Some have asked, "What does the Coast Guard have to do with Clarks Hill Lake?"
Well, the answer is a bit complex. The United States Coast Guard has responsibility on all of our nation's waters. Having said that, the sheer size of our nation's waterways, compared to the relatively small number of Coast Guard people, requires the Coast Guard to concentrate its resources on the greatest needs.
That does not mean that Clarks Hill Lake gets no Coast Guard attention. The Coast Guard has assigned that job to its auxiliary. But first a little explanation.
The Coast Guard is composed of four segments: Active duty, reserves, civilian employees and the auxiliary. There are about 41,000 active duty Coast Guard members; 8,100 reservists; 8,100 civilian employees; and 30,000 auxiliarists.
The mission of the Coast Guard is to always be prepared (Semper Paratus ) to respond to any natural or man-made maritime incident or disaster. Coast Guard activities are organized into three areas to do this job:
- Response (if prevention does not work)
- Logistics -- consists of all personnel and assets that support prevention and response
The auxiliary's main function is to support the active duty Coast Guard. The local auxiliary does this, whenever tasked, by providing personnel, boats and aircraft in response to needs from Coast Guard Sector Charleston or Station Tybee.
Auxiliarists also perform administrative duties, such as radio watch standing, at Coast Guard stations enabling active duty personnel to address serious on-water and in-the-air missions.
However, in the CSRA there are no active duty or reserve elements to support, so the auxiliary gets involved in all three areas of prevention, response and logistics. Locally, the auxiliary works closely to support the states' departments of natural resources, the Corps of Engineers and various law enforcement agencies.
We do this by implementing several Coast Guard programs. First, we provide boats and aircraft, with fully trained crews, to conduct safety and security patrols, aids to navigation checks, regatta patrols and search and rescue missions. These patrols are under Coast Guard orders using our own specially inspected boats. The Coast Guard pays for fuel, some maintenance, meals and towing expenses. When under orders, auxiliary crews are covered by Coast Guard liability and medical protection.
Second, the auxiliary, in conjunction with the United States Power Squadrons, conducts free vessel safety checks. These inspections assure that boats meet minimal federal and state equipment requirements. Don't worry about any legal consequences if your boat doesn't pass the inspection the first time. The results are not shared with anyone besides you. If the boat fails the inspection, remedy the situation and then get re-inspected.
The third major Coast Guard program the auxiliary manages is recreational boaters' public education. This consists of a series of boating courses, from basic to advanced, offered the boating public.
In this area these courses are provided jointly by the auxiliary and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Next week's column will address specifically what the local auxiliary "flotilla" (that's the name for the local branch of the auxiliary) does and how you can become a part of the action.
Don't forget to consider attending our next basic boating course to be held Sept. 27. For details and to enroll, contact VanOsdol or Jay Weidman at (800) 533-3478, ext. 1172, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John L. VanOsdol is commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, CSRA Flotilla. He can be reached at (864) 391-2170, or at email@example.com.
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