United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

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United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
AUX S W.svg
Active June 23, 1939 - present
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Coast Guard
Type Civilian auxiliary
Size 34,000 volunteers
Part of Department of Homeland Security
Motto Semper Paratus
Colors White, Red, Blue
‹See Tfm›    ‹See Tfm›    ‹See Tfm›    
March Semper Paratus
Engagements World War II
Decorations Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg Presidential Unit Citation
Coast Guard Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Coast Guard Unit Commendation
Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft
Chief Director of Auxiliary Captain F. Thomas Boross
National Commodore Commodore Mark Simoni
Racing Stripe U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Mark.svg
Flag Flag of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.png
Flag (1940) Flag of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (1940).png

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCG Aux) is the uniformed volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Congress established the USCG Aux on June 23, 1939, as the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Not quite two years later, on February 19, 1941, it was re-designated the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Auxiliary exists to support all USCG missions except roles that require "direct" law enforcement or military engagement. Auxiliary members are most frequently found performing civilian, completely voluntary, Vessel Safety Checks so that water craft owners know if they have a potential safety violation before someone who has law enforcement authority tells them, officially. Members also assist in search and rescue missions, and provide boater safety instruction. As of 2015, there were approximately 32,000 members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.[1]


The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary rescues a man from Long Island Sound in 1967.

The development of the single-operator motorboat, and later the outboard engine, during the early 20th century greatly increased the number of recreational boaters operating on federal waters. By 1939 there were more than 300,000 personal watercraft in operation.[2] The previous year the Coast Guard had received 14,000 assistance calls and had responded to 8,600 "in peril" cases. On June 23, 1939, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation that established the Coast Guard Reserve, the volunteer civilian component of the Coast Guard, to promote boating safety and to facilitate the operations of the Coast Guard.[2] Boat owners were organized into flotillas within Coast Guard districts around the United States. These volunteers conducted safety and security patrols and helped enforce the 1940 Federal Boating and Espionage Acts. In February 1941, a military reserve was created and the volunteer reserve renamed the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.[2]

Beginning in 1942, in response to the growing German U-Boat threat to the United States, the U.S. Navy ordered the acquisition of the "maximum practical number of civilian craft in any way capable of going to sea in good weather for a period of at least 48 hours." A large number of vessels, owned and piloted by Auxiliarists with crews made-up of Coast Guard Reservists, made-up the bulk of the American coastal anti-submarine warfare capability during the early months of World War II. As newly-constructed warships took over the load, the Coast Guard abandoned the concept. None of the two thousand civilian craft, armed with depth charges stowed awkwardly on their decks, ever sank a submarine, though they did rescue several hundred survivors of torpedoed merchant ships.

Early in 1973 budget cuts forced the closing of seven Coast Guard stations on the Great Lakes. At the request of the affected communities, Congress ordered the stations to be re-opened and operated by the Auxiliary. The local division captains took responsibility for manning them and ensuring that Auxiliarists' boats were always available to assist distressed vessels. The Auxiliary later took over seven more stations on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Two Coast Guard auxiliarists review performance qualification workbooks in Portland, Oregon in 2013.

In 1976 the Coast Guard commissioned a study of the Auxiliary by a private research firm, University Sciences Forum of Washington. After interviewing key personnel in the Coast Guard and the Auxiliary and analyzing questionnaires filled out by about two thousand Auxiliarists, the researchers concluded that that Auxiliary was in good health. "In summary," they wrote, "we consider the Auxiliary the greatest economical resource readily available to the COGARD. It performs in an outstanding manner and its personnel are among the most professional group of volunteers in the nation."

Under legislation passed in 1996, the Auxiliary's role was expanded to allow members to assist in any Coast Guard mission, except direct law enforcement and military operations. As of 2004, the Coast Guard Auxiliary had 35,000 members who collectively provided 2 million man hours of service annually.[3]

On June 19, 2009, the Commandant of the Coast Guard awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation to Auxiliary members for "performance...nothing short of stellar" from the period of June 24, 1999, to June 23, 2009.[4] On the 75th anniversary of the USCG Auxiliary, June 23, 2014, the Commandant awarded another Coast Guard Unit Commendation ribbon to all Auxiliarists.[5]


A U.S. Coast Guard auxiliarist (right) provides English-to-Spanish translation for a member of the Dominican Republic coast guard during Tradewinds 2013, a U.S.-led multinational military exercise in the Caribbean basin.


The Coast Guard Auxiliary Interpreter Corps provides auxiliarists who are fluent in languages other than English for assignments with both the regular Coast Guard, and other branches of the United States military, to support domestic and overseas deployments that require language and translation assistance. In recent years auxiliarists from the Interpreter Corps have deployed in support of the Africa Partnership Station, Tradewinds, and other missions. According to the Coast Guard, there are currently 440 auxiliarists in the Interpreter Corps, representing 48 languages.[6]

The Coast Guard, which has just one regular military band, relies on Auxiliarist musicians for ship christenings, funerals, and change-of-command ceremonies. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band is formed from both Coast Guard Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary members.

Boater safety education[edit]

Fleet Home Town News[edit]

The Coast Guard Auxiliary's Department of Public Affairs runs the Fleet Home Town News (FHTN) program[7] for the Coast Guard. The FHTN program dates to World War II and is designed to increase national awareness of the activities of sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen through written stories and documented images about them and their personal achievements in their hometown news media.

A U.S. Coast Guard Dolphin HH65 helicopter trains in trains in basket hoisting with Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels and members near Los Angeles, California in about 2009.

Radio watchstanders[edit]

In some areas, Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel monitor Coast Guard radio channels for distress calls in lieu of regular Coast Guard personnel.[8]

Search and Rescue[edit]

University Programs[edit]

The badge of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary University Programs unit at the College of William and Mary.

Auxiliary University Programs (AUP) is a USCG Aux-managed Coast Guard officer recruitment initiative established in 2009 to prepare university students for careers in the regular Coast Guard.[9] AUP programs on university campuses are organized as detachments of nearby USCG Aux flotillas. Student volunteers complete a "basic auxiliary programs" training curriculum taught by local auxiliarists and older students, after which they volunteer 60 hours per semester with their local flotilla. As of 2015, AUP flotillas were present at Auburn University, the California Maritime Academy, The Citadel, Madonna University, Cal State Fullerton, the Maine Maritime Academy, Stevens Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech, and the College of William and Mary.[10] At the College of William and Mary, approximately one-third of AUP auxiliarists have applied to the U.S. Coast Guard officer candidate school after graduating university, while a portion of the remainder have continued to volunteer with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.[9]

Vessel Safety Checks[edit]


Membership and ranks[edit]

Auxiliarists are unpaid, part-time volunteers who are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As such, they do not hold military rank, but they do wear U.S. military style officer insignia that denote their level of responsibility. The Coast Guard Auxiliary has three parallels of responsibility: one for elected officers, one for appointed officers, and one for elected and appointed officers at the national level. Each level of the organization elects officers; these, in turn, appoint technically qualified Auxiliarists to oversee specific unit programs and missions.

A blue "A" on the insignia denotes an elected officer, while a red "A" denotes an appointed officer. National officers are distinguished from other appointed and elected officers by wearing the National Staff Badge on their uniform.

Appointed responsibility structure of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
District Directorate Chief District Staff Officer Assistant District Staff Officer Division Staff Officer Flotilla Staff Officer Member
Elected responsibility structure of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
District Commodore District Chief of Staff District Captain Division Commander Division Vice Commander Flotilla Commander Flotilla Vice Commander
National responsibility structure of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
National Commodore National Vice Commodore Deputy National Commodore Deputy National Commodore for Mission Support Assistant National Commodore Department Director Division Chief Branch Chief Branch Assistant


Operationally, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is divided into two areas, Atlantic and Pacific. These are, in turn, divided into districts, and those into divisions. Each of these divisions comprises a minimum of four flotillas, each of which can have from 10 to more than 100 members.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is divided into two areas: Pacific and Atlantic. The two areas are subdivided into district and divisions, with the smallest unit of organization being the flotilla (not represented on this map).

Uniforms, rank, and insignia[edit]


Uniforms of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary generally mirror those of the U.S. Coast Guard with the exception of buttons and braid which are silver, instead of gold.

Medals, awards, and citations[edit]

Auxiliarists may be awarded medals and decorations of the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary,[11] and may wear certain medals and decorations awarded in prior military service.[12] There are currently 36 medals and ribbons for which auxiliarists are eligible.


Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. (right), commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, presents a Coast Guard auxiliarist with the Coast Guard Auxiliary Commendation Medal in 2013. 
An auxiliarist piper in highland dress uniform performing as part of the Coast Guard Pipe Band. The Coast Guard Pipe Band is comprised of U.S. Coast Guard reservists and auxiliarists. 
A Coast Guard Auxiliary safety patrol in Portland, Oregon in 2014. 
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard (left), and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary (right), receive a proclamation at New York City Hall declaring June 23, 2014 as Coast Guard Auxiliary Day in New York. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robinson, Larry (6 June 2015). "Coast Guard Auxiliary helping to keep St. Lawrence River boaters safe". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c http://www.history.auxpa.org/
  3. ^ Bonner, Kit (2004). Always Ready: The U.S. Coast Guard. Zenith. p. 25. 
  4. ^ U.S. Coast Guard's ALCOAST 365/09, COMDTNOTE 16790, 19 Jun 2009
  5. ^ Zukunft, Paul F. (24 June 2014). "COAST GUARD UNIT COMMENDATION". USCG Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety (CG-BSX) Auxiliary Division (CG-BSX1)--Items of Interest (USCG--Department of Homeland Security). Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Coast Guard Auxiliary Interpreter Corps (PDF). U.S. Coast Guard. 2011. pp. 1–4. 
  7. ^ U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: Fleet Home Town News
  8. ^ Mudarri, Chris (11 January 2011). "Auxiliary frees up Coast Guard people". Star News. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Welch, Andrew (Summer 2009). "New University-level Program". Navigator. 
  10. ^ "Units and Schools". http://college.cgauxnet.us/. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  11. ^ http://ribbons.cgaux.info/
  12. ^ Auxiliary Manual.

External links[edit]