Coast Guard auxiliary highlights presence

Coast Guard auxiliary member Steven Riddell, right, of Fort Collins discusses a training scenario with fellow volunteer Carl Koonsman, left, of Denver, as auxiliary memers from three states met this past wekend in Grand Junction. Dorene Wendland of Colorado Springs, second from left,  and Aaron Arnhold of Grand Junction, second from right, listen Sunday during the meeting at the Clarion Inn.

The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t limit its presence to the coastlines of the United States.

The 15 Grand Valley members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary can attest to that.

The local flotilla hosted a division training and awards banquet for members from three states this past Friday through Sunday at the Clarion Inn, 755 Horizon Drive. Division One of the Eighth Western Rivers District encompasses Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. The auxiliary portion of the Coast Guard has membership in all 50 states, divided into 16 districts and numerous divisions.

Divisionwide meetings take place in Grand Junction only every few years, according to Aaron Arnhold, public affairs officer for the local flotilla. He said the rare opportunity to have multiple guard members in town provided a chance to highlight the auxiliary’s presence in this area.

“We’re just trying to get people to recognize what the Coast Guard does. People recognize us as being right by the ocean but there’s actually a plethora of things we do,” he said.

Members of the all-volunteer guard auxiliary have no law enforcement power but check boats and other vessels to make sure they meet state and federal standards before going in the water; patrol places like Highline Lake, Ridgway Reservoir and Lake Powell to look for safety concerns and provide advice to boaters; and teach water safety classes to the public. Class topics are vast and teach navigation, global-positioning system (GPS) information and basic boating and sailing skills.

“You could virtually complete a college degree with what the auxiliary offers,” said Division One Commander Carl Koonsman.

The auxiliary also helps agencies like the National Park Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife and assists in water-related rescues, which a handful of local auxiliary members did last September when they provided trucks and supplies during Front Range flooding.

Local members will host a life preserver safety and river safety booth May 3 at Cabela’s in Mesa Mall. Anyone interested in joining the auxiliary or getting a safety check can stop by or search online for the words “Coast Guard Grand Junction” to find the auxiliary’s lengthy web address. Local auxiliary members meet the first Tuesday of every month.


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