Great Lakes Shipmate of the Week: Auxiliarist Stephen Donnelly, Station Belle Isle, Mich.


Donnelly helps by standing watch during high visability evolutions such as the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812.

All five branches of the armed forces owe their existence to the spirit of volunteerism among their members. They are comprised of individuals who answer the call to perform their civic duty by defending and supporting the United States at home and abroad. While each of the services has an active and reserve component, the U.S. Coast Guard has a third element, the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Auxiliary is a civilian force whose members volunteer their time, without pay, to assist the Coast Guard in achieving mission success in the areas of boating and vessel safety, search and rescue, and marine environmental protection.

Stephen Donnelly of Sterling Heights, Mich., is a Coast Guard auxiliarist who currently volunteers at Coast Guard Station Belle Isle located in Detroit. Prior to serving at Station Belle Isle, Donnelly volunteered his time at Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, where he earned the designation of operational watch specialist, and Station St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Coast Guard Auxiliary member Stephen Donnelly making preparations to get underway for training.

At Station Belle Isle, he serves in many ways and excels as a communications watchstander. Currently, he is also working toward qualification as boat crewman on Station Belle Isle’s small boats.

Donnelly carefully balances his time between college and the Coast Guard. He is currently enrolled in his third year of college at Oakland University, in Rochester, Mich., where he is working toward a bachelors of science degree in chemistry. He is considered by his shipmates to be the unofficial subject matter expert of most science related questions that arise at the station. Additionally, Donnelly is a professional woodworker.

Everyone familiar with Donnelly knows that the summer search-and-rescue season is the reason he tends to stay at the station longer than usual. He has an affinity for SAR cases and SAR logs. Even when not on watch, if he is present at the station and the SAR alarm sounds, Donnelly immediately offers any assistance he can give to his fellow communications watchstanders. With Donnelly’s assistance in 2012, two lives were saved and 30 people in distress were assisted. Following the closure of SAR cases, Donnelly offers to assist coxswains in documenting the case in the Coast Guard’s Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement Information system.

In an average week, Donnelly volunteers three to four days. Besides helping his fellow shipmates by standing watch, he helps mow the grass and assists in the galley, even serving as a mess cook on a few occasions. This, combined with the watches Donnelly volunteered to stand during the winter holiday season, has ensured that active-duty members had an opportunity to take leave and spend time with their families and friends.

Donnelly’s actions have had a positive impact on the general public, the Coast Guard and especially his fellow communications watchstanders. He recently created a PowerPoint presentation to teach new watchstanders about some new and improved functions of the unit’s communications equipment. Through his commitment and devotion to the Coast Guard and his shipmates, even without pay, Donnelly is the epitome of the term volunteer and well deserving of being called Shipmate.

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