Coast Guard Auxiliarist making the meals

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Coast Guard Auxiliary, an all-volunteer organization, provides aid for the Coast Guard in a myriad of ways such as conducting boating safety courses, helping out at Coast Guard boat stations, monitoring radios, and more, has found yet another unique way to take some weight off of the shoulders of Coast Guardsmen in the fleet.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, an all-volunteer organization, provides aid for the Coast Guard in a myriad of ways such as conducting boating safety courses, helping out at Coast Guard boat stations, monitoring radios, and more, has found yet another unique way to take some weight off of the shoulders of Coast Guardsmen in the fleet.

Food Service Specialists (FSs) in the Coast Guard are a busy group. They get up early to cook and serve meals for the crew of their unit and they work late, cleaning up the galley in the evening.

For many Coast Guard units, the FSs have little time for much aside from their primary duties as cooks. Due to their demanding rotation as duty cooks, it can be difficult for them to pick up additional training and collateral duties such as becoming boarding team members. With two or three cooks at a unit, when one takes a vacation, the others have to step up to fill in.

To help shoulder a bit of the load, the Coast Guard Auxiliary has a pilot program called the Auxiliary Chef program, or AUXCHEF. Through this program, auxiliarists are trained to perform the duties of Coast Guard food service specialists. With this training, they cater events such as changes of command and they fill in for cooks in need.

Recently, Petty Officer 2nd Class Felix Jimenez, a Food Service Specialist at Station Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Va., wanted to take leave for a week. There are only two FSs at the station, and the leave he requested conflicted with his duty rotation. Luckily, Jimenez’ supervisor, Petty Officer 1st Class Willie Scott, a Boatswain’s Mate at the station, knew of the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s AUXCHEF program and it’s chairman, Ron Ellis.

“Since Station Little Creek only has two cooks that work two days on, two off with alternating weekends, it places a burden on the station, cooks, and duty section to cover when one cook is on leave,” said Scott. “So I contacted Mr. Ellis and explained our situation and he agreed to provide coverage for the days we requested,”

As an auxiliarist, Ellis wanted to help the Coast Guard in any way that he could. When he heard about the AUXCHEF program, he decided that it sounded like something that he would be able to do well.

The AUXCHEF program started in 2003 in the First Southern Coast Guard Auxiliary district – which includes New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Later, Ellis, of Louisa, Va., brought the program to the Fifth Southern District – which includes Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and North Carolina.

Ellis said that when he first picked up the program, he was unsure about how to go about getting it really started in the Fifth Southern district. After receiving little contact with the program up north, he just made it his own and worked it out himself. “I’m going to fly with this thing,” he said.

“I had been on cutters before I got involved with the program, and I noticed that the FSs weren’t always getting the help they needed,” said Ellis. “Very seldom could they get someone to relieve them. So I thought this would be the best opportunity for some auxiliarists to start stepping in.”

Ellis decided to provide that help, he said. Since his assumption of the role of AUXCHEF chairman for his district, he has served at two small boat stations and four cutters, filling in for the units’ FSs. In addition, he has trained 21 Coast Guard Auxiliary members to serve in the AUXCHEF program.

Most of the cooking knowledge Ellis has was acquired from the Coast Guard. Ellis is one of a few civilians to have completed the Coast Guard FS class “A” school. In addition, the Coast Guard sent him to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., to take a course on small dishes and appetizers.

Now, when a Fifth District station or cutter’s food service staff is short-handed and the unit doesn’t have enough hands to cover him, there’s a constantly available group of qualified auxiliarists who are willing and eager to step in and get the job done.

Wherever Ellis and the other AUXCHEFs go to work, they are well-received, he said.

“We all got along very well. We had a great time,” said Ellis of his experiences working with various Coast Guard crews. “The morale of the Coast Guard is the food.”

The crews most definitely enjoy his cooking, he said. They always ask when he’s coming back.

Currently, AUXCHEF is only working in the Fifth Southern District but Ellis has plans for expansion. If all goes as planned, this program will eventually spread nationwide, said Ellis.

“I see a future in this program where I would like it go from Maine all the way down to Florida, and then eventually work out West,” he said. “Once I get the cadre and a group of instructors to where they can work their areas, then we’ll just work on pulling more people into the program.”

Anyone interested in the Coast Guard Auxiliary can go to nws.cgaux.org and fill out an online form which put them in contact with the closest Auxiliary flotilla.

Auxiliarists interested in getting involved with the AUXCHEF program may e-mail Ron Ellis at raegraph@msn.com.

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