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Afton Flotilla celebrates 75 years

The past 75 years the Afton Flotilla, an auxiliary of the U.S. Coast Guard, has dedicated itself to keeping people safe on the water.

"A lot of people are somewhat intimidated by the fact that we have Coast Guard in our name," said Jon Knutson, Flotilla Commander. "We're not there to write a ticket or give them grief over anything, we're there to help prevent accidents.

"If we can prevent the accidents from happening and provide people the information they need to do things safely, that's what the auxiliary is all about."

Afton Flotilla, Minnesota's oldest, was recently recognized at the state and federal level for its dedication to water safety during the past 75 years.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar both issues proclamations recently commending the Afton Flotilla.

"Even more than responding to disasters, the Afton Flotilla works to prevent disasters on the water, making sure that river navigation tools are in working order and patrolling during regattas and other events," Klobuchar wrote. "There is no way for us to know just how many lives were saved over the past 75 years through the hard work of the Afton Flotilla volunteers."

"I join all of my fellow Minnesotans in applauding the Afton Flotilla's momentous anniversary, and the dedication of its volunteer members over the past 75 years."

The Afton Flotilla

The Afton Flotilla formed in 1941 in the Afton area as an extension of the active U.S. Coast Guard to assist with water safety.

"We should not to be confused with the Coast Guard," said Knutson, of Champlain. "The auxiliary cannot take military or law-like actions."

The Afton Flotilla eventually moved its headquarters from Afton to the St. Paul Yacht Club.

Currently the Afton Flotilla has 25 volunteer members who meet the third Wednesday of the month. Members come from all over the Twin CIties.

Responsibilities of the Afton Flotilla include Coast Guard support, teaching boating safety, performing vessel safety checks in addition to periodic safety checks on the water, including checking bridge lights and markers.

The Afton Flotilla also assists during emergencies such as flooding, search and rescue operations, evacuations and emergency communications.

"It all goes back to the safety aspect of it," Knutson said.

The Twin Cities has two other Flotillas in addition to the Afton Flotilla.

"Every Flotilla has little nuances of how they approach things and what they're specialty might be," Knutson said. "We focus a lot of radio communications."

75 years and counting

Knutson said celebrating 75 years of the Afton Flotilla has been very exciting.

"We're breaking new water being the oldest Flotilla in the state," he said.

In January, during the Change of Watch ceremony, or installation of new officers, the Afton Flotilla was presented with a ribbon recognizing their 75 years of service.

In May, during a celebration dinner, the ribbon was attached to the Afton Flotilla's flag.

Knutson said ensuring that Afton Flotilla continues for another 75 years will depend on the organization's ability to remain current.

"There's the things that have to happen like the checks," he said, "but I think we also need to take advantage of the Internet and provide online classes."

Some of the Afton Flotilla's next duties will include marina checks, vessel examinations and water patrols.

"It's a lot more of the behind-the-scenes things," Knutson said.

The Afton Flotilla will also have an operations training this summer, which will include all Flotillas coming together for an emergency simulation.

Knutson said he is excited for the future of the Afton Flotilla, especially since as long as Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes there will also be a need.

"In Minnesota, there's a love of water for many people," he said. "As long as we have water in Minnesota we will have plenty of people who can take advantage of what the Afton Flotilla has to offer."

For more information on the Afton Flotilla visit wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=085-11-01 or contact Jon Knutson at JonKnutsonUSCGAUX@gmail.com.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976
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