Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Successful Use of the Auxiliary in the Sector

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine by Mr. Michael LaRue, AUX, S.T.M., M.S., planning assistant, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay.

Auxiliarists at Sector Delaware Bay
In the last few years, Sector Delaware Bay has experienced significant success in attracting a small but devoted and professional group of volunteers to forward our mission.

We are now successfully employing auxiliarists on the aids to navigation team, as our interim educational services officer, in the command center and command suite, on the quarterdeck as watchstanders, and in planning. Auxiliarists provide administrative support and have also successfully headed up projects of their own. Our first picture shows Auxiliarist Bill Hougar working with the Grant County Sheriff during a holiday weekend patrol at Wanapum Lake, Wash.

The Care and Feeding of Auxiliarists
Some key factors played into this success. Our auxiliarists have always been professional, dependable, and comfortable working in a military environment. It helps that two of our volunteers are retired senior military officers.

We also have been selective about the auxiliarists to whom we have given orders. It is hard to say no to volunteers, but sometimes you have to. Additionally, our auxiliarists have been willing to go out of the way to be responsible, be quick to admit and correct mistakes, and even to seek out correction. Not everyone has this level of patience or humility.

We also found it useful to look for self-starters—people who can be given projects and then run with them. Conversely, having auxiliarists who are cheerful about doing grunt work is also a great help.

Having a good auxiliary sector coordinator (ASC) is key to the success of our program. Our present ASC clearly demonstrates the important traits necessary—being diplomatic, having good people skills, and using good judgment.

Welcome Them In
We should consider how best to attract the kinds of volunteers we need into the auxiliary. The most attractive things about the auxiliary are its traditions, its mission set, and the opportunity for fellowship with others of similar interest.

As with the active duty Coast Guard, custom and tradition are very important in maintaining professionalism and dedication. Sociologically, learning about its history and engaging folks in the customs and traditions of an organization reinforce their sense of belonging and their commitment to being responsible members of that organization.

We have seen the benefits of having a brief on sector history. It raises our people’s awareness of the past accomplishments of the Coast Guard in this region, makes them proud of being members of the sector, and sets good examples for them to follow.

Get Them on the Water
Search and rescue is probably the most attractive mission that the auxiliary has involvement in. In the second picture, Auxiliarist Larry Owens, right, and SN David Jacobson exit the water after a rescue demonstration. Getting people involved in on-the-water activities is a powerful recruiting tool, and often leads to willingness to perform other kinds of missions. Working directly with the active duty personnel in any kind of operational activity is also a powerful motivator.

The only pay that auxiliarists receive is the sense of belonging to an important team accomplishing an important mission, and the “thank you” when they have done a good job.

At Sector Delaware Bay, we have a small annual event for auxiliarists. The command has also been good about ensuring that auxiliarists receive awards when deserving. However, even a habit of saying “thank you” has great benefit and is a powerful motivator. Remember, these people are not doing it for money, and showing gratitude is a very inexpensive way of paying for the hours of service they provide.

For more information:
Full article and “Environmental Protection” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/Winter2008-09/.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil.