For over 70 years, tens-of-thousands of men and women of the Coast Guard Auxiliary have spent millions of volunteer hours helping the Coast Guard carry out its mission. They have saved countless lives through their work, on and off the water. Auxiliarists are probably best known for educating the public through their boating safety classes and vessel safety checks. Yet, they do much more. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 allows the Auxiliary to assist the Coast Guard in performance of any Coast Guard function, duty, role, mission or operation authorized by law and authorized by the Commandant.
When the Coast Guard “Reserve” was authorized by act of Congress on June 23, 1939, the Coast Guard was given a legislative mandate to use civilian volunteers to promote safety on and over the high seas and the nation’s navigable waters. The Coast Guard Reserve was then a non-military service comprised of unpaid, volunteer U.S. citizens who owned motorboats or yachts.
Two years later, on Feb. 19, Congress amended the 1939 act with passage of the Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941. Passage of this act designated the Reserve as a military branch of the active service, while the civilian volunteers, formerly referred to as the Coast Guard Reserve, became the Auxiliary. So, Feb. 19 is formally recognized as the birth of the Coast Guard Reserve while June 23 is recognized as birthday of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
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