Coast Guard Volunteers' Duties Grow

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Arado Daily Herald Staff Writer

For Mount Prospect resident Richard McNulty, this is supposed to be a slow time.

McNulty is the flotilla commander for a local unit of the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary, a group of civilian volunteers that assists the Coast Guard by manning stations and conducting safety patrols.

With the onset of colder weather, though, the boating season is winding down. Fewer people are on the water, and there is less need for the auxiliary's services.

"Usually, we're focusing more on public education efforts during this time of year," McNulty said.

But the events of Sept. 11 have changed all that.

The Coast Guard has been called into military-style service by the federal government in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead of keeping an eye out for stranded boaters, the Coast Guard is defending the country's lakes against terrorists.

That has left the auxiliary units to pick up the slack on the rescue-and-recovery front. And local members, which include many people from the Northwest suburbs, say they've been kept very busy.

"I'd say the attacks have increased our workload tenfold," McNulty said. "We're working three 24-hour shifts a week at a time when we'd usually just be on call."

The Coast Guard auxiliary was officially established in 1941, shortly before the United States entered World War II. Today, nearly 35,000 men and women across the country belong to the auxiliary.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Roszkowski said the Coast Guard simply wouldn't be able to do its job without the help of the auxiliary.

"Right now they are essentially running the Wilmette station," he said. "Our boats are tied up with our law-enforcement duties. The auxiliary is a much-needed asset to the Coast Guard, not just here in Chicagoland, but throughout the country."

McNulty, a former diving instructor who owns a pool and sauna business in Arlington Heights, joined the auxiliary six years ago. He was attracted to the camaraderie he sensed between the members. He's also a boat-and-water enthusiast.

"It seemed like something that kind of tied many of my interests together," he said.

Fred Pampel, also from Mount Prospect, has been with the auxiliary for 11 years. A retired sales and marketing executive, his initial interest in joining the group stemmed from his longtime love of recreational boating. …