Coast Guard Auxiliary Key In N.J. Shore Protection

CAPE MAY, N.J. (AP) -

Walt Niwinski teaches seamanship to U.S. Coast Guard recruits at the Training Center Cape May, but he’s not in the Coast Guard.

Joe Giannattasio flies an airplane for the Coast Guard on observation missions, but he’s also not a member of the Coast Guard.

And Judy Dempsey helps lead tours of the training center. Nope, not in the Coast Guard, either.

They’re all members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, whose Northern Region Division 8 — which runs from Brigantine to Cape May and along the southern Delaware Bay — celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2012.

The 375 or so Division 8 members are volunteers who do much more in South Jersey that goes unnoticed.

“They are an integral part of our team,” Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska, the Training Center’s public affairs officer, told The Press of Atlantic City. “We honestly couldn’t do what we do day-in and day-out without their help. … It’s pretty incredible how integrated they are into the team here.”

The Coast Guard Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939, and the current Division 8 formally came into being in 1942 — at a time when one of its main duties involved keeping a lookout for enemy submarines from watch towers along the South Jersey coast. Local members are proud that their history stretches back as far as it does.