Three Auxiliarists Named Recipients of 2020 Captain Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Awards

Auxiliarist Alvaro Ferrando of Doral, Fla. has been named a Coast Guard Auxiliary Achievement winner of the Coast Guard’s 2020 Captain Neils P. Thomsen Innovation Award in recognition of his efforts to implement education and outreach programs for operators of bareboat charters and uninspected passenger vessels. In addition, Commodore Bill Bowen and Auxiliarist Bruce Buckley – both Connecticut residents - have been selected for Honorable Mention awards in recognition of their efforts to develop the Research and Development Center Auxiliary Team Skills Bank.

The Innovation Awards were established to recognize members of Team Coast Guard who have found innovative ways to increase efficiencies across the service by reducing resource and personnel costs while collaborating with various stakeholders to encourage a more inclusive service. These process improvements include better information sharing and resource allocation to amplify Coast Guard operations. These recognition awards foster a culture of continuous innovation within the Coast Guard’s workforce to meet strategic objectives.

Auxiliarist Alvaro Ferrando:

Although most face-to-face education programs were restricted by COVID-19 protocols last year, Ferrando – a member of Coast Guard Sector Miami’s Prevention Investigations Division - worked with prevention officials to develop new ways to keep public education programs available and relevant. The team adapted established teaching methods and created new programs to keep the South Florida boating community informed and in compliance with passenger-for-hire regulations. In total, the team created six on-line products that were offered to the maritime industry using Commercial Virtual Remote and Microsoft Teams in English and Spanish to provide both education and opportunities to participate in Q&A.

In June, Auxiliarist Ferrando and the Sector Miami team presented a “Passenger-For-Hire Workshop” that drew 45 uninspected passenger vessels (UPV) and bare boat charter captains to an on-line teleconference meeting. The session was repeated for the area’s Spanish-speaking community later in the month, attracting 12 additional skippers.

The team also offered a “Passenger-for-Hire” workshop in July that was designed for boarding officers from Sector Miami.

Since UPVs are prevalent in South Florida waters, Ferrando’s team developed a presentation on “How to Pass Your UPV Examination” – a three-hour online workshop geared to prepare boat owners for future Coast Guard certification tests.

In recognition of his contributions to these innovative programs, Auxiliarist Ferrando will receive the prestigious Thomsen Auxiliary Innovation Award in a special ceremony at the Senior Leadership Conference (SLC) at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in April 30.

Ferrando, who joined the Auxiliary in 2013, is a member of the Miami South Flotilla in District 7. Ferrando is also the Sector Miami Investigations Division Education and Outreach Coordinator and Auxiliary Sector Coordinator for Sector Miami.

Commodore Bill Bowen and Auxiliarist Bruce Buckley:

The Auxiliary recently updated its Mission Statement to focus on the ability for our organization to leverage the private sector skills of our personnel to augment the Coast Guard. Commodore Bowen and Auxiliarist Buckley’s efforts with the Research and Development Center (RDC) led to the development of a “skills bank” that has identified resource gaps for funded research and development projects. Using this tool, assigned teams at the RDC can pinpoint Auxiliary resources to be quickly used to fill personnel gaps.

In August 2020, First District Commander Rear Admiral Thomas G. Allen, USCG, oversaw the creation of the first national Auxiliary unit dedicated to supporting the RDC. This highly specialized unit focuses on coordinating requests for subject matter expertise, field research activities, and public affairs. Auxiliarist Buckley, the unit coordinator, personally brokered these types of requests with Commodore Bowen over the past four years, but the two men looked for a sustainable impact on their efforts.

The creation of a dedicated unit to support the RDC means that there will be a legacy of volunteer assistance with the Coast Guard’s research projects. Auxiliarists with technology and science skills and other previously untapped talents can become force multipliers for the Coast Guard without having to go through air and water training. Moreover, Auxiliarists are involved in a wide variety of Coast Guard and other agency research projects and have high expectations for the future.

Commodore Bowen and Auxiliarist Buckley joined the Auxiliary in the early 2000s and are members of First District Southern. In addition to his work for the RDC, Bowen is an immediate past commodore. In addition to his work for the RDC, Buckley is an AUC.

Captain Neils P. Thomsen:

The Innovation Award is named after Captain Neils P. Thomsen, USCG, who began his career in the Merchant Marine before joining the Coast Guard during World War II. He received a Legion of Merit citation after his ship sank a Japanese submarine off the coast of Alaska and continued to serve in the Coast Guard until 1952, eventually earning the rank of commander. During his time in the Coast Guard, Thomsen’s innovations led to improved safety practices for moving buoys off ships.

After his service, Thomsen founded the Ketchikan Merchants Charter Association, a small shipping line that won a mail contract for the Aleutian Islands. In 1964, he founded Aleutian King Crab Inc. and was one of the first to open fishing for king crab in Alaska.