Today was a day that I will always remember. After battling government bureaucracy for over a year, I was finally inducted into the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 31-07 (Grand Valley). The Auxiliary is a volunteer, non-combatant component of the United States Coast Guard. I have been volunteering there since late 2009, helping in patrol missions, public events, driving Coastie the robot, and participating in challenging and extremely fun on-the-water training. However, it wasn’t until this night on January 10, 2012 that I was finally able to swear in and become a permanent member.
The process of becoming a member has been tedious at best. I had to re-do my fingerprints a couple of times, re-send training certificates, and get a hold of lots of people trying to figure out where the hold up was. However, it hasn’t been all bad. In fact, most of my time at the Auxiliary so far has been extremely rewarding and fun. I have made friends, participated in fellowship activities, helped in Aids to Navigation (ATON) missions and even escorted a passenger vessel through the channel of Lake Muskegon. This past year has been full of fun, learning, and more fun.
Last year, I was able to participate in an overnight trip on a sail boat across Lake Michigan. It was dark, cold, and rainy. I left Muskegon with two staff officers and a seasoned Coastie sometime during the evening. We made it through the stormy night and arrived at Sheboygan, Wisconsin the next morning. There, I met other Auxiliarists and participated in boat crew training for the Chicago to Mac race. Unfortunately, I wasn’t qualified on time to assist in the race, but I had a great time, made some great friends, and discovered for the first time, with 100% certainty, my passion for the water.
I have so many stories to tell about the Auxiliary, and tonight, they all became a little more official! I never before felt so proud to wear my Operational Dress Uniform (ODU). Not only does it represent the Coast Guard, and my now-official membership into the Auxiliary, but also my love for this country and my desire to give back.
With my new membership also came new responsibilities. I was named Flotilla Staff Officer – Communication Services (FSO-CS). This makes me the officer responsible for bringing technology to the Flotilla and making the best use of available technological resources to reach new members, inform existing members, and facilitate processes. In other words, I’m in charge of building our much-needed website, managing social media, and facilitating the use of technology for the flotilla. This may not sound as fancy as being an officer in the Coast Guard, but my duties are the same as those of my gold-side (Coast Guard) counterparts. Although I do not get paid, the fact that I’m helping keep America’s waterways safe is reward enough in itself. I do wish I could join the Coast Guard as an officer some day, but that is another story….