Sure shore guardians
by Peter Burke
Feb 21, 2013 | 1618 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Coast Guard Auxiliary District Capt. Wally Smith (left) of Scotts Valley and District Commodore Rod Collins of Felton were recently promoted to positions of greater responsibility within the volunteer corps that assists the U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Auxiliary District Capt. Wally Smith (left) of Scotts Valley and District Commodore Rod Collins of Felton were recently promoted to positions of greater responsibility within the volunteer corps that assists the U.S. Coast Guard.
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The volunteer organization that promotes boating safety and assists the United States Coast Guard has promoted two local men to high-ranking positions on the West Coast.

Rod Collins, of Felton, and Wally Smith, of Scotts Valley, were elected in January to leadership positions in the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary’s 11th Northern District.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary was formed in 1939 and is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. Its role is to support the activities of the U.S. Coast Guard, including marine safety education, aviation, public affairs and many organizational functions.

Collins, a 15-year veteran of the auxiliary at age 61, was promoted to district commodore, a role in which he will oversee 1,600 volunteers in the district that includes Utah, most of Nevada and much of Northern California.

Previously, he served as chief of staff for the district and as a district captain.

Collins, who took the two-year elected post in January, will oversee the staff that puts together all district programming.

“It’s a phenomenal amount of time, effort and work they put into it,” Collins said. “And 40 percent of the members still work (at day jobs).”

Smith, 67, has been an auxiliary member for five years, but he was interested in boating his entire life.

“We purchased a vessel seven years ago and fell in love with the auxiliary,” Smith said.

Smith was elected as one of three district captains and oversees members in the Lake Tahoe, Utah and San Francisco Bay Area divisions — three of the 10 divisions in the district.

Locally, there are 130 auxiliary members in three flotillas — smaller units that are part of divisions — based in Capitola, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

The auxiliary also has volunteer flotillas patrolling many of the state’s lakes. It’s no small task, as 80 percent of boating fatalities in the U.S. take place on lakes and alcohol is often involved, Collins said.

Smith said the auxiliary is committed to running boating safety classes and passing out information to boaters on lakes and the ocean.

“Going out on patrol and saving someone’s life is the absolute pinnacle,” Smith said. “Making the public safer is hard to quantify.”

Collins said the local flotillas are always open to new volunteers willing to commit to any level of service.

“There are no time requirements,” he said. “The expectation is to put in whatever time is appropriate.”

The only qualifications are to be 17 years old and a U.S. citizen, and training is provided.

The Santa Cruz flotilla uses the Santa Cruz Harbor meeting room, 135 Fifth Ave., in Santa Cruz and has a radio tower at the nearby Crows Nest restaurant. For information: http://d11nuscgaux.info/

Auxiliary history

Formed in 1939 to support the Coast Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is now a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. Uniformed auxiliary members do not participate in the Coast Guard’s law enforcement actions. Homeland Security pays for expenses the auxiliary members incur while on the job, such as boat fuel, but does not pay stipends or salaries.

n To comment, email editor Peter Burke at peter@pressbanner.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.

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