Coast Guard Volunteers Aid Great Lakes Security

By SARAH FREEMAN, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers are spending more time on the Great Lakes to help increase security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"They have been a key component, especially in those first few days (after the attacks)," said John Bowen, boatswain's mate first Class at the Cleveland Harbor station. "That first week, we wouldn't have been able to function without them."

The Coast Guard has become more involved in security -- including increasing patrols and placing armed guards on cruise ships -- while maintaining its traditional law enforcement and rescue duties.

Auxiliary members aren't permitted to do law enforcement work, but they are providing extra staffing to search-and-rescue stations, assisting with additional port patrols and monitoring communications and security at Coast Guard stations.

Bowen said volunteers have been particularly helpful with waterfront security patrols. The volunteers use their own boats, and the Coast Guard reimburses their expenses.

Herman Bundgaard, auxiliary captain for Division Nine in northern Ohio, said the division has provided 638 additional hours of service since Sept. 11. That's about five times as many hours as the division would normally work during that period of time.

The extra help has come from about one-third of the division's 129 members, because most have commitments to full-time jobs, Bundgaard said.

"They do this because they love to do it, because they love to work with the Coast Guard personnel," he said.

Gov. Bob Taft, who received a briefing Thursday in Cleveland on the Coast Guard's increased security measurers, said he is impressed with the work of the auxiliary members.

"I think it's another example of how much Americans are responding to the needs of our country since Sept. 11," Taft said.

Spokesman Chris Grooms said there are about 3,500 listed auxiliary members serving the Great Lakes Ninth Coast Guard District, which covers portions of eight states.

At the Coast Guard installation in Chicago's Calumet Harbor Park, auxiliary volunteers have flooded in since the terrorist attacks, said Boatswain's Mate Andrew Gonzalez.

The Coast Guard has not counted the volunteers, but there is a noticeable increase in people offering their boats and assistance, he said.

If and when security measures are decreased, the auxiliary will still be busy, Bundgaard said. Members regularly work at stations and conduct boater safety courses and courtesy marine examinations to help boaters ensure their crafts comply with federal regulations.

Bundgaard believes the volunteers' efforts since Sept. 11 have made a good relationship between volunteers and Guard members even better.

"They love us now," he said.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)