June 24, 2014 – Diamonds, rare as they are beautiful, are among the strongest and hardest known materials on Earth. It is perhaps fitting, then, that the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary – rare in their talents and strong in their commitment to service – celebrated their diamond anniversary yesterday.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is an all-volunteer force that keeps the nation’s waterways safer and more secure. Civilian volunteers of the Auxiliary set the standard for completing the mission and the call to serve resonates through every member.
The Coast Guard Reserve was authorized by act of Congress on June 23,1939, and the Coast Guard was given a legislative mandate to use civilians to promote safety on the high seas and the nation’s navigable waters. Two years later, Congress amended the 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 section, formerly referred to as the Coast Guard Reserve, became the Auxiliary.
Auxiliary members build upon skills developed in their military or civilian careers to serve as a force multiplier for the Coast Guard over the past seven decades. Entering into World War II, 50,000 Auxiliary members joined the war effort and their tradition to surge when needed. They continue that tradition today by augmenting operations, including some of the nation’s most recent disasters.
“Beyond the day to day, the Auxiliary has been there as part of the Coast Guard’s total force in every major disaster,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft at today’s ceremony. “During disasters, the Auxiliary takes action to provide air support, conduct search and rescue, fix aids to navigation, conduct public affairs and augment units at home stations whose responders are deployed.”
From protecting mariners by performing vessel safety check to standing radio watches around the clock in command centers across the nation, Auxiliarists give freely of their time in a vast array of mission sets. In honor of the Auxiliary’s diamond anniversary, below are three Auxiliary members recently profiled by Compass. Check out the brief summaries of their tremendous service below or click through to read more about each of them!
The Auxiliary turned 75 and for 34 of those years Auxiliarist Arnie Gellar has stood a vigilant watch. A native of Warwick, R.I., he comes from a lineage of “America’s Maritime Volunteers” and works out of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England, located in East Providence, R.I.
“My Dad joined five years before I did, and my Mom did a little after me,” Geller said. “It was just something I always wanted to do, give my time to the Coast Guard and help out in any way I can.”
Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is the only square-rigger in U.S. government service and has provided generations of Coast Guard Academy cadets an unparalleled leadership experience at sea. For nearly two decades, Auxiliarist George White has been part of that leadership experience.
“Coast Guard Auxiliary Members like Mr. White have been a tremendous asset in the training program aboard Eagle. They qualify as quartermasters, stand the watch and help teach cadets about life at sea while also introducing them to the value of the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” said Capt. Wes Pulver, current commanding officer of Eagle. “Mr. White was the driver behind the program aboard Eagle, and his dedication and commitment have helped make it a success since 1994.”
There’s been a mainstay at Station Fire Island for more than three decades now and he goes by the name Charles Baack. Since 1976, Baack has stood faithful to the station as a communications watchstander and break-in trainer.
His indoctrination into seafaring activities started in the 1940s when he enlisted in the Navy as a first class engineer aboard the Landing Ship USS LST-1085 in the Pacific during World War II. He continues to serve today and at the age of 97, Baack is a bastion of knowledge for his fellow watchstanders.
“Living near and boating on the Great South Bay his entire life, it is safe to say no one knows these waters better,” wrote Station Fire Island crewmember Seaman Phylicia Miller. “As an auxillarist he has acquired knowledge that has enabled him to be a vessel safety examiner as well as a teacher of numerous boater safety classes for youth and adults.”