Coast Guard Auxiliary is Busier and More Relevant than Ever

Today, October 19, 2007 marks the 11th anniversary of the passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996. That Act greatly expanded the role of the Coast Guard Auxiliary to assist the Coast Guard, as authorized by the Commandant, in performance of any Coast Guard function, duty, role, mission or operation authorized by law.

Today, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is busier than they have ever been. “The Coast Guard Auxiliary has never been more relevant,” said Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant for the U.S. Coast Guard, at the Auxiliary National Conference last summer in Dallas.

Auxiliary members of the Coast Guard – in addition to their traditional recreational boating safety missions such as free vessel safety examinations and public boating education classes – also perform several non-traditional missions, such as providing medical and dental services to Active Duty and Reserve members as part of the Coast Guard Health Care Support Program. In some areas of the country, Auxiliary Members who have received extensive training and obtained the same qualifications as their Active Duty and Reserve counterparts assist with the inspections of waterfront facilities in our ports and harbors, foreign vessels such as tankers and containerships, dockside container inspections, control verification examinations of cruise ships and commercial fishing vessel examinations and small passenger vessel inspections.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary, which was originally the Coast Guard “Reserve” was authorized by act of Congress on June 23, 1939; the Coast Guard was given a legislative mandate to use civilian volunteers to promote safety on and over the high seas and the nation’s navigable waters. The Coast Guard Reserve was then a non-military service comprised of unpaid, volunteer U.S. citizens who owned motorboats or yachts. Two years later, on February 19, 1941 Congress amended the 1939 act with passage of the Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941. Passage of this act designated the Reserve as a military branch of the active service, while the civilian volunteers, formerly referred to as the Coast Guard Reserve, became the Auxiliary.

When America entered World War II, 50,000 Auxiliary members joined the war effort. Some Auxiliary Members of the Coast Guard served weeks at a time with the Temporary Reserve. They guarded waterfronts, carried out coastal picket patrols, rescued survivors from scuttled ships and did anything else they were asked to do. Many of their private vessels were placed in service. After the war, Auxiliary Members resumed their recreational boating safety duties.

On March 1, 2003 the Coast Guard and its Auxiliary component became part of the Department of Homeland Security and with that change a greater emphasis on was place on the Auxiliary’s role in maritime homeland security and maritime domain awareness. The Auxiliary is often referred to as being a “force multiplier” or a “surge force”. This was demonstrated following the events of September 11, 2001 when thousands of Auxiliary members all around the country reported for “duty,” and again in aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is always on the lookout for new members who want to serve their community and their country. Membership in the Coast Guard Auxiliary is open to United States citizens who are at least 17 years old. Applicants are required to pass a basic background check. There are no upper age limits or height/weight standards, although for operational activities, you must be physically able to perform certain tasks. There are no minimum service hours – you can serve as little or as much as you want. For more information, please visit our the Coast Guard Auxiliary website or call 1-877-875-6296.

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