MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island has a new bridge. No, not that bridge — the Jolley Bridge linking Marco to the mainland is still under construction, with the sign promising completion in fall 2011 just a tantalizing promise. And not that other bridge — Smokehouse Bay is still crossed by the span you don’t notice till you’re over it, with the new, high-tech bridge just a gleam in the engineers’ eyes.
This bridge is the slate of officers in the local outpost of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, referring to the commanders of a ship who stand on its bridge to guide it forward. Saturday night, Flotilla 95 of the USCGA gathered at the Hideaway Beach Club for their 44th Annual Change of Watch ceremony.
Attendees “watched” a slide show detailing the activities of the USCGA over the past year, backed by a soundtrack with a calypso beat. Master of ceremonies Doug Johnson, past flotilla commander, expounded on some of the flotilla’s accomplishments during the past year. These included 407 safety missions, an average of over one vessel safety check for each of the year’s 365 days, and 78 days of public education, over three and a half man hours per day, on average.
The ballroom at Hideaway was filled with a mix of business attire and uniforms encrusted with gold stripes and “fruit salad,” the colorful campaign ribbons on the chests of military personnel. Invited guests included Commodore Walter Jaskiewicz of USCGA District 7, Lt. Mike Mastrianni of the Coast Guard cutter Marlin, Col. Ray Rosenberg of the Civil Air Patrol, the airborne equivalent of the CGA, and Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala.
Johnson kept the proceedings light, taking the guests through a series of questions designed, he said, to test their readiness to deal with a variety of situations.
“How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator?” was the initial question, followed by “How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?” Hint: first, you need to remove the giraffe.
“Where do you take a sick ship?” asked Johnson. To the “dock,” of course. The only thing missing was a rimshot. Johnson admonished the alleged rowdiness of the “naughty table,” presided over by operations officer Mike Ludwig, who also served as volunteer photographer for the event.
After dinner, outgoing Flotilla Commander Mike Harris handed over the watch to the new bridge. It takes a lot of personnel to steer the Coast Guard Auxiliary, apparently.
John DeFalco steps up to the flotilla commander position, and Arne Kelsey becomes vice flotilla commander; Doug Johnson, human resources; Robert Witte, information services; Frank Caricato, finances; Al Rapp, program visitor; Ron Klein, vessel safety checks; Lou Woessner, materials; Phil Madonia, secretary/records; Mike Ludwig, operations; Arne Kelsey, public affairs; Ken Mulmat, public education; Roger Blau, publications; Robert Witte, communications, and Larry Oswald, navigation services, round out the new USCGA bridge.
With Johnson administering the oath, all the officers raised their hands.
“I (state your name) solemnly swear to support the United States Coast Guard, they avowed. Cheers could be heard from the club’s bar down the hall, where the TV was tuned to the NFL playoffs. After the ceremony, the Auxiliary and their guests danced to the music of the duo Side by Sides.