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12 December 2009

Reading List: “I’ve been to where bad is, and this is not it.”

Shipmates,
Take a few minutes and read our shipmate Mario Vittone's article at Weekly Leader.

Mario relates an experience while serving as an Aviation Survival Technician which serves as a touchstone in his life and puts all the day-to-day challenges into perspective.

Mario's perspective has had a dramatic impact on my life in the months since it was posted. I've used the line in a number of circumstances...  "Mario has been to where bad is, and [whatever the current challenge] is not it." My personal "been where bad is" is some 30 years old and dulled by my youth at the time and the intervening three decades.

When I was seven we were entering a remote harbor in the Marquesas (part of French Polynesia) and my mother Nancy (bio) was putting down the anchor. We had a bullet-proof mechanical anchor windlass with the entire mechanism exposed and she accidentally hit the lift cam which caused one of the windlass handles to catch, rise and catch her across her face. I recall her glasses flying into the clear water. Her nose was almost completely separated and it was a nine hour voyage back to the nearest medical care. With only three of us aboard my dad got us there and my job was to keep my mom awake. I was seven so I ended up asleep.

So I guess I can also say from personal experience "I've been to where bad is and this is not it."

I was lucky enough to meet Mario at the Innovation Expo last month. He is a force of nature. It is very much worth keeping up with his writings.

CG-6505 Investigation and the importance of mishap investigations


Shipmates,
On Friday the Commandant posted the final investigation documents on the loss of CG-6505 off Honolulu in September 2008. I encourage each of you to review the final investigation document as it identifies a number of important issues related to Crew Resource Management (CRM), risks of fouled trail lines and hoist cables during hoist operations, and the "task saturation" that can occur in times of high stress. We will review the report as part of an upcoming member training.

While we do not operate helicopters with hoists, our surface operations members may be on the other end of the hoist cable, operating on non-standard facilities with significant potential for hoist cable fouling. Both our surface and air operations members can find themselves confronted with CRM challenges and task saturation in high stress situations. I can identify a number of times I've been task saturated during surface operations. When operating as a new aircrew member I was task saturated much of the time we were in the air due to the workload and the unfamiliar environment.

Admiral Allen's iCommandant post: http://www.uscg.mil/comdt/blog/2009/12/cg-6505-final-investigation-documents.asp

Investigation document: http://www.uscg.mil/foia/docs/6505Mishap.pdf

We can best honor the ultimate sacrifice of CAPT Thomas Nelson, LCDR Andrew Wischmeier, AMT1 Joshua Nichols and AST1 David Skimin by taking these lessons to heart, reviewing our own actions in light of the findings and looking to the safety of our shipmates.

These investigations, and the public and open way in which the Coast Guard leadership shares them, save lives of Guardians and those we serve. I am very thankful to work in a culture which rigorously examines mishaps for lessons which can be applied to prevent future mishaps. Our end of the bargain is to take the lessons to heart and apply them to our actions.

As you celebrate the holiday season please keep the families of CG-6505, CG-1705 and all of our Guardians who have given their lives in service to the nation in your thoughts.

Thank you for your service and commitment to the safety of your shipmates,
Daren

11 December 2009

Reflections on our families

I've been an Auxiliarist for six years now. I've joked with my kids, Tim and Charlotte, since fairly early in my Auxiliary career  that I can't wait until they can join up too, but they were little and it was a long, long way off. 


Last night I was gearing up for a Christmas Ships patrol and Tim is hanging out with me. He asked with anticipation in his voice to remind him, "When can I start going out with you?". I stopped, staggered realizing that he is only three years from 17. He just turned 14 last week but it had not really hit me until that moment.


Congrats boyo! I am so very proud of you.


Tonight I attended the Flotilla 73 Change of Watch. Brian Rollins' son was there to watch his father be sworn in as Flotilla Commander, as was his wife Elizabeth. My dear friend Peter Kirschner's wonderful wife Mary, his daughter and granddaughter were on hand for Peter's retirement from the Auxiliary. We were surrounded by those who sacrifice weekends and evenings so we can serve.


I simply could not do what I do without the incredible support of my wife Sarah and my children. On the flip side I think I am a better husband and father because of the opportunities the Coast Guard and my shipmates have given me to serve and to lead. Today when I look at myself I have no doubts about who I am. I am a husband, a father and a guardian....






...and perhaps soon to be a father of guardians too.




Be safe out there shipmates.











08 December 2009

ALCOAST 657/09 - Auxiliary Vessel Salvage Funding Procedures

This one is a bit obscure but very important to those members who generously offer their facilities for use in as operational facilities. The ALCOAST clarifies the salvage funding for Auxiliary facilities operating under orders. Previous policy addressed damage but did not clearly address salvage funding potentially exposing members and their insurers to liability for salvage.

The policy can be found here: http://www.uscg.mil/announcements/ALCOAST/657-09_alcoast.txt

This was only a potential issue and once the gap was identified the Coast Guard acted to address the issue. We operate by policy in the Coast Guard and policies do not always anticipate every eventuality. I am heartened and I very much appreciate the commitment shown by our leadership on both the gold and silver sides to assure our members are protected in a salvage situation.

As operators (pilots and coxswains) and facility owners we have an obligation to operate our facilities with care and to operate within the capabilities of the crew and the facility. Most incidents which would require this policy are preventable and we all need to do our part in the prevention of salvage incidents.

The formal roles of the DIRAUX, Order Issuing Authority, facility owner, facility operator and Auxiliary staff/leaders are set out in the Auxiliary Operations Policy Manual. Broken down to everyday practice there are a number of steps we can take to prevent facility incidents:


  1. Talk about the potential risks and make such discussions part of a continuous ongoing dialog aboard, in the cockpit and ashore.
  2. Practice risk management in all aspects of the operations program.
  3. Use the TCT model and encourage all members of the program and your crew to participate through proper application of the model.
  4. Update your GAR as conditions change.
  5. Understand the capabilities of the crew and facility - don't ask more than can be given.
  6. Slow down or stand down. At times the pace of operations begins to exceed our ability to apply risk management. Learn to recognize these times and slow down or simply stand down for awhile. This applies to individual missions, to a multi-asset mission, an event and our whole operations program.
  7. Train, train, train. 
  8. Do not discount crew comfort. Fatigue is a major cause of incidents. We do not need to maximize the hours we spend on the water, in the air or on the road. We want to do what can be done safely.
  9. Our responsibility extends well beyond the time the mission is complete until everyone is home safely and rested. We are not taking care of our shipmates if they drive home to four hours of sleep and work the next day after eight hours on the water.


What other steps would you propose?

[Hat tip to Brian Rollins of Flotilla73.org for the reminder to post on this topic]

07 December 2009

December 7th 1941

Shipmates,
I spent a fair bit of my youth in sight of the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Last year I posted the following on cgblog.org and I wanted to share it with you today.

Sunday, December 7, 2008



Remembrance

Posted by Daren Lewis
In August I took my son Tim, 13 and daughter Charlotte 10 to the Arizona Memorial for the first time. As a teenager growing up on Oahu I'd been a number of times but there is something particularly poignant about returning with my children who may yet be called upon to make serve their country. I can only imagine the pride and fear I will feel when and if that day comes.
With profound respect and gratitude for those who have served, now serve and will serve in the years to come I offer three photos from our trip to the USS Arizona.


- Mainmast of the USS Arizona, flag pole USS Arizona Memorial, USCGC Rush



- The fallen of a grateful nation whom we would be proud to be allowed to call shipmates





- Flying proud over the USS Arizona

27 November 2009

Effective staff reports

I've been giving considerable thought to how to craft an effective staff or leadership report over the last few weeks. We place a great emphasis on reporting in the Auxiliary with little guidance on what a staff report should contain. An effective staff report needs to contain more than simply a record of accomplishments. I believe we can positively influence our staff to think in big picture terms by asking them to report on a broader set of activities.

I have identified six components of an effective staff report and I would appreciate critique and additions.

  1. Execution: What has been accomplished in my area of staff responsibility including my own efforts, those of my reporting staff and those of the membership?
  2. Expected execution: What accomplishments/missions are expected in the near term?
  3. Execution opportunities and planning: What accomplishments/missions are in the planning stages? What is on the horizon? What are our opportunities?
  4. Program development execution: What have I and my team done to build program capacity? Who has been trained? What partnerships have been developed? What materials have been developed or are now available?
  5. Program development planning: What is planned to build program capacity?
  6. Needs/gaps: What is missing that I need and/or needs leadership attention or action to resolve?

20 November 2009

Reflections on the Coast Guard Innovation Expo

Shipmates,

I'm back in Portland after a very exciting four days in Virginia Beach for the Coast Guard Innovation Expo. There are always benefits to a hot wash after an operation, here are mine:

1) When holding a camera and the Headquarters Command Master Chief comes up to you and asks what you are the appropriate answer is not what I said, "I'm an Auxiliarist" (he knows that), but rather, "Master Chief I am whatever you want me to be!" Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Bowen, Master Chief Isherwood (the aforementioned CMC questioner) and our D13 Command Master Chief, Master Chief Dunn bestowed honorary Master Chief status on VADM Currier, our former District Commander and the current Chief of Staff. As PAC Paul Roskowski notes on the D13 Blog:
The title of Honorary Chief is bestowed on individuals by the Master Chief of the Coast Guard as a way to recognize people who have demonstrated a significant commitment to Coast Guard Chiefs, the Chief's Mess and the enlisted corps.


1a)  Being Semper Paratus applies when at a social event too.

2) The three D13 booths, External Affairs, Citizen's Action Network and Web Resources each included Auxiliarists on the team. We have an extraordinary working relationship here in D13 which is, in itself, innovative.

3) The Commandant is even more impressive in person.

4) It really makes a difference to be there in person. The Expo is a great opportunity to meet the current leadership of the Coast Guard and also the officer and enlisted leadership. Some of the best conversations were had on the bus as I found myself seated next to outstanding members of our community who I would never have otherwise met.

5) We all innovate in ways large and small. I'd like to make the effort to identify at least one innovative project to submit for consideration next year and it would be great to see two or more of you to Tampa for the 2010 Expo.

I have a number of additional videos and photos I'll post over the weekend including 12 Guardian Innovator videos we did highlighting just a few of the many innovations at the Expo.

17 November 2009

2009 USCG Innovation Expo Field Reports

Report 5: I had a great day discussing social media with fellow Guardians I had previously met only in the virtual world. Participants included (by Twitter handle) @xpconcept, @petermello, @benjaminstrong, @katiehood, @pastinson, @simplydan, @MVittone, @uscgd13 and many more. You can see some of the highlights here: PodcampUSCG We've a number of initiatives that will emerge in the coming days and weeks including a Wiki, a code of conduct for Guardians when participating in social media unofficially (because there is one when participating in the course of our duties), plans for PodcampUSCG2010 and an ongoing community between now and the 2010 Podcamp. If you are interested in social media and the Coast Guard please join the conversation.


Report 4: At PodcampUSCG
I'm participating in the inaugural PodcampUSCG hosted here at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. It is great to meet so many fellow Guardians and associated shipmates who I have only met online.




Ben Strong of AMVER (if you are not following AMVER on Twitter, Blogger and/or Facebook you should).


Report 3: Sunrise opening day


The sun rises over the water here, go figure.






Report 2: From Virginia Beach

First video from Virginia Beach kicking off the Innovation Expo




Report 1: Intro and PDX
Shipmates,
I'm on my way to Virginia Beach for the 2009 Coast Guard Innovation Expo. I'll be posting field reports during my trip so you can join me "virtually".

Rather than a new post each time I will update this post with notes and new videos so check back from time to time between now and Thursday.

[Update - Intro Video]




Best,
Daren

15 November 2009

Disaster Recovery Working Group

If you have been impacted by a Federally declared disaster or have been deployed to assist with disaster recovery, this is your opportunity to voice your thoughts, insights, and observations to assist in the development of a better national strategy for an effective approach to long term disaster recovery.

On October 28, 2009, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the launch of DisasterRecoveryWorkingGroup.gov - a new interagency website that will allow federal disaster recovery officials to solicit public comments from state, local, and tribal partners and the public.

The full text of the press release can be found at: http://www.disasterrecoveryworkinggroup.gov/releases/pr2009-10-28.cfm

The Questionnaire to Strengthen Disaster Recovery in Our Nation can be found at: http://www.disasterrecoveryworkinggroup.gov/questionnaire/

Disaster Recovery Working Group.gov’s home page is located at: http://www.disasterrecoveryworkinggroup.gov/index.html

06 November 2009

Remembering Rescue 1705

Shipmates, Please take a few moments today to remember our seven shipmates and two Marines.

This video is a moving tribute to 9 brave souls.

03 November 2009

Why the Coast Guard Needs CAN

Shipmates, This is the slide deck Pat Easton is using in his outreach to develop the Citizen's Action Network. As mentioned previously Pat can use help in many aspects of this program.

30 October 2009

Loss of CG-1705 and a Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra



Shipmates, By now you have likely seen the message traffic related to the collision of CG-1705, one of our  C-130s, and a Marine Corps helicopter. Please keep the crew of CG-1705, the crew of the Marine helicopter and their families in your thoughts. Our people, Guardians and Marines, go into harms way every day in service of our country to protect us, save lives and preserve our liberty. All of them, no matter where in the world they serve, are in my thoughts tonight.

Please be safe in all your activities and look to the safety of your shipmates.

From: Allen, Thad Admiral
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 1:50 PM
Subject: ALL HANDS - Loss of Coast Guard C-130 and Marine Corps Helicopter
To the Men and Women of the United States Coast Guard:
I am deeply saddened to report that one of our C-130 aircraft, CG-1705 out of AIRSTA Sacramento, crashed last night about 15 miles east of San Clemente Island off the coast of San Diego. CG-1705, with seven Guardians onboard, was searching for an overdue 12-foot pleasure craft when there was a collision with a Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra helicopter at 1915 Pacific local time. There were two personnel on the Marine Corps helicopter which was conducting a separate training exercise.
The Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy have been working collaboratively overnight and throughout today in response to this tragedy. I want to ensure our workforce is kept fully apprised as well.
We have been and continue to actively search for survivors. Two Navy surface vessels were on scene almost immediately after the accident. Several Navy and Coast Guard aircraft, along with a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter, are flying sorties in the area while multiple cutters including the BLACKFIN, BLACKTIP, EDISTO, PETREL, GEORGE COBB, and JARVIS are conducting surface searches. One of the Navy ships is remaining on-scene as well. No personnel have been found at this time but we will continue to work with our Marine Corps and Navy partners in this massive effort.
While we continue the search, we will fully support the men and women of AIRSTA Sacramento and their families. We are actively assisting the local field units to respond to this tragic event so they can focus on the ongoing search. This includes flowing resources and critical incident stress management teams where they are needed, supporting our fellow families and Service members, coordinating a joint military investigation, and working with our Department, the interagency, the Congress, and the media to keep people informed.
I know many of you want to know the names of the people who are missing. We are following the appropriate notification procedures and working closely with our sister Services and the impacted families to ensure the proper steps are followed. We will release that information as soon as possible.
I will provide further updates as they become available. I encourage all Coast Guard members to keep these missing Guardians and Marines in your thoughts during this difficult time and to continue looking after your shipmates.
Admiral Thad Allen
Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

27 October 2009

Operations Safety: Ejections from boats - an update



Shipmates, The following appeared on MCPOCG Bowen's blog and, as we posted the initial message on boat ejections from Captain Harrop, I wanted to also post the follow-up message.
To all those who operate our boats:
On 12 June, I issued the attached Cause for Action and sought help distributing it to every coxswain in the Coast Guard. I was pleased with how many people helped in this effort. While I know not everyone has seen it, I do believe many have. It is still being used at BM school and at the Boat Force Command Cadre course and other schools and venues. It has been circulated widely throughout the Auxiliary and even in the Canadian Auxiliary. But more importantly, I want to thank every coxswain who has gotten a Coast Guard boat underway during the past 3 months.
The last ejection from a Coast Guard boat occurred on 22 July, exactly three months ago. Our coxswains have safely operated their boats for 90 straight days without throwing anyone out. They have logged over 170,000 hours of safe and effective boat operations in support of all Coast Guard missions. That is impressive. Next time you see one, please pass on my heartfelt thanks for a job done well. Bravo Zulu! Thanks.
Now is not the time to let our guard down. Please continue to encourage our coxswains to be vigilant. The Office of Boat Forces goal is to complete 2010 without a single boat ejection. Coast Guard coxswains operate in a very dangerous environment and we must do everything in our power to ensure they are enabled to bring their crews back safely. Please continue to do your part.
Sincerely, Capt Ted Harrop


Chief, Office of Boat Forces.

PS: To those who oversee or manage others who operate boats, I also thank you for your help and request you pass this along to those who do operate boats for you.

Captain Harrop is reporting good progress. I'd encourage all of our Coxswains and Crew to remain vigilant and watch out for each other. As a reminder here are a few strategies to manage the risk of ejection:
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate - Call and get a response to wakes, maneuvering, changes in speed, going out of the cockpit or going forward, etc.
  • Slow down: Operate at prudent speed for the conditions, situation and the capabilities of the vessel
  • Remind your crew to hold on and if possible sit down - seated is almost always better when at higher speeds
  • Keep crew off the bow except when operating at low speeds and only then when operationally required
  • Assure PPE is properly donned at all times including all buckles and zippers
  • When you find yourself loosing your balance or see a shipmate doing so bring it to everyones attention - this is an indicator that action needs to be taken

25 October 2009

Required reading: Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowing

Our fellow Guardian, Mario Vittone, has an article on gCaptain about how drowning can be a deceptively quiet event.  Please read the article - we will be incorporating this as a training topic.

To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening(source: CDC).

http://gcaptain.com/maritime/blog/drowning/

24 October 2009

Qualifications: Public Affairs Specialist I & II and Coast Guard Public Affairs Support Specialist

We are all Public Affairs specialists in the Auxiliary. Each of us, in the course of our duties, interacts with the public and represents the Auxiliary and the Coast Guard. We rely on the skills we've picked up over the years to make these interactions successful. Few of us have any formal PA/PR training or significant PA/PR business experience. Over the last few years the Auxiliary leadership has recognized the need to provide training for, and formal recognition of, our public affairs specialists.

There are three levels of Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist (+1 since we are all PA)
  • Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist
  • Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist II
  • Coast Guard Public Affairs Support Specialist
Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist (I)
There are two tracks to gain recognition as a PA Specialist (I).

1) Take the Auxiliary C-School AUX-12. [Definition: C-Schools are resident classes of 2-4 days with travel, food and lodging provided by the Coast Guard]  The current C-School schedule can be found here: http://cschool.auxservices.org/

For 2010 these classes will be held in:
  • CGAS Clearwater - February
  • CGAS Mobile - March
  • CG Yard-Baltimore - April
  • ISC Alameda - June 
2) Use the self-study method with online courses through followed by an oral board. Full details of this approach can be found at http://www.auxpa.org/parecog.html. There are four Auxiliary classes and you must also take ICS-100 through FEMA. The Auxiliary classes are:
  • Introduction to Coast Guard Auxiliary Public Affairs (AUX-20)
  • Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist 2nd Class (AUX-22)
  • Journalism Basic (AUX-24)
  • Introduction to Digital Photography (AUX-26)
Links to these classes can be found on the National Testing Center website (you will need to create and account to take the classes): http://ntc.cgaux.org/TrainingCourses.htm

For ICS-100a see this post: http://www.flotilla76.org/2009/08/member-training-fema-incident.html

There is a study guide and a Personnel Qualifications Standard (PQS) for the PA Specialist qualification [Definition: A PQS is a manual which lays out the requirements for a qualification and tracks mentoring and your progress - this is the standard Coast Guard approach to qualifications and is being increasingly adopted by the Auxiliary for our qualifications]


Beyond PA(I)
Once you have completed the Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist qualification you may pursue the Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist II qualification followed by the Coast Guard Public Affairs Support Specialist qualification. These are also detailed at http://www.auxpa.org/parecog.html

These are great programs and I encourage you to consider pursing the first, or all of the qualifications. Attendance at AUX-12 would be particularly useful as this prepares you to participate as a mentor and oral board member for future members seeking the qualification.

22 October 2009

District Store in our own backyard



The District Staff Officer - Materials, Matt Epstein, is a member of Flotilla 78 and maintains the District store here locally.
My inventory includes garrison hats, shoulder boards, most of the ribbons, medals, D13 logo shirts, patrol signs, patrol & Aux ensigns, various metal insignia, the new black A sew-on insignia for ODU's, and various other items. You can include this link to the D13 Store on the web http://a130.uscgaux.info/dso-ma/index.htm that includes info on how to contact me to order.
Matt's contact information is on the D13 site and in our directory. Matt is often willing, with some reasonable notice, to bring materials to the Division meetings.

21 October 2009

Oregon State Marine Board post-season Law Enforcement Conference

Many of our Oregon law enforcement recreational boating safety partners were recognized by the Oregon State Marine Board last week.
The Oregon State Marine Board recognized marine law enforcement officers from around the state for their outstanding performance and contributions during the 2009 boating season at their annual post-season conference on October 13, in Bend.
The day-to-day efforts and outstanding heroism of the Officers, Deputies and OSP Troopers recognized comes as no surprise to those of us who work with them on the ramps and the waterways of Oregon.

Bravo zulu to those recognized and all our Oregon and Washington LE partners.


Press releases describing the contributions and awards, by county, can be found here: http://www.boatoregon.com/OSMB/news/OSMBnews.shtml#October_2009

15 October 2009

Naval Vessel Protection Zone PSA

Our shipmates in D13 Public Affairs have prepared a public service announcement on Naval Vessel Protection Zones.



If the video does not display please see this YouTube link.

14 October 2009

The ready wall

Shipmates,
We are heading into winter operations and I thought it would be a great time to show you my "Ready Wall", the place I keep my operational gear for ease of access and readiness for any callouts.



(Please visit the post or YouTube if the video does not display)

11 October 2009

Thank you and Division staff solicitation for 2010


Shipmates,
I’m deeply honored to have been elected as the Division Commander for 2010. Thank you to the board for the vote of confidence and to all of my shipmates who have proffered congratulations and offers of support.

Carol and I are fortunate to lead at a time when we have been experiencing growth in our membership, growth in our capability, and record levels of mission execution. Your Flotilla and Division leadership and your personal dedication to duty has created outstanding momentum for our Flotillas and the Division. The most important contribution we can make to our future success is keeping this momentum. In the remaining weeks ahead of the holidays I’d ask that you:

  • Support our current leadership in meeting our 2009 goals
  • Continue to focus on recruiting followed by mentoring of our new members  
  • Seek out one or two additional opportunities educate our fellow boaters about the risks of boating in Oregon and Washington – it is a great time of year to talk about cold water and life jackets 
  • Consider an elected role in your Flotilla for 2010
  • Consider a staff role in your Flotilla or a staff role in the Division for 2010

On this final point, one of the most critical duties of a Division leadership team is the selection of the Division staff. It is the responsibility of the Division leadership to select the best possible candidates and persuade them to serve as Division Staff Officers, on Division committees, and as project leads on special projects. To that end I invite each of you, not already serving as a Division staff officer, to put yourself forward for any Division staff role that ignites your passion. If you submit your name please include the following:

  • The office(s) where you think you could make an exceptional contribution
  • Past Division and Flotilla staff and leadership roles
  • Coast Guard qualifications relevant to the staff role and past activity relevant to the role
  • Outside relevant experience
  • A brief statement as to why you are interested, your vision for the position, and a few specific actions you would take to pursue that vision
We are looking for members with the ability to manage a program, not simply execute the mission – at the Division level the staff role needs to be focused on enabling participation and capability rather than individual execution. We are also looking for members who are interested in assisting the Division staff in particular roles or assisting the Division leadership with projects.

Thank you for considering a staff role, for your dedication to duty and for your service,
Daren

08 October 2009

Reminder: Leadership Training Saturday 10OCT2009



(Embedded Video: Visit the post to see the video if you receive this via email)

I encourage all 76 members to attend the leadership training on Saturday, 10 OCT 2009 at 0830 on the training deck at Sector Portland. Ken Babick will be instructing. The uniform is Tropical Blue or Winter Dress Blue. Hope to see you there!

07 October 2009

Commandant’s Auxiliary Letter of Commendation: Peter T. Kirschner


At the Division meeting on Monday our shipmate from FL73, Peter T. Kirschner, was awarded the Commandant’s Auxiliary Letter of Commendation. Peter tirelessly provided support to hundreds of Auxiliarists individually, the Auxiliary as a whole, and our Active Duty commands and partners. Without this kind of work we simply could not operate. We would have no qualifications, no awards, no way of contacting our members, no ability to accept facilities for use or cut orders.

Personally I'm honored to have Peter as a friend and mentor. Peter personifies Respect, Honor and Devotion to Duty.

Bravo Zulu Peter!

17 September 2009
From: Commandant
To: Peter T. Kirschner, USCG Auxiliary
Subj: AUXILIARY LETTER OF COMMENDATION
I note with pride and am pleased to commend you for your performance of duty while assigned as District Staff Officer Information Systems, Thirteenth Coast Guard District from January 1999 to January 2009. This time period was one of exceptional significance to the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary as the country responded to the post September 11th tragedy with its significant increase in volunteerism. With so many new members, the Auxiliary recognized that it needed to transition from its basic Auxiliary Management Information System (AUXMIS) to more sophisticated packages for member tracking and reporting called Auxiliary Data and Auxiliary Info. These new programs accommodate both the sharp increase in membership volume but offered an affiliated upgrade in capability tracking. During this period of technological and philosophical change you demonstrated savvy professionalism and competence in quickly mastering and implementing these new data and member management systems. In this enhanced role, you provided accurate record keeping of member’s performance and qualifications as needed. Further, you trained hundreds of other Auxiliarists on the new systems while still providing services for several Auxiliary Directors, multiple Commodores and thousands of Auxiliarists over the years. While you were the regional Information Systems Officer, you simultaneously held another position on the Auxiliary National Staff thereby ensuring that the Thirteenth District’s technological needs were on the forefront of the nationwide technological evolution. Your reputation, skill, patience and your enthusiastic “can-do” attitude helped insure the accuracy, relevance and importance of Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel records. These records, typically the only measure to account for the Auxiliary’s Herculean efforts, today identify, account and segment nearly $100 million in annual professional volunteer hours.
You are commended for your outstanding performance of duty. By your meritorious service you have upheld the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
You are hereby authorized to wear the Commandant’s Auxiliary Letter of Commendation Ribbon Bar.

For the Commandant,
M. A. BILLEAUDEAUX
Commander, U. S. Coast Guard
DIRAUX, Thirteenth Coast Guard District

Division 7 Meeting Report: October 2009

Shipmates,
It was great to see so many members of the Flotilla in attendance on Monday. The 12 members (+3 soon to be 76 members) exceeded the total size of the Flotilla a few short years ago -- today we find ourselves at 58 members with a number of new applicants in the pipeline. Bravo Zulu!

The Director and District Commodore were in attendance. The Director briefly discussed the budget and reminded us that we've got to make the most of the available funds, particularly for PPE. As I've discussed previously we need to use every available dollar and piece of equipment wisely to maximize mission execution and program participation. In plain language this means doing our missions and adding the capability through exercises, training and stewardship to do more.

Elections were held and I'm honored to have been elected to serve as the Division Commander for 2010 along with my friend Carol Bobo as Vice Division Commander -- more on our plans in coming posts but I ask that we focus on finishing strong in 2009.

A number of awards were presented. The Division won for the highest number of Vessel Exams in the District, Peter Kirshner received an Auxiliary Commandant's Letter of Commendation (accepted by FC73 Don Verkest), and Ken Babick received the first place award for Direct Support: Operations for D13.

We will be participating in the Veteran's Day Parade in Vancouver on 07NOV2009. John Hillbrands, FC78, is coordinating the participation. Please contact him if you would like to take part in this outstanding event.

To date the Division has completed 1467 Vessel Exams in 2009. With our new crop of Examiners in 76 I hope to see this number grow and I hope to substantially exceed this figure in 2010.

Thank you to the membership of Rose City Yacht Club and RCYC Commodore (and Auxiliarist) Karl Quade for the use of their beautiful facility while the parking at Sector Portland was being repaved.

01 October 2009

Making it count: the art of reporting your time


Shipmates,
Almost everything you do as an Auxiliarist in support of the Coast Guard is reportable - and it is worth reporting for a number of reasons:

  1. Your time counts towards a variety of personal and unit awards.
  2. We make the case for the value of Auxiliary programs based on the time and mission accomplishment reported. Time really does equal money in many cases.
  3. The Coast Guard has certain mandated missions and by reporting time and accomplishment on these missions we help meet these requirements.
  4. Your reporting helps the Coast Guard and Auxiliary leadership plan for, and meet, the need for training and equipment for the Auxiliary.
Here is my cheat sheet on which form to use, it isn't comprehensive but it should get you started and lead you in the right direction for the cases not addressed. I'll discuss how to use these forms in future posts. Each form has instructions.

Missions with unique forms:

Vessel exams or a facility inspection?
  • Mission time: Record the time on a 7038 Vessel Examination Activity Report
  • Travel and preparation time: Report on your 7029 Member Activity Log
Recreational boating safety visit?
  • Mission time: Record the time on a 7046 RBS Visitation Report
  • Travel and preparation time: Report on your 7029 Member Activity Log
Some specified Auxiliary workshops
  • Class time: In the case of 18 specified Auxiliary workshops the instructor will circulate a  7039 Workshop Mission & Attendance Report
  • Travel and preparation time: Report on your 7029 Member Activity Log
Note: While there is a 7054 Aids to Navigation, report which is used in the AN chain, you still need to submit a 7030 for hours.

Everything else:

Most other activities are reported on either a 7030 Mission Activity Report or a 7029 Member Activity Log. Figuring out which of these form to use and how to use it can be challenging.

In general the 7030 is used for missions and the 7029 logs time for preparation, travel, and individual study. The concept of missions in this context is broad and there are over 80 different mission codes which can be used on a 7030. Luckily most of these are not relevant to the majority of us and new members need even fewer because of the "crew" concept of the 7030.

What do I mean by "crew" concept? When a 7030 is filed for a mission with multiple participants (or crew) it is filed by the lead on the mission. This is best illustrated by a surface facility (e.g. boat patrol) mission where the 7030 is prepared by the Coxswain as the mission lead. As a crew member you only need to report your preparation and travel time (on your 7029). Your Coxswain should send you a copy of the 7030 for the mission so you have it for your records -- if you don't get one ask for it.

What other kinds of missions are covered by the 7030?
  • Any operational mission
  • Augmenting at Sector
  • Checking Aids to Navigation
  • Public Affairs watch standing and many other PA activities (websites, newsletters, etc.)
  • Member training (as the instructor only)
  • ... and many more - the 7030 form has both a summary and a detailed list
The downside of a 7030 is that you can only report one day of continuous activity. If you do the same mission day after day (or broken into multiple segments in a single day) as an individual it can be tedious to create a form for each. Our Flotilla has a policy to simplify this reporting for missions done as an individual on an ongoing basis. Rather than submitting a 7030 you may send an email in the following format to the FSO-IS:
[Last Name], [First Name]
[Member number]
[Activity 1 Date in DDMMMYYYY format], [Start Time in 24hr format] - [End Time], [Mission code], [Hours rounded] hrs
[Activity 2 Date], [Start Time in 24hr format] - [End Time], [Mission code], [Hours rounded] hrs
[Activity 3 Date] ...
For example:
Lewis, Daren
121NNN
30SEP2009, 1430-1515, 10D, 0.75hrs
01OCT2009, 1733-1920, 10D, 1.75hrs
... which reports two days of website maintenance.
If your time is not covered by the 7030 mission codes it is reported on the 7029 Member Activity Log. Examples include:
  • Attending, preparation and travel to/from Flotilla meetings
  • Attending, preparation and travel to/from member training not covered by the 7039 Workshop Mission & Attendance Report including classroom portions of the crew academy but not the underway portions of the academy where you are logged as a member of the crew of the facility and thus on the Coxswains 7030.
  • Preparation and travel to/from member training covered by the 7039 Workshop Mission & Attendance Report (see the pattern, your travel almost always goes on the 7029)
  • Completing ICS courses at home
  • Any self study at home
  • Preparing uniforms
If you have any questions please let me, your mentor or any one of our long serving members know. This is a complex topic and I'm sure this article would benefit from your questions.

20 September 2009

District Conference Slideshow

I attended the morning session, lunch and an afternoon breakout at the District 13 Auxiliary Conference. The highlight was a presentation by Captain Suzanne Englebert, Commander Sector Seattle, on her view of managing the workforce and Sector Seattle's Heartbeat program (more to come on Captain Englebert's presentation hopefully including video).

Enjoy a few photos of the morning session and lunch:

15 September 2009

Thank You Flotilla 76!

Shipmates,
We had a great turnout for the Division meeting on Monday evening. Thank you to all who attended. Shaun provided primary gate watch (likely assisted by Paul and Chris), Jo again assisted with refreshments, Gary provided what amounted to a full delicious meal, and Ron stepped in when I was tardy due to a prior meeting. Preemptive apologies, I'm sure I missed a few key folks in this list -- please let me know and I'll make corrections.

Our Director of Auxiliary Commander Billeaudeaux and District Commodore Hoppman joined us for the meeting and praised the exceptional (and in many ways unmatched) contributions of the membership of Division 7. Keep up the great work, it is noticed far and wide.

11 September 2009

September 11

Shipmates,
For the last three years I've been in New York for 9/11 and it seems somewhat odd to be home. Last year I spent an hour on 9/10 walking the perimeter of the WTC site. I'd not been before and it was a very emotional experience. As we observe the 8th anniversary of the 2001 attacks I want to thank you for your service - when I think of patriots your faces come first to mind.

10 September 2009

Becoming a Vessel Examiner

UPDATED!

Vessel Examination is one of our cornerstone missions. By talking to boaters while they are safely ashore or dockside, discussing requirements and recommended equipment we reduce the risks those boaters face once underway - we are doing preventative SAR before the boaters get in trouble.

Vessel Examination is one of the easiest of our missions to accomplish as it does not require any equipment or scheduling - you simply need to be qualified, the forms and to be present where boaters congregate.

So how do you become qualified?
  1. Request a VSC Manual M16796.8 or download a copy here.
  2. Download Forms ANSC-7003, ANSC-7008, ANSC-7012, ANSC-7038 and ANSC-7045 here.
  3. Download the Auxiliary Operations Policy Manual here.
  4. Study the entire VSC Manual, the forms and the sections of the Auxiliary Operations Policy Manual concerning requirements for surface operational facilities.
  5. Take the VE test at the Auxiliary National Testing Center.
  6. Conduct five mentored vessel examinations with a currently qualified VE mentor. 
  7. The mentor VE will file a 7038 showing you as a trainee with the FSO-IS for entry into AUXDATA. As with any form which includes your activity you should request a copy.
  8. The mentor will also complete a D13 Request for VE Certification which is sent to the District Staff Officer for Vessel Examinations (not the DIRAUX).
  9. Once you receive notification of qualification.... get out and do Vessel Exams.
As noted previously please inform the FC, VFC or FSO-VE by phone or email when you are planning to do exams to insure you are properly assigned to duty and under the (qualified) umbrella of USCG legal protection.

09 September 2009

Questions then Answers format

At this evening's Flotilla meeting we instituted a new program I'm calling "Questions then Answers". During the good of the order section of our meeting, immediately before we adjourn to the fellowship portion of the meeting, I opened the floor to questions. The slightly different take is that we didn't provide answers in the session. Rather I recorded all the questions and asked the membership to provide the answers on a one-on-one basis during the fellowship (read food, coffee and friendship). In addition I'll address the questions here on the blog over the next few weeks.

This approach has 5 objectives:

  1. Get questions out in the open for the entire attending membership to consider.
  2. Encourage our members to share their expertise while providing answers
  3. Allow the leadership to understand where we have information gaps to fill and the opportunity to begin filling them via conversations, this blog and formal training
  4. Empower our members
  5. Achieve the first four objectives without significantly extending the business portion of the meeting.

Our members contributed a great initial set of questions. The funny moment came when we got a question on augmenting at Sector Portland and 10-15 fingers immediately pointed to Todd Mains, our Auxiliary Sector Coordinator.

The questions (paraphrased):

  • Who do I speak to if interested in augmenting at Sector Portland?
  • I did "activity X" how do I record the time spent?
  • What are the requirements for the new sew-on officer devices with black "A"s on the ODU?
  • What is going on with the transition to the un-tucked Operational Dress Uniform (uODU), who can order the un-tucked, ...?
  • I've been in the Auxiliary for a bit, who is my second tier mentor?
  • How does a new crew member get underway (get orders)?
  • Where can we teach public education classes?
  • Can we institute a lucky bag to share surplus member gear?
  • How does the district store work?

05 September 2009

Remembering 6505

Four months to the new year: Check your qualifications

With four months to the end of the year it is time to start thinking about currency maintenance for your qualifications with currency or class requirements. These include:

  • Boat crew, PWC operators and coxswains
  • Pilots, air crew and observers
  • Instructors
  • Vessel examiners
Each qualification has particular requirements for currency. Generally you are responsible for keeping track of your tasks. If you have questions please ask the Member Training Officer.

Hopefully we are all getting enough time/missions on each of our chosen qualifications that currency isn't an issue but it is easy to miss a required class or workshop. Please don't let it wait until the last minute.

Great Coast Guard Post: GAR Model for the S.S. Minnow (Gilligan's Island)

The Coast Guard Marine Safety blog has a wonderful post, republished from Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council, that applies the GAR model to the voyage of the S.S. Minnow. In the post/article LCDR Thomas Olenchoc approaches risk management in a playful yet effective manner - it is well worth your time.

Excerpt:
Analyzing the “Gilligan Factor”— The Green, Amber, Red Model
So how did the crew of the S.S. Minnow get stuck on that remote island? Would applying the ORM model of green, amber, red (GAR) have suggested they reconsider their decision to sail that day?

The GAR model has six inputs that are weighted to evaluate risk. These factors, scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with “10” being a high risk, are:
  • Supervision—In this case, the skipper was probably not a substantial source of supervision risk and could be scored low. Let’s call this a “1.”

  • Planning—Since it was a trip they had made several times before, we’ll score it a “2.”

  • Crew selection—This is where we factor in Gilligan. I would have to say the “little buddy” is a walking risk and would score him around a “7.”

  • Crew fitness—Remember this is not just rating weight and strength, but also takes into consideration things like fatigue, alertness, and external stresses. I would rate crew fitness a “2.”

  • Environment—Sailing or flying into a typhoon sounds like a very high-risk maneuver to me. I would rate environment as a “10.” Environment also factors in the platform or location. For example, the S.S. Minnow would not weather the typhoon as well as would a large, steel-hulled vessel.

  • Event complexity—Event complexity would be low. It was only a three-hour tour, so I’d rate it a “3."
A score of 0 to 23 indicates “green” (low risk), 23 to 44 warns “amber” (caution), and between 44 and 60 is “red” (high risk).

By adding up the S.S. Minnow’s factors, we see it rates a score of 25, or “amber,” which tells us that something should be addressed to help mitigate the risk.

A look at the categories shows that environment is the largest source of risk. By postponing the tour or taking a different route, we could reduce that risk.
We use the GAR model every time we get underway and report a GAR score as part of setting up our radio guard with Sector Portland. Every boater would be wise to run through a similar list before and while boating.

Definitions: 
Operational Risk Management or ORM - the family of procedures, practices and disciplines we use to reduce and manage risk to our people, our equipment and those we seek to save.

Green Amber Red Model or GAR Model - one of the ORM models we use as operators. The GAR model is executed collaboratively by the crew prior to getting underway. We also mentally (if not formally) update the model throughout the day as the risk factors change. We try to get everyone thinking GAR at all times. There have been situations where I've said or been told, "I think our GAR number just went up" and we then reassessed the situation.

Sector Portland - One of two Sectors in District 13. Since Sector Portland is in our area the Sector Command Center provides our radio guard most of the time.

Radio Guard - We encourage recreational boaters to file a float plan [http://www.FloatPlanCentral.org/] so someone ashore knows where they plan to go. This allows the person ashore to notify the Coast Guard if the vessel is overdue and gives us critical information to execute a successful search. All Coast Guard vessels and aircraft maintain a radio "guard" with another Coast Guard or partner resource for similar reasons. In most Auxiliary surface operations situations this is a report on situation and position every half hour.

Resources:
Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council
COMDTINST 3500.3 Operational Risk Management

04 September 2009

Video: Commandant at NACON (our national conference)

The Commandant, Admiral Allen, spoke at the National Conference recently discussing the Auxiliary, our critical role in the Coast Guard, the value to the Nation delivered, and his personal appreciation for your service as Auxiliarists. He also presented our Director of Auxiliary, LCDR Billeaudeaux, with his Commander's shoulder boards for his upcoming promotion. The Commandant made particular note of the Citizen's Action Network and the role it plays in the safety and security of D13. I'm sure our own Pat Easton would love more assistance with CAN in the Sector Portland AOR as his role expands District wide (more on this soon).


US Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen speaks about USCG Auxiliary's role in Modernization from USCG Auxiliary on Vimeo.

03 September 2009

Video: On patrol

Sean Lawler over at CGBlog.org will tell you that, "If you wanna grab people with video in today’s world, it has to play like a movie trailer for Transformers. Loud music, fast cuts, & pure action." I seem to get the most positive response to my mellow videos. Here are some excerpts from a surface patrol with Ken and Jon on 181173 last weekend. No SAR cases although we stood by as a good samaritan assisted a lightly grounded sail boat. The video is about 10 minutes long.




The video was shot with a bit of low cost, low resolution kit, the GoPro Hero Wide, mounted to my SAR vest. The mounting was somewhat makeshift but I've since rebuilt the mount system and added a level. The camera is waterproof to 100 feet, runs for about an hour, and the 170 degree field of view really captures the action. I still carry my dSLR this set-up can be used while the action is occurring rather than just doing after the fact documentation.

02 September 2009

D13 Commander's recent commentary on the multiple roles of the Coast Guard

Our District 13 Commander, Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, authored a post on the D13 blog (which I hope everyone is reading) discussing the dual roles of the Coast Guard as a law enforcement agency and a military service and the flexibility required to shift between these roles and to other roles such as those of a rescuer.

The Auxiliary does not directly share the law enforcement and military roles with the Active Duty and Reserve components. Nevertheless, we do exert significant influence because of the uniforms we wear and the responsibilities entrusted to us by Station OICs, our Sector Commander, our District Commander, and the Commandant. We too must be flexibility, exercise good judgement, seek only to act in ways bring credit to the Coast Guard, live by the Coast Guard Ethos, and safeguard the liberties and lives of our fellow citizens.

Thank you all for your service.

I Am America's Maritime Guardian.
I Serve The Citizens Of The United States.
I Will Protect Them.
I Will Defend Them.
I Will Save Them.
I Am Their Shield.
For Them I Am Semper Paratus.
I Live The Coast Guard Core Values.
I Am A Guardian.
We Are The United States Coast Guard.

Video: Introduction to Digital Selective Calling

Florida State College at Jacksonville has prepared an introduction to Digital Selective Calling (DSC). DSC is new to most boaters and education on Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) registration and integration with GPS systems is critical.



MMSI registration:  http://www.boatus.com/mmsi/
USCG Navigation Center on DSC: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/MARCOMMS/gmdss/dsc.htm

NACON: Rear Admiral Brice-O'Hara, Deputy Commandant for Operations

Shipmates,
A number of videos have been posted from NACON with comments from senior USCG leaders which I encourage each of you to view. The first of these is of Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O'Hara (bio), our Deputy Commandant for Operations, on changes facing the service.


US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O'Hara speaks about changes facing the USCG from USCG Auxiliary on Vimeo.

31 August 2009

Member Training: FEMA Incident Command/NIMS/NRP Courses (IS-100/200/700/800)

One of the first things we tell many new members to do is to start work on your "FEMA classes" or your "ICS" courses. We do this for a number of reasons:
  1. Many qualifications require two or more of these courses.
  2. You can take them right away, there is no need to wait for your member number.
  3. They get new members started with something substantive but, as they are produced by FEMA for a wide audience, something that does not require any specific knowledge of the Coast Guard or the Auxiliary.
  4. (This is my secret reason) These courses encourage use of plain English and they encourage new members to ask questions when we fall into our own particular patois, "Auxiliaristesse". 
While there are many offerings from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute Independent Study program we are usually referring to four courses when speaking to new members:
  • IS-100.a: Introduction to Incident Command System - This course introduces the Incident Command System (ICS) and provides the foundation for higher level ICS training. This course describes the history, features and principles, and organizational structure of the Incident Command System. It also explains the relationship between ICS and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • IS-700.a: National Incident Management System (NIMS) An Introduction - This course introduces and overviews the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable all government, private-sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents.

  • IS-200.a: ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents - This course is designed to enable personnel to operate efficiently during an incident or event within the Incident Command System (ICS). ICS-200 provides training on and resources for personnel who are likely to assume a supervisory position within the ICS. 
  • IS-800.b : National Response Framework, An Introduction - The course introduces participants to the concepts and principles of the National Response Framework.
These courses can be found here: http://training.fema.gov/IS/crslist.asp

The courses are conducted by self study and include online testing. The suggested order is 100, 700, 200 and finally 800. Your mentor and member training officer will work with you to determine which courses to take but there is no harm in completing the entire series as time permits - the completion does not expire.

Please note that completion of these courses is not communicated to the Auxiliary. To get these classes properly entered into your record please forward the completion email you receive to the Flotilla Commander and the FC will send it on to Charles Claytor in the D13 Auxiliary Office for entry. (Policy in other Flotilla may be different)

Please print and retain a copy of your certificate. It is also very helpful to retain a copy of the email from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute.

29 August 2009

New Officer Directory

The Auxiliary Technology Office has launched a great new service for members to find contact information on fellow members and your officers. This service gives you access to phone numbers in addition to the email addresses available on eDirectory. It also lets you check currency of qualifications. Access is somewhat limited based on your role in the Auxiliary.

http://auxofficer.cgaux.org

The Officer Directory will show you officer roles, names and contact information by browsing down through lists. The less obvious use is to search by member name or to search by qualification. The list shown (with the ID# and Name obscured) is a list of all coxswains in the Division and the status of their qualification. This is a great resource if you need someone with a specific qualification. Note: to search for some one in our division you need to use the code 130-07 [e.g. D13 Div 7].

Let me know what you think and I'll pass the feedback along to the team responsible.

26 August 2009

A brief introduction to Flotilla 76 on SlideShare

Here is a brief presentation on the Auxiliary and Flotilla 76 I'll be using at the Detachment meeting this evening. Enjoy!

Scappoose Detachment Meeting - Wednesday, August 26,2009


Scappoose Detachment of Flotilla 76 of the Coast Guard Auxiliary!
 
The meeting date is Wednesday, August 26,2009 at 19:00 hrs

The meeting location is:

Multnomah Channel Yacht Club
50990 Dike Road
Scappoose, Or 97056

Parking is in the lower parking lot.

Our meeting will be the first of many here and our training will be by Daren Lewis and Todd Mains -"What is the Auxiliary" along with a tour of a working Auxiliary Facility

24 August 2009

Official sew-on devices for your ODUs at the on-line District Store

The on-line District store at shopauxiliary.com now has the official sew on devices for the Operational Dress Uniform.
These include:

  • Auxiliary Trident Device
  • Past Officer Device
  • AUXOP Device
  • Past Officer Device
  • Recreational Boating Safety Device
  • Auxiliary Aviator Wings
  • Auxiliary Aircrew Wings


...as well as the officer devices with black "A" to replace the red and blue "A"s used to date. We don't know much about this change yet but I'm sure we'll find out.

Fellowship: 2009 Picnic

It was great to see so many of you at the Picnic last Saturday - we had a great turnout over the course of the afternoon. Another big thank you and Bravo Zulu to Gary and Candy for the catering, the food was great!