Celebrating 75 years of Auxiliary in the Pacific Northwest

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Seattle – Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. During the holidays, people volunteer to ring little bells and collect money outside of stores because they want to help the poor. Children will volunteer their time at pet shelters because they love to be around animals. People will volunteer their time to a program or idea because it is something they believe in.

Rear Adm. Richard Gromlich, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District, presents Dean Wimer, commodore of the 13th Coast Guard District Auxiliary, a plaque to honor the Coast Guard Auxiliary for 75 years of volunteer service in keeping America’s waterways safe, June 21, 2014. The Auxiliary was established by an act of Congress on June23, 1939, and has since then assisted the Coast Guard in all missions, with the exception of law enforcement activities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Aki

Rear Adm. Richard Gromlich, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District, presents Dean Wimer, commodore of the 13th Coast Guard District Auxiliary, a plaque to honor the Coast Guard Auxiliary for 75 years of volunteer service in keeping America’s waterways safe, June 21, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Akiyama.

Standing proudly with approximately 30,000 members nationwide, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is comprised of men and women who volunteer their time and service of to make America’s waterways a safer place for recreational boaters. The Auxiliary was established as an act of Congress on June 23, 1939, and has since then directly supported the Coast Guard in all of its missions, with the exception of military and law enforcement activities.

There are a lot of boat owners in the Pacific Northwest, and Dean Wimer, commodore of the 13th Coast Guard District Auxiliary, encourages Auxiliarists to educate the public on boating safety.

“Our mission is recreational boating safety,” said Wimer. “Our goal is to make boating experiences safer for those who use our waterways.

Wimer is a 16-year member of the Auxiliary and sets a standard that he expects other Auxiliarists to live up to.

“He’s an inspiration,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Brown, the operations training officer at the 13th Coast Guard District Auxiliary Division. “He strategically sets goals for the Auxiliary and they constantly live up to them.”

Many types of people from different backgrounds are drawn to the Auxiliary for different reasons. Some joined because they were retired and were looking to do something meaningful with their time. Some joined because they love boats and wanted to learn more about them. Some joined because they wanted to help save lives. However, all of them volunteer their free time to help make the waterways safer.

Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary help to maintain a security zone along the Willamete River in Portland, Ore., during the Rose Festivial, June 7, 2014. Coast Guard personnel, along with state law enforcement agencies and Coast Guard Auxiliary, maintained a strict security zone to ensure the protection of everyone who attended the Rose Festival's events. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Akiyama.

Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary help to maintain a security zone along the Willamete River in Portland, Ore., during the Rose Festivial, June 7, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Akiyama.

Wilmer can recount many memorable moments he’s had as an Auxiliarist, but there is one that stands out the most to him.

“Probably the most meaningful was the life-saving rescue I was able to participate in last summer,” said Wimer. “My flotilla spent most of the day fitting life jackets to young people who were going fishing. In midafternoon, most of the children were going home, so I took my crew of two on a sweep of Hagg Lake. Down near the Dam I observed a canoe with three adults on board capsize. We immediate started in their direction. We arrived on the scene and began assisting the two men and one woman aboard my vessel. Within two minutes, we had the three individuals aboard and began recovery of their equipment. The three canoe passengers had fishing poles, a drink cooler and life jackets aboard, but were not wearing the life jackets. None of them were swimmers and they were very appreciative.”

The Coast Guard and the Auxiliary work closely together in helping to minimize the accidents that happen on the water. The month of August is the start of the salmon fishing season along the Columbia River. Near the mouth of the river sits the number 10 buoy, a popular fishing area. More than a decade ago, several fatalities took place due to fishermen not having the proper lifesaving gear onboard their vessels. Coast Guard and Auxiliary safety experts got together and developed a program called Buoy 10.

“Each morning during the season, every launching ramp near the mouth of the Columbia River has trained Coast Guardsmen or Auxiliarists present,” said Wimer. “They would approach every boat preparing to launch, give them a packet of safety literature and asking them to wear their lifejackets. Over ten years, the loss of life has dropped to zero lives lost. The last two years there have been no lives lost.”

Auxiliarists can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest, from Washington to Oregon to Idaho and Montana. Wherever there are recreational boaters, there is the Auxiliary. They perform water patrols along every major body of water and provide free vessel safety examinations to all recreational boaters. They conduct boating safety courses and will ensure that boaters have everything they need on board their vessels to be safe while on the water.

“Our 1,500 Auxiliary members from D13 accomplished 6,100 vessel safety checks, 1,600 safety patrols, and performed more than 650 public education classes that were centered around boating safety last year,” said Brown. “Their unselfish commitment supporting the Coast Guard and community is amazing.”

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