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!

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

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


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.

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.

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 [] 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.

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 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:
USCG Navigation Center on DSC:

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

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.