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Coast Guard Auxiliary holds Change of Watch banquet

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CEDAR CREEK LAKE–The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Flotilla 5-14 held its Change of Watch Banquet Jan. 15 at Vetoni’s Italian Restaurant in Gun Barrel City.
The flotilla is based in Tool and covers Cedar Creek Lake. Its operations at began in 1973 in Star Harbor before moving to Tool, said Staff Officer Allen Harding.
“This auxiliary means a lot to me, not just the auxiliary but the people in it,” said Immediate Past Flotilla Commander Roger Hunt. “We don’t always get the luxury to work with people you like and like like brothers and sisters.”
The banquet featured the swearing-in of staff officers, who Hunt called “the backbone of the flotilla” who ensure “maximum efficiency.” Hunt added, “Without them, we wouldn’t have an operating flotilla.”
Recreational boating safety is the priority of the auxiliary, said Staff Officer Sid Pickup. Texans born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must complete a boating safety class to legally operate a personal watercraft, such as a jet ski or a motorboat. Courses are offered March-October. 
Pickup said the auxiliary fulfills its mission through vessel safety checks, public education literature and presentations, boating safety classes, marine safety and security patrols, search and rescue, mass casualties and disasters response, pollution response, recruit for service in the Coast Guard and more.
The banquet featured two guest speakers, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse and Lone Star Marina owner Mark Silla. Hillhouse said his office has two boats with 10 certified marine deputies to patrol Cedar Creek Lake, Lake Palestine and Lake Athens.
“Thank y’all for the service you provide Henderson County,” Hillhouse said. “We like to know someone is out there to keep the waters safe.”
Silla said he and his wife, Susan, operate the marina, located near the flotilla’s Tool headquarters. Silla also discussed how the marina can help the auxiliary perform its mission.
The banquet also recognized flotilla retirees, who Hunt called “two of our beloved members.” The retirees include Joe Erwin, who served 18 years as a coxswain accountable for the operations of the boat and responsible for the crew and its patrols and search and rescue missions, as well as being a former flotilla commander.
John Steele, another coxswain responsible for flotilla training, was recognized for 16 years of service. His wife, Jean, accepted his retirement certificate. “These two gentlemen have been a great asset in the time I’ve been here,” Hunt said.