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My Auxiliary Life

Oath of office
 The day was typically warm at 88°F with clear blue skies and a light breeze as we stood shoulder to shoulder on the fantail of the cutter. Rudy Salas, Carlo Leon Guerrero and I were anxiously standing before the Sector Commander as he prepared to render the Auxiliary oath. It seems a blur some twelve years or so later.

I grew up in Virginia with the salty tidal estuaries of the Elizabeth River, the Chesapeake Bay and the gray Atlantic in my back yard. Since the age of 14, I always had access to a boat for skiing, fishing and crabbing. My friends and their fathers taught me the ways of the water. As I neared fifty, I had a son. This was a serious life changing event. I thought hard and long about how I could share something important with my son. Boating immediately came to mind as a good way to bond. Joshua and I shopped for a boat and hit upon a 26 foot i/o. We'd come to learn it was not very appropriate for Guam waters, but we'd have fun. Joshua excitedly went about rigging the cabin for overnights. The problem soon arose that I had no training in navigation, weather or safety. The beautiful blue Pacific is not the Chesapeake Bay. It was time to join the Auxiliary.

Rudy, Carlo and I were to become very close and shared the same mentor in 40 plus year Auxiliary veteran Robert Sajnovsky. Bob encouraged us to qualify for boat crew so we spent many a weekend on patrol in the deep waters surrounding Guam. Rudy is a highly skilled boat mechanic who got us out of a pinch on more than one occasion. Carlo has served as FSO-IS for ten years. We agonized through SAR training with Bob on our heels pushing us towards AUXOP.

My mentor pressed me to take a staff officer position. I saId I was too busy with work and taking ICS and Auxiliary courses, but soon found myself on a plane to Public Affairs C school. I moved to elected office as VFC and through each office in the chain of leadership to District Commodore.

Joshua is 16 and has learned to always wear his life jacket, ensure he complies with RBS rules and drives a boat better than he drives a car. We've enjoyed boating and the bond it created for father and son. I am confident that he has the ability to master the important life lessons based on his approach to boating safety.

As the Immediate Past Commodore, I just returned from District training in Honolulu. Our Awards Banquet has always held a bit of Christmas fascination. It is a time that we join together from across the vast Pacific Ocean to honor those who have excelled and those who have gone before us in service to our nation through the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. Recreational Boating Safety, Mission Support, augmentation and backfill/fillin are more than mere words as they describe some of the myriad ways that Auxiliarists serve. It is exciting to see our brothers and sisters. It is humbling to break bread with our gold counterparts. It is sad when we remember the loss of our members who have crossed the bar. It is their legacy that we carry on lest we toil in vain.

As I looked upon the audience, I viewed a congregation of crisp blue shirts and smiles that genuinely reflect the fellowship that we share. Like Christmas, District Awards Banquet comes only once a year. Master of Ceremonies Jason Snellings calls the assembly to order. We honor our flag and country with our pledge of allegiance. The Chaplain delivers the benediction. Commodore Ankrum shares short remarks followed by DNACO King's keynote address. District Commander Atkins stirs the audience with his heartfelt message of leadership and thanks.

The awards begin as we recognize our numerical superlatives, those who have achieved and those who are outstanding. District and Station awards are rendered along with Auxiliary awards.  The parade of grin and grip photos goes through the night.  I reflect upon the people and the passion that we honor.  I hear my name and snap back to reality.  Has it really been two years?  Has my tenure as Commodore truly expired?  Admiral Atkins and Commodore Ankrum present me with a beautifully engraved sword and scabbard.  Indeed, the time has passed like the blink of an eye. Our Admiral reads the Letter of Commendation.  

It was fortuitous that Robert Sajnovsky mentored me from day one in the Auxiliary. He taught me knots, boat crew skills and boating safety. Commodore Burkhard Berger and Mariana Berger continued the mentoring task with leadership training and political insight.  Active duty mentoring forged the connection between duty and action. Commodore Roger Johnson gave me leeway to test my skills. My Chief of staff and his wife gave 100% support when I most needed it.  Together, it takes a village to raise a Commodore.  Most important to the recipe are the members who are vital to our success.  The old members are tried and true in their commitment.  The new members are the fresh blood of succession that keeps us a unique and intense organization. Those members who have crossed the Bar will always be remembered and cherished. Together, we are Team Coast Guard.

Commodore Frank Gumataotao


Life Preserver Icon
  • 2017 District Fall Conference  (8-10 September 2017)