The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Donald M. Severson, 33°, P.G.M.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a unique civilian organization whose counterpart is not found in any other branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The U.S.C.G. Auxiliary, the civilian component of the United States Coast Guard, is composed of approximately 38,000 volunteers. These volunteers supplement and support all of the primary missions of the parent body with the exception of law enforcement. They offer for use vessels, aircraft, radio stations, and/or special skills -- all at no cost to the government.

The four cornerstones (an appropriate appellation) or primary missions of the U.S.C.G. Auxiliary are: courtesy marine examinations; public education; patrols; fellowship.

Illustrious Donald M. Severson, 33°, P.G.M., a United States Coast Guard Auxiliarist, (r.) greets Robert Kramek, Commandant, USCG.

Courtesy Marine Examinations (CME)

In the CME program, private vessels and yachts up to 65 feet are inspected by trained Auxiliarists. These inspections are done only at the request and permission of the owner. The minimum state and federal requirements are checked, and, if found satisfactory, a decal, certifying compliance with these requirements is issued.

If the requirements are not met, the owner is informed of the deficiency with no law enforcement involved. This allows the boat owner to come into compliance without penalty. It is for the most part, an educational effort on the part of the Coast Guard Auxiliary to avoid future problems the boat owner may have with state or federal law enforcement agencies.

Public Education

“Boating Safety and Seamanship” and “Sailing and Seamanship” classes are held on a regular, ongoing basis at no charge to the student other than the cost of a textbook. Trained Auxiliarists conduct these classes which include such topics as piloting, locks and dams, radio telephone use, weather, trailering, marlinespike seamanship (line handling), navigation rules, aids to navigation, engines, and other related subjects. Upon completion, certificates are issued. Most marine insurance companies recognize these certificates by granting premium discounts to appropriate boat owners.


Auxiliarists who offer a vessel, aircraft, or radio station for use are issued orders by the Coast Guard on an as needed and as available basis. These are then employed to patrol Marine Regattas and other on-the-water events. In some cases they supplement regular Coast Guard units. In others, they are the only units on the scene. Regular Safety Patrols on heavily traveled waterways are also conducted during the boating season. Orders are also issued for facilities to participate in search and rescue cases both with and without the regular Coast Guard units.


The bonds that hold these dedicated people together are the regular social events such as National, District, and Division Conferences. The basic unit of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Flotilla, also plans many training and social events during the course of the year.

The Coast Guard Family

The Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Reserve, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary are often referred to collectively as the “Coast Guard Family,” and indeed a family it is! As a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, my active participation takes place at a small Search and Rescue (SAR) Station in Bayfield, Wisconsin, nestled in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world. As trained watchstanders, members of Flotilla 09W-11-05 in Bayfield, Wisconsin, augment the small crew of eleven dedicated active duty personnel. They also are trained as boat crew members and participate in search and rescue cases. This active participation by the Coast Guard Auxiliary allows the active duty personnel more time for the astounding amount and variety of duties assigned to them as well as more time for liberty.

It is an honor and a privilege for Auxiliarists to serve alongside those dedicated, professional men and women of the active duty United States Coast Guard. The next time you are near a Coast Guard facility, stop in and say “Hello.” You certainly will be impressed with what you see, and while you’re there, ask about the Auxiliary.