Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boat Crew Trainees Hit the Pool

Brandon Butters enters the water for his PFD Swim. Brandon demonstrated how a manual inflating PFD works for the group.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / photo by Doug Jansen)

The group of boat crew member trainees float for fifteen minutes during their training. (Left to right) Phil Patterson, Wendy Faganel, John Halbrook, Chuck Brudtkuhl, Brandon Butters, and John Hawkinson)
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / photo by Doug Jansen)

As their training winds down Flotilla 4's new Boat Crew Member trainees hit the pool to perform their PFD Swim. Trainees must enter the water properly, float on their own, and swim in their PFD as part of this training evolution.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coast Guard Auxiliary and Iowa DNR Promote Wearing Your Life Jacket

Auxilarists Wendy Faganel (above) and Phil Patterson (below) paint the yellow base for a "Life Jacket Zone" sign at Big Creek State Park.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / photo by Suzanne Tomlinson)

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary have partnered in a program to increase public awareness of boating safety. This spring, signs are being painted on all DNR maintained boat ramps reminding boaters that life jackets need to be worn when boating.

The signs declare the ramp to be a "life jacket zone". The first set of Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers, Flotilla 4 of Des Moines, joined Susan and Donise of the Iowa DNR at Big Creek State Park to begin the painting project. After dividing up the paint, templates, food and other essentials, two groups set out to various State Parks. Susan pointed out which parks and where each boat ramp was located in the park.

When painting just the third sign of many, a boater and his son appeared at the ramp for a little fishing. They both donned their jackets and Alex Whitney modeled his for the group. Remember that Iowa's new law is that any child 12 or younger is required to wear a life jacket.

The painting lasted until nightfall, with over 24 ramps being painted today with more to come at a later date.

Susan Stocker of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (left) and Auxilarist Paul Faganel (right) lay the template for the "Life Jacket Zone" sign at Big Creek State Park.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / photo by Suzanne Tomlinson)

A completed "Life Jacket Zone" sign at Big Creek State Park
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / photo by Suzanne Tomlinson)

A painting team finishes a "Life Jacket Zone" sign. Susan Stocker of the Iowa DNR (upper left) with Auxilarists (left to right) Paul Faganel, Wendy Faganel, and Ralph Tomlinson.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / photo by Suzanne Tomlinson)

April 2009 Above Board Newsletter

The April edition of Above Board is available at

This month's newsletter has articles about the North Dakota Flooding, John Hawkinson's completion of the AUX-10 Course in California, and members receiving the Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation Award.

Thank you to all of our contributors who made this month's edition possible.

The submission deadline for Above Board is the first Friday of each month. Photos, narratives, and information is always appreciated.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Coast Guard Auxiliary Works With Iowa DNR To Promote Life Jacket Safety

This weekend members of Flotilla 4 will hit the road to begin a water safety project with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. These Auxilarists and DNR personnel will travel to various state boat ramps throughout Central Iowa to help paint stencils onto the ramps to encourage boaters that they are entering a “life jacket zone.”

"As part of this state-wide project, there are approximately 140 boat ramps located within 45 different state parks. Painting a large 'Life Jacket Zone' sign directly on the ramps will help to remind boaters to protect everyone aboard their boat by wearing life jackets.” says Auxilarist Wendy Faganel, Auxiliary project coordinator.

The project is expected to last over a month and involve several Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas in Iowa.

Auxilarist Jeff Towle shows the stencil for the boat ramp painting project to
members of Flotilla 4.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / Photo by Doug Jansen)

One of the stencils for the boat ramp painting project with the Iowa
Department of Natural Resources.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Photo / Photo by Doug Jansen)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hawkinson Completes AUX-10 Course in California

John Hawkinson showing a fellow Auxiliarist how to set up a “field query” in Oracle during the AUX-10 Course in Alameda, CA.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 085-33-04 photo / Photo by Mr. Harry McBain, ADSO-PAP, Division 11N)

Flotilla 4 member John Hawkinson attended the Coast Guard Auxiliary AUX-10 course at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, CA. The course is designed to take new staff officers in the Information Systems (IS) field and give them some exposure to the mechanics of the AUXDATA and AUXINFO systems used to manage people and facilities in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. This class had every range of experience from brand new to experienced Auxiliarists who had been recently appointed to Auxiliary information systems positions. Some of these appointments ranged from being part of a flotilla job rotation, to a staff member of a DIRAUX office, to the then Department Chief-Information Technology (DC-I), now the Deputy Chief Technology Officer from the National Staff. (The DC-I was there to get oriented on how training and system operations look like to someone serving at the flotilla or division level).

Training ran from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and until noon on Sunday. The training was fairly fast-paced, as there was a lot of material to go through, learning how to enter personnel, activity and facility data into AUXDATA, how to run various queries into AUXINFO, and how to run a variety of reports. Students also received an orientation to the Patrol Order Management System (POMS). It was quite clear why the Auxiliary prefers to have its new information systems officers go through the AUX-10 course early on; there’s a lot of process knowledge involved in running the different databases and reporting tools effectively.

Dining was at a Coast Guard mess hall for lunch. At night students dined off-site at seafood restaurants around Oakland on Friday and Saturday evenings.

John Hawkinson is now a graduate of the AUX-10 course, and is now in the “practicum” portion of his training. He is still reviewing Flotilla 4 forms and forwarding the approved ones to the Division 33 IS Officer for data entry as before, but he is also keying in the information into an AUXDATA Training Database. This “dual data entry” will continue for awhile (potentially up to 60 days), while the Division IS officer reviews Hawkinson’s work and provides needed feedback and “course corrections”, before he is approved to officially key records into the “live” production database.

“The AUX-10 course was a very worthwhile experience,” said Hawkinson, ”one that I would encourage new Information Systems officers to apply for as early in their careers as possible.”

John Hawkinson (center) is figuring out one of the data entry assignments, entering in a simulated Boat Crew mission. Course Director McBain (standing) is making the rounds to see if we’re “getting it”.
(U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 085-33-04 photo / Photo by Mr. Harry McBain, ADSO-PAP, Division 11N)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flotilla 4 hits the gym

With water temperatures raising our crews will soon be hitting the water.  As we prepare for the upcoming season we have realized that many of us have "Wintered Well".  In order to combat these added pounds our Flotilla Commander has challenged us.  The challenge is to meet the active duty PT standards for our age and sex.  This means that we are hitting the gym, and in the next few months we will be conducting an honest to goodness PT test.  In order to properly prepare for this test we are setting up organized sessions at the gym.  Flotilla4 will be at the gym Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7pm.  Feel free to join in if you are interested

Red River Flood Rescue Footage

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

MARVIN, N.D. – Airboat crews from U.S. Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and the Fish and Wildlife Department, working with the Grand Forks Sheriffs Department, rescue a stranded man April, 1, 2009, from a home surrounded by flood waters. The man had been helping build dikes around his son’s home when flood waters from the Red River Valley left him trapped, unable to leave without a boat. (U.S. Coast Guard video/Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson)

FARGO, N.D. -- In this video, a helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit show the extensive flooding surrounding the Red River near Fargo, N.D., April 1, 2009. Many local residents have found themselves stranded after the recent devastating floods and snowstorms. Rescue teams comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Fish and Wildlife Service, Customs and Border Patrol, Cass County and Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department, Valley Rescue Service and several other local, state and federal agencies have saturated the area for more than a week rescuing residents from the flooded homes and working to restore the community. On the later half of the video, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class James Downey is shown pushing a stranded resident in a rowboat out of harms way so that he could be hoisted to safety. (U.S. Coast Guard video/AMT2 Chris Shaw) (MOV) (WMV)

090326-G-9937C-003 Red River Flood 2009 FARGO, N.D. -- Coast Guard Stations Sault Ste. Marie and Marblehead of the Ninth District conducted neighborhood sweeps in communities affected by flooding along the Red River, Thursday, March 26, 2009. The Coast Guard and several federal, state and local response agencies coordinated a massive rescue effort for the state of North Dakota March 24.
(US Coast Guard. Video by PA2 Bill Colclough.)

For the latest Coast Guard news and imagery regarding the Red River floods, please visit:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

So what have we learned?

“As an Auxilarist, I would like to be deployed to augment the Coast Guard for a mission. What are some things that I should know? “ This is a question we have heard this week and thought we might address.

This week our three deployed Auxilarists from Flotilla 4 have learned a lot of lessons. They have sent back information to us here and given some advice.

Augmentation is a privilege. Remember that you are representing the Coast Guard and your country. Be qualified, be prepared, and be ready to get the mission done (whatever that may be) in a professional manner.

Bring value by your presence. The old adage of giving 110% is not just it. It is taking the required courses and training and then going further and doing electives to broaden your knowledge and value for such situations. Be flexible and be willing to use your talents to help others in ways you may not have expected. Be ready and willing to learn something new and do it to the best of your ability.

Follow the Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus” or always ready. We are a small organization that does a great deal. We should be ready to go. This includes having a “go kit” with uniforms, toiletries, computers, batteries, etc. that can make you ready to deploy on short notice. Have things at home and work prepared to be able to do this. A few of our Auxilarists have said that the 4-for-1 ODU sale at the Uniform Distribution Center is something they are going to take full advantage of. Most of them only have two or three pairs of ODU Uniforms and that it just wasn’t enough for them.

Finally, we are the Guardians of all citizens and should be prepared to lead from the front and be proactive in an emergency. There is only one Coast Guard and we are in it. We should be up to the standards of the active duty and feel proud to work with them when called to do so.

- Semper Paratus

Auxilarist Jeff Towle (left) works at the Minnesota State Emergency Operations Center alongside Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Allen Turner (right) during the flood response operation.
(Photo Courtesy of Nick Critelli)

Engineering a Flood Response

From the U.S. Coast Guard:
by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson, 11th District Public Affairs

FARGO, N.D. - As the workhorses of the Red River flood search and rescue operations, U.S. Coast Guard and the North Dakota Department of Fish and Wildlife airboats coast through the neighborhoods and business districts devastated by record flooding of the Red River. The rescue boat crews move swiftly from house to house responding to the cries of help from people stranded or in trouble throughout the towns of Oxbow, Harwood, Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D. Of the 95 rescues by the Coast Guard to date, 68 were performed by airboat crews. But, these heroic acts are only possible through the hard work going on behind the scenes of these rescues.

Seven Coast Guard engineers are responsible for the maintenance and repair of seven Coast Guard airboats that have saved 68 people and a number of pets and animals during the 2009 Red River Valley floods in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The boat maintenance team is comprised of machinery technicians, electricians mates and a storekeeper, deployed from Integrated Support Command St. Louis, Sector Detroit, Small Boat Station St. Clair Shores Mich., Toledo and Marblehead, Ohio. The team operates every day from the Cass County Highway Department building in South Fargo, N.D., starting at 6:30 a.m. and stopping only when the job is done.

“Our goal is to have all the boats ready to go the next morning,” said, Chief Petty Officer Tom Rising, the Ready for Operations chief from Sector Detroit. “The Cass County Highway Department has provided us with tools and a shop to get our job done and keep these boats running.”

Rescue boats from the Department of Fish and Wildlife share the boat maintenance facility with the Coast Guard, dropping off their damaged vessels in need of repair.

“We’ll fix anything,” said Rising “We’re not territorial. We’re all here for the same reason.”

After repairs are completed on the Coast Guard boats, the team volunteers their time to ensure all the rescue boats, no matter their affiliation, are ready to respond in the event of a search and rescue case.

“This is the stuff engineers love,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Marvin, a machinery technician from Station St. Clair Shores, “you never know what is coming at you, and we have to get creative sometimes to get the job done.”

The airboats range from 18 to 20 feet in length and come back from search and rescue missions needing a multitude of different repairs to be operational. They return with overheated engines, broken lights, electrical and communications shortages, as well as body and hull damage.

“I’ve never even seen an airboat until now,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Efrain Fernandez, an electrician’s mate from Integrated Support Command St. Louis. “We improvise and pick up after each other, everyone contributing their individual specialties to complete the projects.”

Sometimes the parts needed to complete the job are not on hand and need to be ordered.

“We have a great storekeeper,” said Marvin, “Petty Officer 3rd Class Stacey Darnell has been working hard to find the parts we need.”

A constant theme in the Coast Guard is that no one job is more important than the other. From the boatswain’s mate who rescues a stranded person to the machinery technician who repairs a broken rescue boat, every member contributes vital skills needed to complete the mission.

FARGO, N.D. - In this photo by the U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mavin, a machinery technician from Small Boat Station St. Clair Shores, Mich., works on an airboat at Cass County Highway Department, Tuesday, March 31, 2009.(U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough)

OXBOW, N.D. - In this photo by the U.S. Coast Guard, two airboat crews deployed from Coast Guard District 9 await the next search and rescue mission during the 2009 midwest flood response, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.The airboats are used in shallow water throughout residential areas. Numerous Oxbow residents were evacuated to dry ground.(U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Renee C. Aiello

In Harm's Way: Coast Guard Swimmers

This is a great story about the aircrews and swimmers that go into the worst conditions to rescue people, just like they are doing up along the Red River in North Dakota.