This year the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrates its 75th anniversary. This post is a continuation of a series of articles showcasing the relationship between the active duty Coast Guard and the Auxiliary.
Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell.
“I was eighte… never mind, it’s not important how old I am. I’ve been in the Auxiliary a long time,” said Arnie Geller a Coast Guard Auxiliarist. A native of Warwick, R.I., he has come from a lineage of “America’s Maritime Volunteers.” He works out of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England, located in East Providence, R.I.
“My Dad joined five years before I did, and my Mom did a little after me,” Geller said. “It was just something I always wanted to do, give my time to the Coast Guard and help out in any way I can.”
Established by Congress in 1939, today the Coast Guard Auxiliary is comprised of more than 32,000 volunteers who give more than 2 million hours of volunteer service every year. They perform vessel safety checks, assist in search and rescue and pilot privately owned planes and boats to assist active duty members on missions. This summer will mark the 75th Anniversary of this vital volunteer group of the U.S. Coast Guard. Geller has been an important part of the Coast Guard Auxiliary for 34 of those 75 years.
And over those 34 years, Geller just might have worn almost every hat the Coast Guard Auxiliary can provide.
“Well,” he sighs and chuckles at the same time, “I am an auxiliary search and rescue coordinator, the flotilla commander of Flotilla 78, I am a safe boating specialist and a newly appointed public affairs auxiliary officer for the flotilla.”
I don’t sleep, he says. “I don’t!” he laughs, “I’m in here at five or a little after, I update my Facebook page with something motivational for people to see when they wake up, then I get to work. I only have 800-something hours in this year so far!”
“My wife loves it, it gets me out of the house, and by the time I get home at night I get to eat dinner. It’s my night to cook tonight, probably should be outta here by at least 7…” Arnie trails off, knowing that if he could squeeze out another hour of work, he could go home for a few hours completely satisfied.
“I’ve been in since 1980, please don’t tell me you weren’t on the planet yet?’ he laughs loud and long enough to get the attention of the watchstander on duty in the command center at Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England.
In the realm of boating safety, the Auxiliary provides one of the greatest services free of charge – recreational vessel safety checks. Although completely voluntary, these checks are playing a large factor in the safety of a voyage. The teams of auxiliary members check the basic safety functions and gear of any vessel.
“We check lifejackets, signaling devices, pumps, bilges, we basically go through the whole boat to make sure that when they get out in the water, they are as safe as possible,” Geller said. “Plus, you get a sticker for your boat!”
Geller is an example that a Coast Guard auxiliarist is more than a volunteer … it’s who they are.
“This is my float-coat, my SAR vest and basically everything I need to be ready to go at any time,” he says with a smile. “I like being on the water and doing these harbor patrols with my guys.”