US Coast Guard Column

I Want to Help But I Don’t Know How…

Hello! I am Vincent Pica. If you read this column, you’ve seen me here for over 12 years, writing about seamanship, safety, and service. I am a Commodore in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the volunteer arm of United States Coast Guard Forces. I started, as you’ll see below, shortly after “9/11” and because of “9/11.”

As the world continues to get increasingly dangerous, and the foes of our way of life, both domestic and foreign, get more aggressive and bold, I thought others may want to serve their country, their community, and the Coast Guard on their own terms.

Many people have an urge or calling to serve. They think about ways that they can, on their own terms, and on a time and schedule that works for them, contribute to their country and to their community, especially if they can have fun doing it and be recognized for whatever they do put in to it. The Coast Guard Auxiliary was created by an act of Congress back in 1939 when threatening storm clouds of national concern were looming on the horizon.

Today, more than 30,000 American patriots are volunteer members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, performing virtually every mission of the regular Coast Guard except those dealing with law enforcement and military action. If it doesn’t need a weapon, you’ll find auxiliarists volunteering to do it.

Currently, as in 1939, there are concerns for the future security of America, and as part of the US Department of Homeland Security, auxiliarists contribute to the protection of our waters and our way of life. In addition, auxiliarists undertake a great many missions that fall under the domain of the Coast Guard but which do not have such high-level national impact, thereby freeing active-duty itself to concentrate on such matters. Auxiliary missions have historically included teaching boating safety to the public, performing vessel examinations, and undertaking operational patrols of our waterways. Today there are a great many additional missions that are added to that list including aviation, cooking, radio watch standing, translation services, and public affairs, just to name a few.

Membership is open to all individuals who:

Are US citizens.

Are 17 years of age or older (no upper limit)

Have no felony convictions.

Are willing and able to volunteer to serve their community and country.

You need not own or be a maven with a boat. In fact, you can be a great contributor without ever being on the water. The auxiliary will provide free training in a great many subject matters. You are welcome to participate in any of the missions that interest you, to the levels and timings of participation that suit your personal schedule. Some worry about it being expensive.

Annual dues are $65. That’s about $5/month.

Uniforms are available at low-cost and every penny you spend is tax-deductible. And, if you offer your boat for use by the USCGAux, your mission-related fuel use is reimbursed 100 percent. Some worry that you will need a tremendous time commitment. You don’t need gobs of time. Give us 12 hours a summer in crew time and you will be in continuous good standing. Only two hours if you want to teach seamanship, rather than practice it. I warn you though. Here is so much enjoyment and satisfaction in this role that you will give well more than that.

This will only be the land of the free if it is also the home of the brave. Serve your nation. Serve your neighbors. On your terms. Be brave.

Get in this thing.