Data Loading...

NavEx2018_se Flipbook PDF

Navigator Express 2018_se





All 3 Phases of Team Coast Guard Work Together in Louisville plus Auxiliarist goes on Safety Inspection of the Brig Niagara Auxiliarist serve aboard Buoy Tenders along USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson side active duty

The Auxiliary Answers the Call in Branson





hoto by Todd Wilkinson

OR express

Auxiliarists Respond to the Branson Duck Boat

TRAGEDY Story by Todd Wilkinson

“Sector has said we’re a go to get underway.” Every Auxiliary coxswain

has uttered a version of this phrase before commencing any routine weekend patrol, QE session or operational exercise. Only this was hardly a routine mission. A DUKW boat from Ride the Ducks in Branson, Missouri had capsized and sank near the Showboat, Branson Belle, on Table Rock Lake after a squall line blew through earlier on the evening of July 19. Steve Larsen, coxswain of the Auxiliary facility, had called the Vice Commander of Division 5 to let me know that his crew was responding. Brock Stephens, District Captain, Darrel Kerr, Division Commander, and Todd Wilkinson, Vice Division Commander spent until midnight on the phone and texting about the escalating incident. Word soon came down from District Commodore Robert Tippett that we were to head to the Showboat Branson Belle first thing in the morning to coordinate auxiliary boat crew efforts in support of Sector Upper Mississippi River (SUMR) personnel who were deploying to Table Rock Lake. Friday morning proved to be a typical hot and muggy one in Southwest Missouri, yet the scene at the Belle was anything but typical when Auxiliarists arrived in the parking lot. Sheriff’s deputies, Missouri Highway Patrol divers, first responders and Belle employees were preparing for the day’s events. Captain LEFT: Lt. Daniel Burke of the USCG Salvage Engineering Response Team (SERT), examines Stretch DUKW 07 from a crane barge after it was raised some 80 feet from the floor of Table Rock Lake.

Continued on Page 4



Continued from page 3

USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson

ABOVE: Brock Stephens (left) and Darrel Kerr finalize an operations schedule for auxiliary boat crews providing a safety zone around the Branson duck boat wreck site. RIGHT: An Auxiliary facility pushes off from the Showboat Branson Belle’s dock to ferry Coast Guard personnel to check the perimeter safety zone around the Branson Belle.

Scott Stoermer, Captain of the Port and four Marine Safety Inspectors soon arrived on scene, and we received our “marching orders” – we would assist the inspectors in gathering witness statements from the Belle’s crew, many of whom were directly involved in rescuing survivors from the duck boat, as well as recovering the deceased. We established a station in the atrium of the ship, with the ship’s gift shop providing a surreal location for our work. The Belle’s crew members trickled in throughout the morning and into the afternoon to give their statements; while we began looking at the other mission we were tasked with – providing Auxiliary vessels and crews


for a temporary safety zone around the wreck site, in conjunction with boats from the Missouri Highway Patrol. Ironically, this wasn’t the Division’s first incident with the Branson Belle. In December 2010, the Belle ran aground on a cold winter night on Poverty Point due to high winds and choppy water. Stoermer, then SUMR Chief of Response, called Tippett, Division Commander Elect and Stephens, Vice Division Commander Elect, and asked how many facilities the division could have ready to get underway, and by what time. “We had two vessels on the ramp, ready to go by 0500,” recalled Stephens. Now the Belle,


A Personal Note once the site of one maritime incident, had become the base of operations for another. The three of us soon began calling Auxiliarists from the closest flotillas – Flotilla 53 in nearby Kimberling City, and Flotilla 56 two hours away in Northwest Arkansas. Flotilla 06’s Commander, Jonathan Verhoeven, was out of town, so his efforts to identify available flotilla members and facilities were done from three hours away, in conjunction with David Waldrup, the Flotilla Human Resources Officer. A QE session scheduled by Flotilla 53 for the next day was cancelled, and the boat crews shifted their focus to the task at hand. Meanwhile, Captain Stoermer asked for our assistance identifying possible local sites for the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation team, and throughout the weekend we compiled information about everything from places to stay for the incoming boat crews to email lists for area marinas for Coast Guard Public Affairs personnel who had flown up from district headquarters in New Orleans to distribute flyers about a safety zone around the Branson Belle. By late Friday afternoon, a preliminary patrol schedule and crew rotation had been put in place, and an auxiliary vessel was on patrol, while Kerr, Stephens and myself set up a temporary office in the

OR express

With our active duty and reserve Coast Guard counterparts, being a Public Affairs officer is frequently known as “collateral duty”. A Coastie might attend Public Affairs “A” School, or even our AUX-12 C-School, but Public Affairs is a secondary duty to their primary one, be it aviation, marine safety or boat forces. I got a brief taste of that on the Branson duck boat incident. My Facebook messenger lit up on Friday, July 20 with friends asking, “Will you be helping with the recovery in Branson today?” I couldn’t answer, as OPSEC was in place, with an active investigation being conducted into the tragedy. Normally, as a PA, I “find the good and praise it”, to quote the motto of the Cutter Alex Haley. But until our division’s mission augmenting Coast Guard personnel working the incident was over, that would have to wait. My personal mission changed during the course of the weekend. Besides a PA, I assisted Marine Safety investigators, helped establish a safety zone around the accident site, and helped mobilized our division’s facilities and boat crews. When I was able to use my PA training yesterday, I was struck by the awesome (and sobering) responsibility those of us in PA have when I witnessed Stretch Duck 07 raised from the lakebed -with finding the good in the story of the Branson duck incident comes a great responsibility to honor and respect those who lost their lives.

USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson

I hope my hurried attempt to chronicle the experiences of Division 5 Auxiliarists in this historical event will serve as a tribute of sorts to the 17 who lost their lives. -- Todd Wilkinson Continued on Page 6



Continued from page 5

USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson



OR express

ABOVE: Darrel Kerr observes a breach of the safety zone near the Branson duck boat wreck site while Brock Stephens makes arrangements to replace an auxiliary facility with mechanical issues.

Continued on Page 8


Continued fromfrom pagepage 7 15 Safety First!Continued TRAGEDY THIS PAGE: Auxiliarist Todd Wilkinson collected witness statements to aid investigators. NEXT PAGE: Brock Stephens briefs the vessel’s coxswain, Steve Larsen, about changes in the safety zone around the Branson duck boat wreck site.

USCG Photo

USCG Photo

USCG Aux Photos by Darrel USCG Aux PhotoKerr



USCG Aux Photo

crew’s mess above the Belle’s giant paddle wheels. Captain Stoermer frequently sought us out to ask about local matters, and praised the Auxiliary for our willingness to do whatever we were asked – even if it was just to bring lunch to the inspectors working off-site. An active duty crew and response boat soon arrived from the Marine Safety Detachment in Peoria, Illinois, and Kerr and Stephens briefed the boatswains about the patrol schedule. Auxiliary vessels would be on the water on eight-hour watches to supplement the Highway Patrol boats, while the active duty would take the overnight shifts. The safety zone would be in place until the duck boat was finally raised from the lake bottom on Monday morning. Besides patrolling the safety zone, Auxiliary vessels were used to carry active duty personnel. CWO Scott Vincamp, a SUMR Marine Safety Inspector, used Larsen’s pontoon boat to trace the duck’s final route in the lake, while Chief Josh Wilson, the incident’s Operations Section Chief went out with Kerr, coxswain Joe Beran and crew member Craig Pullman to determine the size of the safety zone for a flyer which would be distributed to the media and area marinas. Chief Wilson, a 21-year Coast Guard veteran, noted that he hadn’t worked a lot with the Auxiliary, but he was very impressed with what he saw. “You guys are over the top,” said Wilson. “Very professional, proficient and prepared – the three P’s.” Wilson also stated that he would be encouraging younger Coasties to reach to their local Auxiliarists for their experience and enthusiasm. The unofficial motto of the Coast Guard Auxiliary is “Semper Gumby” – always flexible. That motto soon proved to be very fitting, as one of the Arkansas flotilla’s vessels engine overheated before the crew was scheduled to come on patrol. Stephens called Commander Jaime Salinas, Director of Auxiliary, and Chief Warrant Officer Matt Rogers, Operations Training Officer for Eight Western Rivers, to see about providing a 53 facility for the Arkansas crew. Permission was granted, and the Arkansas crew was soon on the water. Coxswain Alan Main of Flotilla 56 reported that the patrols were largely uneventful, and the public was very cooperative on his watch. “The lake calmed down around 2000, and then there was hardly any traffic after 2200, although the lake churned for two hours after the traffic died,” Main noted. He also mentioned that the crew was struck by the show of support from the community. “I did notice all flags on the Branson Belle at half-staff. It seems this whole city is mourning this tragedy; everywhere you go people are sharing their sadness over it,” reflected Main. Coxswain Steve Larsen, who also serves as Flotilla Commander of 53, commented that while the watches were long and uncomfortable due to the high heat and humidity, it

OR express 4

USCG Aux Photo by Miles Brusherd

Continued on Page 10

9 8


Continued from page 9

USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson



OR express

THIS PAGE: Darrel Kerr prepares to heave a line to Martin Eisenman so Chief Josh Wilson can brief boat crews about the establishment of a 250yard safety zone around the duck boat wreck site.

Continued on Page 12


Continuedfrom frompage page115 THUNDER Continued TRAGEDY

USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson

Captain Scott Stoermer, Captain of the Port and Sector Commander, prepares to brief reporters at a press conference on Monday, July 23, regarding the salvage of the sunken duck boat near the Showboat Branson Belle.

did make him reflect on his Auxiliary experiences. “We always train for these sorts of things, we read about them, but an actual event seems surreal when it happens. I’ll never look at a patrol or even an ABS course in the same way again after this,” stated Larsen. On Monday, June 23, Stretch Duck 07 was raised from its resting place 80 feet below the surface of Table Rock Lake by a crane barge under Coast Guard supervision. Auxiliary boat crews remained on station until the duck was brought to land and placed on a tractor-trailer for transport to a secured location for the ongoing investigation. Commodore Tippett and the leadership team observed the operation from the top deck of the Belle. When the duck breached the water’s surface, bright orange life jackets began to rise from the depths, a somber reminder of the 17 persons who lost their lives in the tragic incident. As soon as the duck reached the shore, Stephens called the boat crew on patrol and passed the word to secure and return to port. “It’s just been fantastic, the response of our Auxiliarists,” said Commodore Tippett. “The leadership team and boat crews were nothing less than awesome, especially when you consider they were on station in the heat and humidity for eight hours. Bravo Zulu to all Division 5 members.”




Semper Paratus - Answering The Call Semper Paratus, anyone remotely connected with the U.S. Coast Guard knows those words. But, what does “Always Ready” really mean? For the active duty, always being ready is ensured by Coasties standing the watch. Be they shore-bound or underway, there is always someone in the active duty Coast Guard who is Semper Paratus what ever the needs of mariners may be. But what of those of us in the Auxiliary? What does Semper Paratus mean to us? Few Auxiliary members stand a regular watch. As volunteers, Auxiliarists fit their Coast Guard service into lives that are mostly spent as typical civilians with families, jobs and lives that, for a large part, are outside of the service we have pledged to support. So, what happens when the call comes? What happens when it is not a drill and, as is true of many places in the interior of our nation, the Auxiliary is the closest representative of the Coast Guard available? For a number of Auxiliarists, that call came Thursday, 19 July in response to the duck boat sinking on Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri that claimed the lives of 17 of the 29 passengers and two crew who were aboard. In an instant those Auxiliarists went from regular citizen to representatives of the Coast Guard closest to the scene and on the case. Active duty personnel quickly marshaled forces and took control of the Coast Guard’s role in a multi-agency operation involving local, state and federal agencies. And, the Auxiliary moved into its traditional role, close support of the active duty personnel on the case. Auxiliarists were there, doing their jobs as long as needed. For the staff of the Navigator Express, the call came the next day. The first words were “This is a call to duty.” As public affairs specialists it is our job to keep our membership informed of important events and, even though we published the second quarter’s Nav. Ex. earlier in the week, leadership requested that we do so again with regards to the Auxiliary’s response to the sinking. Though hundreds of miles away from the scene, in an instant we went from regular citizen to assembling information and preparing to tell the story in what is obviously a tragic, and sensitive, situation. That is our job. This “Extra” issue of The Navigator Express will focus on the efforts of our shipmates, both Auxiliary and active duty, who answered the call at Table Rock Lake. That is what all of us, ultimately, signed up for. We do so to make sure that every effort is made to keep the boating public safe, understand what occurred, and to keep our members informed. That is our duty to those who were lost, those who survived and those who answered the call of distress. It is our hope that future tragedies like this can be prevented and our thoughts and prayers go with all concerned.

Navigator Express


EDITORIAL STAFF H William Smith Editor Roger Bazeley Assistant Editor Ed Morris Assistant Editor Curtis Pratt Layout Editor Review Team Brian Harte Mary Patton

CONTRIBUTORS Miles Brusherd District Eight Western Ralph Fairbanks District Nine Western Darrel Kerr District Eight Western CWO Jon Tracy USCG Duncan Wilkinson District Eight Eastern Todd Wilkinson District Eight Western

NATIONAL STAFF Richard F. Mihalcik Director of Public Affairs Thea Narkiewicz Deputy Director, Publications

OR express

Thomas Ceniglio Deputy Director, Support Robert Miller, M.D. Division Chief, Publications

© Copyright 2018 Coast Guard Auxiliary Association, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



GRAND HAVEN, MICHIGAN – Auxiliarist Brian Hartley passes the heaving line to Auxiliary vessel 41306 while coxswain Ken Bennett, an crew members Tom Johnson, Brian Miller, and Steve Bowyer prepare for a stern tow.



URATE, BOLD & CONCISE Story and photos by Ralph Fairbanks

“I Say Again...” Good communication skills are required in nearly everything we human beings do together but they’re especially important during shipboard operations. On July 3, 2018, Auxiliarists from western Michigan assisted the Coast Guard from Station Grand Haven in towing exercises on Lake Michigan. The Auxiliarists had the fortunate opportunity to see how the experts do it and later practiced themselves. Every member that has undergone Team Coordination Training understands that communication is one of the seven attributes of operational risk management, along with leadership, situational awareness, mission analysis, adaptability/flexibility, assertiveness, and


OR express

Continued on Page 16


decision making. Good communicators practice their ABC’s to be understood – be Accurate, Bold, and Concise. During two-boat training, crew members must ensure that they are being heard and understood. For this reason, commands are given and repeated so everyone knows what is expected. Especially during side tows, miscommunication can lead to mishaps, injury, or worse. Barriers to good communication are background noise from the engine, the radio, and the environment. Add to that, hearing loss and unfamiliar terms, and it’s a recipe for disaster.



PREVIOUS PAGE: A USCG Ice Breaker works on the Hudson River. There are typically two or three ice cutters stationed on the river all winter. BELOW: L-R: Vincent Bocchimuzzo, Fred Bietsch, Lawrence Hochheiser prepare their flight plans.

PREVIOUS PAGE: CGC 47225 positions close abeam Auxiliary vessel 41306 during heaving line practice. Crew is coxswain BM3 Whinham, break-in coxswain BM3 Milenski, crewmen BM2 Kirby, FN Hernandez, and MK3 Foegelle. ABOVE: FN Hernandez tends the towing line while MK3 Foegelle assists during training exercises where good communication skills are honed.

OR express

Continued on Page 18


USCG Aux Photo

As the United States prepares to send a mission to Mars, communication will be one of their greatest challenges. The time to transmit a message there can be between four and twenty-two minutes and then the return message takes equally long! While we don’t have to worry about that barrier to good communication, we must still be vigilant and communicate clearly so we don’t have to repeat, “I Say Again …”

Auxiliary Vessel 44259 tows Auxiliary Vessel 41306 during evening towing exercises after watching how the regular Coast Guard does it.



Brown Water

AUXILIARY Story by H William Smith

USCG Aux Photo by H William Smith

“U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary? I thought the Coast Guard is only on the coast.” Ask any U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist in District Eight - Western Rivers, Eighth - Eastern Region, or any other Auxiliary district where a majority of their area of response is in the interior of the country and they will say they have heard that more times than they can count. During the Civil War the U.S. Navy was in effect two navies. There was the blue water navy and the brown water navy. Both were necessary and had their own missions, equipment and methods. Both were critical to the preservation of the union. The U.S. Coast Guard is much the same more than 150 years later. There is the blue water Coast Guard which is tasked with protecting the nation’s coasts. There is also what is affectionately known by some as the brown water Coast Guard which protects the nation’s maritime commerce and recreational boaters on its rivers and lakes. Both elements of the service take pride in their work and unique challenges. Auxiliarists, depending on their flotilla’s location, do the same.

OR express

Continued on Page 20


USCG Photo provided by Jon Tracy PREVIOUS PAGE: Barges carrying everything from coal to hazardous materials are transported on the navigable rivers of the nation’s interior. Auxiliary aircraft help in tracking their whereabouts. Here, two barges are transported down a tributary to the Ohio River. ABOVE: Aids to navigation on the rivers are maintained by Coast Guard cutters specially adapted for the job. Here the Coast Guard Cutter Ouachita passes through a lock.

There are major differences, however. For many flotillas in the interior, the closest active duty station is hundreds of miles and several hours away. In many areas along the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Cumberland, Hudson rivers and on larger lakes, the only Coast Guard presence the public sees is the Auxiliary. On the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, the active duty presence is much greater… and closer. The tools, equipment and types of cutters used on rivers and lakes is often much different than similar equipment on the coast. A vast number of brown water cutters are small black-hulled craft that are specifically designed to work in the constricted waterways of the nation’s rivers and lakes. These cutters, smaller vessels and the active duty personnel who work them are scattered over thousands of miles of rivers and lakes and are tasked with responding to a wide variety of incidents, cases and boating safety challenges. The same is true of the Auxiliary. Facilities used on rivers and lakes range from a developing paddlecraft presence to personal watercraft, pontoon boats and various types of traditional flat-bottomed and v-bottomed powerboats. Most are of a size that would be unsuitable in the ocean but are well adapted to the rivers and lakes they serve. Just like the brown water navy of 1865, the adaptation of local river and lake craft suits the



needs of the service and the crews who operate them. In much of the country’s interior the only Coast Guard aircraft are Auxiliary facilities, owned, piloted and crewed by Auxiliarists. It is the AuxAir squadrons that do ice and flood patrols, keep tabs on barge traffic and are the eyes of the Coast Guard when those eyes are particularly needed. When the Coast Guard is called, often it is local Auxiliary members who have an intimate knowledge of the area and are first on the scene. So, why is this important? During the recent sinking of the duck boat on Table

OR express

USCG Photo

USCG Aux Photo by H William Smith

USCG Aux Photo by H William Smith

USCG Photo provided by Jon Tracy

USCG Aux Photo provided by Jon Tracy

USCG Photo provided by Jon Tracy

Continued on Page 22


USCG Aux Photo by Ducan Wilkinson

PREVIOUS PAGE: (Clockwise from top) Spring flooding on the Ohio River creates debris that collects along banks and causes hazards that have to be monitored and reported; Active Duty Coasties work to remove an obstruction in the river that can pose a hazard to boaters; Operations come to a halt on the river as a cutter waits for the fog to clear; Auxiliarists train with their dry suits for cold water work; Auxiliarist Tom Murphy conducts a vessel safety check to ensure that a professional bass fisherman’s boat is ready for competition prior to the Bass Masters Elite tournament held in Tennessee. ABOVE: Auxiliary training, like this SAR exercise, ensures that operators of personal watercraft facilities are Semper Paratus.

Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, an Auxiliary facility was the first Coast Guard asset on the case. Auxiliarists were among the first Coast Guard personnel to respond and were a critical part of the response. The first facility on scene was a pontoon boat that was used throughout the ensuing search and security mission and was actually seen in photographs nationally. A wide variety of Auxiliary facilities and personnel took part in the operation and were critical to the Coast Guard’s mission. The Table Rock Lake tragedy is one time that local Auxiliary members would have preferred to never be called to duty. But, they were and responded to the call in a way that the entire Coast Guard Auxiliary can be proud of, brown water and blue water alike.



AUXILIARY ‘scut·tle·butt:

A drinking fountain in the Coast Guard is called scuttlebutt. A scuttlebutt in old days was a cask that had openings in the side, fitted with a spigot. Sailors used to congregate at the scuttlebutt or cask of water, to gossip or report on day’s activities.*

On this page you will find

important updates and links to critical information to keep you up-to-date on the current happenings in the Auxiliary. * from the USCG Glossary

SEND US YOUR Publications, Articles & Photos


COVER PHOTOS Front: Auxiliarist Craig Pullman and Chief Petty Officer Josh Wilson calculate the 250-yard safety perimeter around the duck boat wreck site. Back: A Coast Guard Auxiliarist observes the duck boat wreck site near the stern of the Showboat Branson Belle.

We’d love to see what you’re doing and share it with the rest of the Auxiliary!

Publications click HERE

SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATE: MY.CGAUX.ORG All Auxiliary members are encouraged to remain engaged. Be sure to log-on and update your profile at:

OR express

US Coast Guard Auxiliary please visit


NAVIGATOR EXPRESS • All members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary • Coast Guard Auxiliary Association Inc. members and staff

Note: please add [email protected] to your address book. Messages sent from that email address are official messages of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.


Articles and Photos click HERE

For more information about joining the

NATIONAL STAFF OPPORTUNITIES Auxiliary members who are interested in applying for any of the National offices should visit index.php. Here, members will find

opportunities listed and contact information for each position. Members should be prepared to submit forms 7062, 7063, and a copy of their resume.

DISCLAIMER “The appearance of any product or service advertisement on the site to which any link is directed does not constitute, and shall not be construed as, an endorsement of that product or service by the United States Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary.”


USCG Aux Photo by Todd Wilkinson