| Coast Guard Auxiliary History
A Proud Tradition, A Worthy Mission
For over 64 years, tens-of-thousands of men and women of the Coast Guard Auxiliary have spent millions of volunteer hours helping the Coast Guard carry out its mission. They have saved countless lives through their work, on and off the water. Auxiliarists are probably best known for educating the public through their boating safety classes and Courtesy Marine Examinations. Yet, they do much more and will be doing even more following passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996. The purpose of the Act, passed Oct. 19, is 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. This story hopefully will give you a broad knowledge of the Auxiliary, especially since reservists will be working with Auxiliarists even more in the future, as they become an increasingly important component in the Team Coast Guard line-up.Back to Home Page
When 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 Feb. 19, 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. So, Feb. 19 is formally recognized as the birth of the Coast Guard Reserve while June 23 is recognized as birthday of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. When America entered World War II, 50,000 Auxiliary members joined the war effort. Some Auxiliarists 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, Auxiliarists resumed their recreational boating safety duties. The Auxiliary's four cornerstones - Vessel Examination, Education, Operations and Fellowship - were established and remain the Auxiliary's pillars in the 1990s.
The Vessel Examination program evolved into the well-known Vessel Safety Check (VSC), a free examination available to any recreational boater. VSC's help boaters ensure their craft complies with Federal Regulations.
As for education, the Auxiliary teaches boating safety to recreational boaters of all ages. The Auxiliary offers Boating Skills and Seaman-ship (geared toward power boaters) and Sailing and Seamanship (for sailboaters) as well as basic and advanced navigation courses.
The Auxiliary operates safety and regatta patrols and is an integral part of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue team. Auxiliarists also stand communication watches, assist during mobilization exercises, perform harbor and pollution patrols, provide platforms for unarmed boarding parties and recruit new people for the Service. During Olympic yachting events in Savannah, Ga. last summer, the Coast Guard Auxiliary had 29 boats and a CG Auxiliary aircraft on hand for security operations. Today, as in 1939, Auxiliarists are civilian volunteers who are authorized to wear a uniform similar to the Coast Guard Officer's uniform. Distinctive emblems, buttons, insignias, and ribbons are employed to identify the wearer as a member of the Auxiliary. One such insignia is the letter "A" on the shoulder boards of an Auxiliarist. Despite their silver shoulder boards (versus gold for Coast Guard officers), Auxiliarists hold no rank. The shoulder boards symbolize the office and level to which an individual Auxiliarist has been either appointed or elected.
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Ed Holliday,FSO/CS 0608
Last Update 01 January 09