Friday, June 23, 2017


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Today, June 23, 2017 the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrates its 78th anniversary as a formal organization. But the spirit of unpaid volunteerism within the ancestral organizations that became the U.S. Coast Guard go far back in the history of the service. Before there was a Coast Guard Auxiliary on the eve of World War II, there was an unpaid "Coast Guard Reserve" made up of local recreational boaters and water men and dedicated to inshore and near shore search and rescue. As war loomed this "Reserve" was split by law into an unpaid volunteer auxiliary and a paid military reserve modeled on existing War (Now Defense) Department models. There is a provision in the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary enabling legislation allowing Coast Guard Auxiliary members to accept appointments for short duration service in the military post 1939 "Coast Guard Reserve". Called "TRs" such Auxiliary members manned a large ragtag antisubmarine force during the war and some accompanied General MacArthur into the Philippines providing near coastal transport , scout, and courtier service in the early days of the return of American forces.  

 Other Auxiliary members in the continental U.S. and its island possessions provided logistic support to Coast Guard stations and beach patrols, and continued search and rescue services to commercial fishermen, and occasionally to the survivors of U boat attacks off of our shores. The Auxiliary today numbers nearly 40,000 dues paying members providing their skilled services and the use of their own boats , air craft, and radio stations in support of the civil missions of the Coast Guard. This all volunteer unpaid force has nearly the same number of members as the military active duty component of the Coast Guard, The present day military Coast Guard Reserve which has been deployed domestically and over seas in military capacities many times since the Mariel Boat lift including both Iraq wars numbers about 8,000 ready reserve members. Many Auxiliary members are also members of the ready reserve. The savings to the nation for the incredible services of this virtual small craft navy, air arm, and communications and signals service is astounding. Members of the Auxiliary proudly wear the basic uniform of the Coast Guard but with "silver" markings where the military members wear gold. However, quite a number of Coast Guard commandants, and many active duty members who have worked with them refer to them as "the Platinum Coast Guard". In the maritime world, especially in the American and British Merchant Marine services silver usually connotes "staff" organizations and ranks, while gold usually represents "line" organizations and ranks. The Coast Guard Auxiliary members blur the whole staff / line concept, and they do it all without compensation. No wonder so many active duty personnel simply refer to them as the "PLATINUM COAST GUARD". 

 Going back before there was a Coast Guard one of the main ancestral organizations was the U.S. Life Saving Service which ran "Life boat stations" up and down the U.S. Coasts. The station "Captain" and a very small number of "Keepers" were uniformed Federal employees. But when the signal went up for a near coastal rescue the bulk of the "Oarsmen" or "Surfmen" responding were local volunteers.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary as a formal uniformed corps of volunteers may be 78 year old today. But the concept of well trained, formally organized volunteers in service to a core "coast guard" in America is over 200 years old. A few Auxiliary members have made the ultimate sacrifice in the last few decades and the service now insures that any member injured in the line of duty receives the benefits normally accorded a GS 9 in the Coast Guard's civil service. For certain missions Auxiliary members today may receive fuel reimbursement. The PLATINUM COAST GUARD really receives very minimal tax payer support, but the tax payers get a very robust return on investment. 


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