Auxiliary Celebrates 71 Years of Supporting USCG

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Diana Gish/KMXT

Wednesday marked the 71st anniversary of the formation of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The volunteer arm of the Coast Guard was created by order of congress on June 23, 1939, to promote boating safety and to support Coast Guard operations.

In Kodiak, Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis describes the auxiliary as it is today, seven decades after it was launched.

(USCG Aux 1 "The Coast Guard … the Coast Guard.")

Auxiliary volunteers are organized into flotillas within Coast Guard districts

(USCG Aux 2 "We do have … fill their time.")

The Coast Guard Auxiliary grew out of an upsurge in recreational boating which started with the popularity of rowing and yachting races in the 1930s. Post Civil War wealth, and the growth of railroads, spurred the development of resorts which further increased the pastime’s popularity. Turn-of-the-century outboard engines and single-operator motorboats along with the dams, reservoirs and lakes constructed during the Depression, helped recreational boating skyrocket. In 1939, the Coast Guard reported that there were more than 300,000 boaters operating in federal waters, many of whom needed better training in seamanship and maritime laws. Around the same time, civilian yachtsmen pressed the Coast Guard to establish a volunteer arm of the service.

Francis explained why she thinks the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is still going strong at 71 years old.

(USCG Aux 3 "They fill a …of these folks.")

A 1996 act of congress expanded the Auxiliary’s role, allowing members to assist in Coast Guard missions, other than direct law enforcement and military operations.

In 2009, auxiliary volunteers saved 256 lives with over 4,000 people assisted. With more than 30,000 members in the U.S. and its territories, over 5,000 watercraft and 200 aircraft, it’s the largest volunteer marine safety organization in the world.

Here in Alaska, the organization was launched in 1956, three years before statehood. Currently there are 465 members in Alaska’s auxiliary flotillas which are overseen by Lieutenant Commander Christine Fern. She says that the volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary are making people safer in Alaska and that their assistance is greatly needed. Fern hopes to see the auxiliary continue for many more years.

In Kodiak, the organization’s presence is growing according to Francis.

(USCG Aux 4 "The Kodiak flotilla … the flotilla commander.")

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary motto is: "A Proud Tradition, A Worthy Mission."

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