Local Coast Guard Auxiliary watchstanders play key role at Coast Guard Station Chatham

Chatham Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla members (left to right) Bruce Brady, Michael Hays, David Quincy and Larry Foss man the watch room in Coast Guard Station Chatham, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. The Auxiliary members man the Station's communications watch room for hundreds of shifts throughout the year answering telephone and radio calls, monitoring and responding to emergency channels, issuing weather and sea condition alerts, and operating as key team members of Coast Guard search and rescue operations. U. S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Reid Oslin.

Chatham Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla members (left to right) Bruce Brady, Michael Hays, David Quincy and Larry Foss man the watch room in Coast Guard Station Chatham, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.  U. S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Reid Oslin.

CHATHAM – Four members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Chatham Flotilla stand regular watches as the eyes and ears of Coast Guard Station Chatham.

The four qualified Auxiliary watchstanders – Bruce Brady of South Yarmouth, Larry Foss of Chatham, Michael Hays of Harwich and David Quincy of Orleans – man the communications watch room at the busy local Coast Guard Station for hundreds of four- or eight-hour shifts throughout the year. They answer telephone and radio calls from recreational boaters, local fishermen and Coast Guard units; monitor and respond to emergency channels; issue weather and sea condition alerts; and operate as key team members of Coast Guard search and rescue operations when needed.

Each qualified Auxiliary watchstander spends months gaining the knowledge and certification required to handle a communications watch properly. In addition to search and rescue procedures, computer and radio operation, chart work and plotting, keeping an accurate station log, and correctly following Coast Guard protocol, each watchstander must demonstrate complete knowledge of Station Chatham’s complicated area of shoreline and off-shore responsibility – a wide array of complex and potentially perilous waters stretching from Nauset through Nantucket Sound.

However, the officer in charge of Station Chatham, Senior Chief Petty Officer Corbin J. Ross, insists that the civilian volunteers bring additional benefits to the local Coast Guard unit as personal and professional mentors to the resident crew. “We bring people into the Coast Guard who literally left Mom and Dad’s house two months before,” explains Ross. “We send them to Boot Camp and then they come here. When they arrive at the station, we tell them, ‘OK, now you have to start life as an adult, and, by the way, I have all of these things that you need to do. They are all challenging, they are all going to take a lot of your time and they all have a deadline.’”

Ross says that the Auxiliary volunteers free up time for new station crewmembers to prepare for their own future communications and boat crew assignments. “They are the ones who would be standing the watches if our Auxiliarists were not there,” he says.

All four of the volunteers say that the benefits of working with the Coast Guard far outweigh the long hours. “For me, it’s a sense of belonging and being a part of the team,” says Quincy, a former business executive who has been an Auxiliary watchstander since 2002. “It’s doing something that is meaningful and just hanging around young people who are dedicated to their job.”

Foss, a former president of Chase Securities, Inc., has been an Auxiliary volunteer for 16 years. He estimates that he has helped train more than 100 young Coast Guardsmen for their own watchstander qualification. “My job is to help them become first-rate watchstanders so they can get on to the reason that they joined the Coast Guard – search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and boating safety. When the Auxiliary takes the watch, the station crew is freed up for operations and training.”

Hays notes that earning a watchstanding qualification has been a long-time goal. “I wanted to be a watchstander almost from the moment I learned that it was an option for Auxiliarists,” says the retired insurance actuary, who launched his watchstanding career in 2010. “I thought – correctly – that it would be an excellent way to understand the issues faced by the active duty Coast Guard members and to get a better understanding of how they are organized and how they perform their mission. I knew that every hour that I would spend on watch would be appreciated – even if there were no distress calls – because it would free up an active duty person to perform other tasks.”

A retired former high school teacher and attorney, Brady says that he has wanted to “be involved in Coast Guard operations. Successful cases are the result of a team effort and the watchstander can have a part in each one.” He has been a station watchstander since 2014.

Ross says that the rich life experiences of the Auxiliarists are an additional – and important – benefit for all of Station Chatham’s crew. “My appreciation is not just because of the junior members,” he adds. “The Auxiliarists probably touch the senior folks here – like me and the Executive Petty Officer (Chief Petty Officer Travis T. Roloff) – even more than the younger guys. These gentlemen have ‘lived’ life. We lean on those four more than most people would realize,” Ross says.

“Countless times I have talked to them about all kinds of issues and problems, and the value of these four goes way beyond the watchstanding; way beyond the ability of the younger members to start living their new lives now; it touches the senior folks in a way we really need,” Ross insists. “There have been countless times when I have gone in to talk with them about something.

“It has nothing to do with answering a phone call, talking on the radio or any one of the tasks that they had to complete to become qualified watchstanders. Nowhere did it say, ‘Make sure you mentor the Senior Chief at the Station.’”

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