A State of Utah, Department of Natural Resources-owned boat, operated by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, named Challenger 76 sits secured at the Jordanelle
A State of Utah, Department of Natural Resources-owned boat, operated by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, named Challenger 76 sits secured at the Jordanelle Reservoir marina dock while it is being readied for a safety patrol. (Courtesy of Doug Manifold, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary)

Summit County is a long way from the Pacific Ocean, and an even longer way from the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean.

So Doug Manifold gets "definitely surprised looks" around town when he tells people that he's a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and that the Auxiliary has an active presence in Summit County and its surrounding areas.

"It's a pretty active group," Manifold said of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit 72, headquartered in Salt Lake City but containing many members whom reside in Summit County.

The Auxiliary is a unique part of one of the country's armed services, the United States Coast Guard. Often confused with the Coast Guard Reserve, the Auxiliary comprises about 35,000 uniformed volunteers, comparable in size to the Coast Guard, which celebrated its 224th birthday on Aug. 2.

According to its website, Congress established the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1939, first called the Coast Guard Reserve. Two years later, it was redesignated as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the service exists to support all Coast Guard missions except roles that require direct law enforcement or military engagement, the website says.

The Auxiliary is also celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

While Auxilarists on the coasts often sail with Coast Guard units, in Summit County the service has three primary roles:

  • conduct weekly life-saving patrols in the lakes and reservoirs that Summit County residents use, such as Jordanelle Reservoir in Wasatch County;
  • perform free vessel safety checks on any resident's recreational craft;
  • recruit young people to apply for the U.

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    S. Coast Guard Academy or its introductory program, AIM (Academy Introduction Mission), the former a service academy in New London, Connecticut, and the latter a one-week summer program for high-school-seniors-to-be.

Manifold spends much of his year going to area high schools' college fairs, county fairs, or simply meeting with school counselors to encourage students to learn more about the Coast Guard Academy. He finds that most people know about West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado, but most don't know that the Coast Guard Academy is a similar four-year service academy. As the smallest service academy -- with about 1,200 cadets -- the Coast Guard Academy often gets overlooked, he said.

Mike Thompson, commander of the Auxiliary's Division 7 -- which includes all of Utah -- said one of the biggest impediments is simply letting people know about their role. "It's difficult to let people know that we are there to help," he said. "If they're in trouble [on the water], they can call and we can help."

And it's not just retired people who can be members of the Auxiliary. For example, Thompson's wife and daughter (a student at the University of Utah) are members of the Auxiliary, and other members are doctors, lawyers, mechanics and people from all walks of life, Thompson said.

Thompson, Mainfold and their comrades also perform free, voluntary recreational vessel checks throughout the County, either at marinas or the boat owners' homes. Because it is a voluntary check, if the boat does not "pass," no citations are issued, and the boat owners are told how to correct any deficiencies.

As for patrols, just last Friday, Aug. 1, Manifold was on a craft that provided assistance to two boating families in trouble at Jordanelle, towing them to the docks. Every weekend when the weather is clear, the Thompsons are on patrol at Jordanelle.

"To the public, we are the Coast Guard," Thompson said.

To request a free vessel safety check or learn more information about the U.S. Coast Academy or its AIM program, contact Doug Manifold at DJManifold@Comcast.net