Hello! I am Vincent Pica. If you’ve read this column, you may know I’ve been at this for nearly 14 years, writing about seamanship, safety, and service.
I am a commodore in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the volunteer arm of the United States Coast Guard forces. I started shortly after September 11 and because of terrorist attacks on 9/11. As the world continues to get more and more dangerous, and the foes, both domestic and foreign, get more aggressive and bolder, 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 contribute, especially if they can have fun doing it and are recognized for whatever they put in to it.
The USCGA 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 25,000 American patriots are volunteer members of the USCGA performing virtually every mission of the regular Coast Guard, except what involves law enforcement and military action. If it doesn’t need a weapon, you’ll find those willing to do it.
In 1939, there were concerns for the future security of America, and volunteers contributed to the protection of our waters and our way of life through homeland security. In addition, members undertake a great many missions that fall under the domain of the USCG, but which do not have such a high national impact, thereby freeing active-duty members to concentrate on them.
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.
Membership is open to all individuals who are American citizens, are 17 or older (with no max-out), have no prior felony convictions, and 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 abilities and schedule.
Some worry about it being expensive. Annual dues are $65, about $5 per month. Uniforms are available at a low cost, and every penny is tax-deductible. If you offer your boat for use by the USCGA, your mission-related fuel use is reimbursed 100 percent. Some worry that you will need to commit a tremendous amount of time. Not true. Give us 12 hours a summer in crew time and you will be in good standing. I warn you though, there 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, and get in this thing. Email me at [email protected].