Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Base Opening Signals Arrival of Boating Season

David Troutman
By Austen Givens, Flotilla 26 public affairs officer

With the smell of grilling hamburgers drifting through the open door while rows of American flags fluttered in the breeze outside, David Troutman, a 38-year member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, eased back in his chair, marine radio to one side, and contemplated the meaning of Flotilla 26’s annual Base Commissioning on June 3.

“Base Commissioning Day is special because it speaks to the idea that multiple agencies are here to help out,” Troutman said. “It gives us a chance to have a day to celebrate and have a good time after all the work that we’ve put in to get the base ready.”

The festive Sunday afternoon was preceded by weeks of preparation. Auxiliarist John Parish rattled off the tasks that had been completed during the past month: a deteriorating south porch was torn down and re-built using a fresh design and new materials, the base building had been cleaned and obsolete materials discarded, water service had been restored following the long winter, docks buckled by lake ice were repaired, grass was mowed, and weeds were whacked.

Anticipation for the boating season was evident.

Auxiliarist Helen “Lou” Cummings said she was eager to get out on the water and work with the public while Auxiliarist Sara Barden noted: “I’m looking forward to seeing what I can learn. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can get involved in that I haven’t been involved in before.”

Auxiliarist Matthew Jennings emphasized Base Commissioning Day as a unifying force for the Flotilla and its partner agencies.

“It’s good to reunite with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office and our shipmates after the long winter,” he said. “It’s good to get re-familiarized with things such as knot-tying and responding to a man overboard call. I want to continue to help others.”

Stillwell Jennings Beehm prepare American ensign
Auxiliarists Bonnie Stilwell (left), 
Matthew Jennings (center), and 
Karen Beehm ready the American ensign.
At just past 1 p.m. Flotilla Commander John Conroy stepped to the lectern on Base 26’s new south porch and asked attendees to take their seats. As if on cue, the sun began to peek through the cloud cover that had dominated the morning.

Immediate Past Vice Flotilla Commander Karen Beehm offered the invocation. A bell tolled twice in memory of Auxiliarists Robert Campbell (Flotilla 26) and Thomas Callender III (Flotilla 2-14) who crossed over the bar during the past year. A third strike of the bell honored all armed services members who had passed away.

Conroy acknowledged and thanked Lt. James Paravati and Deputy Robert Snider from the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office. Then a Flag Detail comprised of Auxiliarists Bill Cummings, Lou Cummings, Karen Beehm, Matthew Jennings, and Bonnie Stilwell raised the American ensign to a recording of “The Star Spangled Banner” played by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy band. Asked about the recording later, David Troutman, who was responsible for providing the music, grinned. “It’s from a CD I found called ‘Semper Paratus’.”

Members and guests listen
Members and friends of Flotilla 26 listen to opening remarks 
at Base Commissioning Day.
Conroy spoke about the history of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which began in its current form in 1941, and Flotilla 26, which this year kicks off its 62nd boating season. Conroy stressed the vital role that training plays.

“Within the last two weeks,” he said, “members from this unit participated in HAZWOPER Training conducted by the Marine Safety Team out of (Coast Guard) Sector Buffalo. In addition, just this weekend, a number of Auxiliarists donated their valuable time to conducting exercises out on Oneida Lake, and in the Canal, to improve their skills in Search and Rescue.”

Ressue at attention
Auxiliarist John Ressue listens to a 
speaker at Base Commissioning Day.
Central New York’s Division 2 Vice Commander Bill Cummings sent greetings from Division Commander Gene Little and thanked Flotilla 26 for its dedication and hard work in support of Team Coast Guard. Sheriff’s Lieutenant Paravati expressed his agency’s gratitude to Flotilla 26 members for their partnership, camaraderie, and dedication to marine safety.

Following the ceremony attendees broke for a potluck lunch. Hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salads, sausage rolls, casseroles, dips, soft drinks, brownies, and pies packed the galley.

As members of Flotilla 26 tucked into their meals, they shared plans for the summer. Lou Cummings said she was particularly looking forward to Harborfest, an annual event near Coast Guard Station Oswego. John Parish stressed the importance of seeking out and recruiting new members in the coming months. Bill Cummings, who recently was certified as a Coast Guard Auxiliary financial educator, speculated that he might return to Station Erie or Station Oswego at some point to hold seminars on the Coast Guard’s new Blended Retirement System (BRS).

By 3 p.m., with the base opening celebration nearing an end, Flotilla 26 members were finally ready for something that they all had expected to show up.

Stilwell meal
Auxiliarist Bonnie Stilwell (right) and a guest  enjoy a lighter 
moment during fellowship on Base Commissioning Day.
The 2018 boating season had arrived.