Flotilla Holds Forum

CELINA — A newly formed Flotilla hosted an open house Wednesday night to inform area residents about how they could get involved and to discuss the group’s mission.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary District 8 Eastern Region, Division 6, Flotilla 12 held its chartering ceremony last week and is now working to inform the community about opportunities the Coast Guard Auxiliary offers. Flotilla Commander Larry Baker said Coast Guard Auxiliary members are all volunteers.

“We all have our other jobs, but this is a volunteer function that we pursue,” Baker said. “We are people interested in actively supporting the civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

He said members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary can expect to reap a few benefits.

“Training, new skills, public service and a sense of pride for assisting others,” Baker said of what members receive for their time with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

He noted that members do not need to have served in the military to get involved.

“You don’t have to be ex-military to be in the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” Baker said. “It just happens that we attract some ex-military people.”

The auxiliary, he noted, also expects a list of things from its participants.

“Dedication, fellowship, public service and professional conduct,” Baker said of what the Coast Guard Auxiliary expects from its members.

Members of the auxiliary, Baker said, are representing the Coast Guard.

“We actually are a direct reflection upon the Coast Guard,” he said. “As far as guys and gals walking down the street are concerned, we are Coast Guard ... They don’t realize that we are civilians.”

Baker said he came to the Coast Guard Auxiliary to be an instructor and ended up taking more responsibilities.

“I came in here just to be an instructor,” he said. “One thing led to another, and I’m crew qualified, I’m telecommunications operator, I’m a vessel examiner, I’m Flotilla commander — it’s very infectious. Once you get into it, it’s pretty easy just to keep going on.”

Flotilla Vice Commander Paul Joseph said the organization provides many opportunities.

“If there’s a task that you can’t do, we’re not going to say, ‘Well you can’t be a member if you can’t do that,’” Joseph said. “There’s ways around that. If you don’t want to be on the water at all, that’s OK. If you don’t own a boat, that’s OK. If all you want to do is be on the water, that’s OK. If you want to be involved in just training only, you can do that. If you want to be involved in getting information to the public — there’s a job in the Coast Guard Auxiliary for just about everybody of any capacity.”

The Flotilla helps at many events at Grand Lake St. Marys, including the Governor’s Cup Regatta and the fireworks, in addition to helping inform the public about boating safety.

To be a member of the Flotilla, one must be at least 17-years-old, be a U.S. citizen and pass a background check. Coast Guard Auxiliary members pay $30 a year for dues and also pay for their uniforms.

Baker said members are not required to work a certain amount of hours to be involved, although the number of hours contributed is counted. Joseph said new members average two to three hours a week and can get more involved if they wish.

“There is no benchmark saying if you don’t do this, you’re a no-go,” he said. “Once you are signed up with us, we’re going to show you all of the different doors.”

Joseph encouraged attendees to sign up for a boating safety course that the Flotilla will offer Feb. 11. The class begins at 8 a.m. and will run until approximately 4:30 p.m. The course will update students on boating safety and laws.

“Even if you don’t decide to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary, we want to strongly encourage you to get into the boating safety class — for the knowledge of it, for the experience you’ll get and if you need that certificate that you’re going to need, otherwise, you can’t drive a boat,” Joseph said.

Baker encouraged anyone interested in getting involved to contact him and said he would find some time to sit down with them individually to discuss options that are of interest to each individual person.

For more information on the new Flotilla and opportunities available through the Coast Guard Auxiliary, call Baker at 419-268-1141.