Kodiak Flotilla Surface Ops Back in Action

 

Auxiliary coxswain George Kontra supervises boat crew trainee Drew Herman during a towing exercise in Womens Bay in Kodiak in September. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a volunteer branch of the Coast Guard made up of men and women who give their time to support Coast Guard missions including search and rescue and boating safety. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Christopher Harward

Story by Drew Herman

Look out for new official Coast Guard platforms around Kodiak, now that Auxiliary Flotilla 23 has all the components for a growing, self-sustaining surface operations program.

The program reached a milestone the week of Sept. 17, when visiting examiners qualified a new Kodiak-Auxiliary coxswain and a new crewmember, and recertified a previous coxswain. Chief Petty Officer John Moreland, operations training officer for the 17th District Auxiliary, traveled from Juneau to oversee the special training exercises and exams. He was joined by David Brubaker of Whittier, the Auxiliary district staff officer for operations.

“Our Auxiliary personnel are an extremely valuable component of Team Coast Guard and they act as a force multiplier, assisting with a variety of Coast Guard missions,” said Lt Cmdr. Stephanie Brennell, the 17th Coast Guard District Auxiliary director. “There may be certain circumstances when Auxiliary personnel would be a logical choice to utilize over active duty personnel due to the location of a flotilla or the special skill sets and capabilities of that flotilla. Coast Guard crews may be stretched thin if they are already engaged in other missions or search and rescue cases, making it necessary to draw on our valuable Auxiliary resources.”

Although high winds on three days prevented the visitors and candidates from getting as much time on the water as originally planned, they carried out the essential towing exercises and search and rescue drills needed for proper training.

The week built on a background of months of classroom training by flotilla crew trainees, but making the final push required extraordinary contributions from two more sources.

For training, mentoring and facilities, Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak, led by Petty Officer 1st Class Vance Pedrick and Chief Petty Officer Chris Harward, provided constant and essential support. Pedrick and Harward will also serve as qualifying examiners to keep the Auxiliary program growing.

Flotilla member Bob Hough brought his new 38-foot sailboat from Oregon to Kodiak this summer and has offered it for use as an operational platform. Several other flotilla members and family members helped sail the Sweet Ann II on the epic voyage up the Inside Passage and across the Gulf of Alaska. Hough is the flotilla’s newest coxswain and staff officer for operations, and coxswain George Kontra was recertified.

Qualified auxiliarists find the hundreds of hours spent in training and missions well worth the effort.

“You give a little, you usually get a lot in return,” Kontra said.

The flotilla already has plans for a new crop of crew trainees and a schedule of regular continuing practice through the winter.