always ready to welcome new members, and there are several Flotillas in the area.

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