Active-duty, Auxiliary Coast Guardsmen gather, train to better safeguard Great Lakes citizens

 Written by PA1 John Masson 

Photo of the Auxiliary Symposium Gala

PONTIAC, Mich. -- The Coast Guard's Atlantic Area Deputy Commander, Rear Adm. James Watson, greets auxiliarists attending a gala April 2, 2011, that helped close out the Coast Guard Auxiliary's 2011 Combined Ninth District Symposium. Coast Guard Auxiliarists, who volunteer their time and vessels to help the active duty Coast Guard keep the boating public safe, came from all over the Ninth District and as far away as Alaska and Hawaii for the training opportunities available at the symposium. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John Masson)

Dinner dress uniforms and high spirits dominated a gala ball that closed out the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s 2011 Combined Ninth District Symposium this weekend in Pontiac, Mich.

 Several hundred auxiliarists and their spouses gathered Saturday night with active-duty counterparts in a ballroom at the Marriott Centerpoint hotel for an annual affair celebrating the volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, who serve on the water, in the air and in the classroom to keep the boating public safe.

 Among the guests were Rear Adm. James Watson, deputy commander of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, and Rear Adm. Michael Parks, Ninth Coast Guard District commander.

 But the symposium isn’t simply a social occasion, as Parks noted in his remarks to the group. The hundreds of auxiliarists who attended the symposium logged a combined 6,700 hours of training in fields as varied as aviation safety, small boat operations and cold water safety.

 In addition to Parks, several other active-duty Coast Guardsmen at the top levels of leadership for the Ninth District participated in the symposium.  This participation showcases the important relationship between the active-duty and Auxiliary crews, demonstrating everyone’s committment to reducing loss of life on the Great Lakes by preparing members for the summer recreational boating season.

Photo of Auxiliary Symposium Training

PONTIAC, Mich. -- Coast Guard Auxiliary pilots perform swim qualifications in a hotel pool during the Combined Ninth District Symposium, held between March 27 and April 2. A rescue swimmer from Air Station Detroit, in mask and snorkel, helps familiarize the flyers with rescue gear.

 Watson noted the special challenges faced by the Auxiliary’s volunteer guardians in the Great Lakes region. Among those challenges, he said, is a compressed training season and a fast-paced operational tempo during boating season.Watson said that’s one of the reasons some Ninth District innovations, such as standardized auxiliary boat operations training, are likely to be adopted elsewhere in the Coast Guard, adding that doing so plugs the gap between active-duty Coast Guardsmen and the Auxiliary.“We know there are some really hairy places to operate boats in these northern waters,” he said, adding that life on the water has both rewards and challenges. “One of the most attractive things to me about being in the Coast Guard is having a chance to interact with the seafaring public.  But it’s a dangerous place and you have to do things right, or you’re going to pay the price.”

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