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Navy League Welcomes Coast Guard Unit Aboard

Feb. 25, 2007 — "Welcome to St. Thomas. You are now a part of the family. We can call you brothers and sisters." Those were the words of Thomas Hoffman Sunday at a Navy League ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unit.
The St. Thomas-St. John Council of the Navy League of the United States officially adopted the Coast Guard unit at its winter picnic at Magens Bay Sunday afternoon.
The Navy league, which has 240 local members, has long provided support for the U.S. naval public's maritime services and their families, but this is the first official adoption in the league's history.
Representing the National Council, Director Thomas Hoffman presented Lieutenant Commander Ryan Manning with a plaque that read, in part, "It is incumbent upon us to do all things necessary to aid in any way we can to develop the rapport between the military and civilian arms of the maritime services."
"The Navy League of the United States was established in 1902 to form a patriotic organization dedicated to the maintenance of our country's maritime strength," Hoffman said in his opening remarks. "Today, the Navy League is engaged in carrying out a variety of programs to inform and educate all our citizens, including our elected officials, on the importance of sea power."
Along with more than 100 league members and guests, the new Coast Guard adoptees enjoyed the food and festivities. The event included awards, raffles and prizes provided by local businesses for the unit as well as for league members.
The safety detachment has worked out of Charlotte Amalie Harbor for years, but the personnel serve on a rotating basis. With the increase in national border control, the unit is slightly bigger than in previous years with 15 members, some of whom arrived just three weeks ago.
A 17-year veteran of the Coast Guard, Manning has served in St. Thomas for eight months and will stay here for three years. "We each have our little niches," he said.
"We have a group that does marine inspections, one that escorts cruise ships and conducts boat operations and one that takes care of facilities, like oil-pollution prevention."
Manning, a South Dakota native, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy.
Council President Drew Russo beamed with pride as he said," They are stationed here for anywhere from one to three years, and as much as we residents of St. Thomas know and love our islands, it can be a little daunting when you first arrive here. This is our way of breaking the ice and getting them familiar with the island."
Marisel Pineta, an 8-year veteran from Puerto Rico, is a coxswain who arrived recently after being stationed in New York and St. Croix: "I am new to the island, but I love it here. This is a great day, my first event. Normally, my job is to drive a 25-foot boat, mostly for maritime rescues."
Like many of his fellow "Coasties," Bart Gaska, last stationed in Huntington, Calif., is living in Red Hook for the time being.
"Mostly likely they are going to extend my duty here, maybe for another one or two years," he said. "The Navy League is great. They always hook us up with good food and good times. They treat us real well. They deserve a lot of thanks."
Barbara Petersen, administrator of St. Thomas and Water Island and a member of the Navy League, represented Gov. John deJongh Jr. at the event.
"We are going to continue to extend our support to the Navy League in any way we can," she said. "When the ships come here, we will help with logistics and security so that they keep coming back."
In July 2006, the Navy League held its national convention in the territory, drawing 600 to Frenchmen's Reef. This coming weekend, the league will welcome the Coast Guard cutter The Vigilant.
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