Sequim-Port Angeles Coast Guard flotilla is tops in the nation

AUXAIR volunteers Marilynn Leonard, John Warner, Flotilla 22, East Side, and Brad Pattison, Flotilla 33, Tacoma, go through preflight briefing prior to flying an aerial photo mission for the Coast Guard. Photo by Leo Leonard

Sequim Gazette staff

When local Coast Guard active duty members need help, they know where to turn.

Flotilla 42 of Sequim/Port Angeles recently won Best Flotilla in the Nation at the auxiliary’s national conference.

“No one in our Sequim/Port Angeles flotilla or in District 13 expected national recognition for the work we were doing,” said Leo D. Leonard, former Flotilla 42 commander.

“The majority of the 32,000 Coast Guard Auxiliarists live east of the Mississippi. Historically national honors have been, as expected, an East Coast or South Coast affair.”

For several years, the flotilla won district honors for operational support to the active duty Coast Guard in several areas, including public affairs, member training, recreational boater safety and working with local boat dealers.

Marilynn Leonard was named 2008 National Auxiliarist of the Year.

“Both Marilynn and I were totally surprised and felt that would be the end of any national awards for District 13 for some years.”

In 2009, however, Leo Leonard finished second in the nation in competition for the Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Award for Outstanding Unit Commanding Officer. He had volunteered more than 10,000 hours in a four-year span, Marilynn Leonard said.

Auxiliarists speak to service clubs, students, professional and veteran groups as well as boating groups about boating safety and education issues.

They also aid active duty Coast Guard members. In addition to public education, they conduct vessel examinations, form part of boat and air crews, and more.

Flotilla 42 Commander Steve DeMaggio said the key issues for the flotilla in the coming year are recreational boater safety and developing an auxiliary detachment in the Forks/Neah Bay area.
For more information about the auxiliary, call DeMaggio at 417-5503.

Below is an article reprinted from Navigator, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Magazine’s Fall 2010 edition, with permission of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Association, Inc.

“Best Flotilla in the Nation: Flotilla 42, Port Angeles, Washington”

The coveted title of Best Flotilla in the Nation was awarded to Flotilla 42 of Port Angeles-Sequim at the auxiliary’s national conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

The award follows a series of Coast Guard District 13 awards culminating in the flotilla being named the district’s outstanding flotilla for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

What does it take to be the best flotilla in the nation? Leo D. Leonard, Flotilla 42 commander in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 finalist for the Charles S. Greanoff Award for outstanding leadership, said, “We build on a solid foundation established by earlier commanders, Peter Raiswell (incoming District 13 commodore), Steve DeMaggio (past district captain) and Sandy Pinckert (past auxiliary coordinator).

The flotilla’s organizational structure and professional climate serve as a solid basis for building membership. We focus on five stated principles.”

1. The Auxiliary is a partner with the active duty. The flotilla and its assets are a force multiplier of the Coast Guard.

When Captain Scott Pollock, group commander, stated that the flotilla’s primary responsibility was recreational boating safety, the flotilla responded in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by being named first in the nation in recreational boating safety program visits with over 3,000 visits each year to local dealers and retailers.

Flotilla members conducted over 500 vessel safety checks each year, gave almost 1,000 hours in public affairs, and taught boating safety classes and programs in area schools.

2. Recruiting and retention is critical to survival and mission completion. The flotilla contacted all members, offering them a menu of traditional and new opportunities for involvement such as AUXCHEF, Citizen’s Action Network, incident command exercises and assisting in the formation of a detachment at Forks, Wash.

The flotilla led the district in direct operational support from 2007-2009.

Marilynn Leonard acted not only as group assistant public affairs officer but also flew with the active air crews on countless photographic missions over a two-year period.

With over 1,000 hours of direct support per year, plus her active role as detachment leader and high producer of vessel safety checks, she was named Auxiliarist of the Year at 2009’s national conference in Chicago.

The flotilla developed a comprehensive recruiting plan that involved schools, boating classes, friends, churches, community clubs and elected leaders. The result was a flotilla that grew from 32 members in 2005, to 43 in 2006, to 61 in 2007, to 87 in 2008, and to 104 in 2009.

3. Mentoring is the key to helping new members. Each new member is assigned a mentor. Staff officers work with members to counsel, create a friendship team and help them learn their assignments. “It is always a work in progress,” Leonard said.

4. Training is critical to mission success. All members are strongly encouraged to complete a boating safety course, followed by training in various mission areas. Vince DeBenedette, two-time top producer in the nation in program visits, became an instructor, as did Richard Johnston, a top producer in vessel examinations.

Over 20 new vessel examiners, 12 new program visitors, 21 new instructors, 31 ICS-trained volunteers, eight new boat crews and four AUXCHEFs resulted.

The training plan further includes opportunities for watchstanders, boat crew, AUXAIR and public affairs.
5. Fellowship is the glue that holds a flotilla together. Weekly breakfasts, several potlucks a year and an annual barbecue with the active duty, civilian Citizen’s Action Network members and other guests are helpful. Taking on a centuries-old tradition, the flotilla initiated Dine-Ins for staff and Dine-Outs for all members and spouses.

The flotilla averaged five a year, complete with parading the beef and fining those who failed to show proper decorum or correct uniform. Fun-filled Mess Nights occasionally involved the active duty. All fines were given to the gold side’s Morale, Well-being and Recreation program.

“Winning awards has never been part of our plan, nor should it be,” said Leonard. “We  set goals and try to provide a service, the best service we can, to the Coast Guard and public that we serve and to whom we are accountable.”



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