College Athletics to Deepwater Horizon

                                                                                              By: Craig Gilkison FSO-PA

   Universities such as William & Mary and the University of Richmond held a Regatta on the James River this spring. Men’s and women’s teams competed in 4 and 8 oar racing shells.

  The Coast Guard Auxiliary was tasked to provide security for the river approaches to protect the crews from unaware and possibly reckless boaters. The weather was perfect. The oarsmen were determined and very competitive. Flotilla 32 provided a facility and crew. It was quite a day.

   Soon the Flotilla was back on the river for another regatta. This time it was Dragon boats. These boats are smaller facsimiles of those used in Thailand. They have crews of about 18 people. They are competitive with each other but the event is more festive than formal. Thousands of dollars were raised for Richmond Sports Backers, a charitable organization. PATCOM for these events were members Como Harrup and John Rives.

   The Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico soon after the first regatta. Many members are involved in Coast Guard aviation as well as performing surface duties. Pilots Jenny Stack and Charles Lamb volunteered to assist Admiral Thad Allen, at the scene. They flew to Mobile and began operations.

   Most days consisted of pre-flight planning, a morning sortie and another in the after noon. Evenings were dedicated to a quick dinner, a shower and paperwork until midnight. OPTEMPO was as grueling as a military operation. Missions included marine environmental patrols, searches for oil and convergence lines. Passengers included Coast Guard and environmental protection personnel, federal, state and local officials among others.

   Training is a constant activity for Flotilla 32. Mentors are active in helping members improve their skills for surface operations. Training is done in a classroom situation and on the water. The addition of the Mullins’s and several others to the flotilla membership has had a significant impact on successful training.

   After months of intensive training, two members qualified as observers by the aviation wing. Several surface-air coordination training exercises were completed on the James and Rappahannock rivers in conjunction with other flotilla’s and C.G. Station & Sector personnel.
Other activities included Courtesy Vessel Exams, Boating Safety Classes for the public, Public Affairs and boating safety exhibits at safety events, shows and tournaments and recruiting efforts. One new facility was certified and added to the inventory this spring. The vessel has been on 5 missions so far.

    Membership is growing in our very active and diverse flotilla.