Pass Christian Coast Guard Auxiliary
8th District Coastal Region
Pass Christian, Mississippi
One volunteer service that may come as a surprise to many is a group called the Coast Guard Auxiliary. This organization provides service opportunity for those who have a love for boating and water activities.
The Pass Christian Coast Guard Auxiliary unit is part of a national organization of volunteers that provides support services to the United States Coast Guard. The local Flotilla #35 is part of the 3rd division which in turn belongs to the 8th district of the national organization. The Pass Christian unit, the oldest on the Coast, was authorized May 19, 1961 and usually maintains more than a dozen active members and a cadre of retired inactive members. Auxiliary members who have served a minimum of 15 years may elect to become inactive members which allows them to wear the uniform, fly the auxiliary flag on their boats, and take part in the group's social activities.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is not a law enforcement agency, such as the official U. S. Coast Guard, but the Auxiliary functions primarily to assist the Coast Guard with an emphasis on boat safety. The four cornerstone activities are (1) vessel examination, (2) public education, and (3) safety patrol and fellowship.
The principal education activities are boating safety classes and orientations to elementary and secondary schools in boating and Coast Guard career opportunities.
Vessel examinations are a courtesy provided free of charge upon request by the owner. Such inspections follow a checklist that includes examination of life jackets, storage of flammable materials, lights and waste storage and dumping facilities — however, without the authority to force owners to comply with any of the recommendations to improve boat safety. Usually, only 25% of the boats pass inspection.
Safety patrols are conducted primarily on weekends with auxiliary members providing their own boats showing their special identification insignia.
All expenses of an authorized patrol are reimbursed by the Coast Guard. Patrols take on a variety of activities including search and rescue missions and providing standby rescue services.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary was established by Congress in 1939 to assist the Coast Guard in promoting boating safety. It boasts more than 36,600 members from all walks of life who receive special training so that they may be a functional part of Coast Guard Forces. Auxiliarists assist the Coast Guard in non-law enforcement programs such as public education, vessel safety checks, safety patrols, search and rescue, maritime security and environmental protection and Coast Guard Academy introduction programs for youth. Auxiliarists volunteer more than 2 million hours annually to benefit other boaters and their families.
Flotilla 35 is an active component working in conjunction with other Auxiliary flotillas in the area and with the active component of the U.S. Coast Guard. It performs routine patrols and search and rescue missions in the Mississippi Sound from the Pearl River to the Back Bay of Biloxi. It performs free courtesy marine exams on recreational and commercial boats and strives to educate the general public on safe boating practices and useful seamanship skills.