Morrel Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla’s leader

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In a traditional change of the watch ceremony held on Jan. 6, at the Crescent Beach Club, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 12-03, of Glen Cove, installed Robin Morrel as its new commander. Atlantic Area East Division Commander John Petrowski administered the oath to Morrel, who succeeded Commander Donald Batorsky at the helm of the 41-member command.

After a call to order, the national anthem was sung, followed by the “missing man” ceremony commemorating those service personnel still listed as missing in action. Oaths of the new commander and vice commander were then administered, and new staff officers and flotilla members were sworn. Batorsky and Morrel each gave brief addresses, followed by special awards.

The auxiliary, which dates its initial founding to a 1939 act of Congress, is an all-volunteer organization tasked mainly with educating the public in all areas of boating safety. “We teach classes at all levels, from children up to experienced sailors,” Morrel said. “But we also participate in other public-service events, like the Night Out Against Crime,” the annual national initiative sponsored by Crime Stoppers.

Morrel, who is a four-year veteran of the auxiliary, is the first woman in more than 30 years to be elected commander. She served two terms as vice commander before being tapped for her current post. She will serve a one-year term and is eligible for a second consecutive term. She serves alongside her husband, Public Affairs Officer David Morrel.

Although the auxiliary is no longer a sea-going force, “at the beginning of World War II, we were assigned to patrol the coastline looking for submarines — in wooden boats,” said Petrowski, whose division includes the entire eastern seaboard, as well as Puerto Rico.

The current structure and functions of the auxiliary date to 1957, when the force was reorganized, according to veteran staff officer and flotilla historian Roger Gould, whose three rows of ribbons attested to his more than 30 years of membership in the group. He was honored at the event for his work in compiling and cataloguing the auxiliary’s 77-year record of service.

It is clear that service is a driving motive for these women and men. Auxiliaries undergo regular training, and conduct boat inspections in addition to their teaching responsibilities. And like most auxiliaries interviewed, Gould, the Morrels and Petrowski all work full-time jobs in addition to their Coast Guard duties.

Since the auxiliary is not integrated into the Coast Guard’s command structure, its officers are not entitled to any privileges of rank, although Coast Guard non-coms “may salute me as a courtesy,” Morrel said. But they do have access to the PX. And they share the same motto as their sea-going counterparts: Semper Paratus (always prepared). “We go when no one else will,” Morrel said with obvious pride.