New Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program launches at U.Va.

The program aims to provide students with real-world skills, leadership experience

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Founded in 2007, the AUP is one of the newest programs introduced to the University community during the 2017-2018 academic year

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

A Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program (AUP) has officially launched at U.Va. and seeks to provide students with valuable leadership experience by offering a mixture of real-life skills, classroom training and community service opportunities. 

Kenneth Pentimonti, a first-year College student and a co-president of the University’s AUP, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that he joined the program due to its combination of programming from the Coast Guard’s active military and civilian personnel at the University. 

“I first heard about the Coast Guard AUP when researching the different ways I could get involved with the Coast Guard in college,” Pentimonti said. “After connecting with various leaders of the AUP on the national level, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to create a new unit at UVA. Since AUP members work alongside the Coast Guard’s active military and civilian personnel in fields such as information technology, public policy, and maritime strategy, being a full-time student at UVA and an active member of Team Coast Guard seemed like the best of both worlds.”

The University’s own AUP unit was first started during the fall 2017 semester via a partnership with Charlottesville’s Coast Guard Auxiliary. Second-year College student Alex Aguilera is a co-president of the program along with Pentimonti. 

The AUP was established in 2007 at Auburn University, the Citadel and the College of William and Mary to assist the U.S. Coast Guard in its humanitarian, national security and maritime safety mission.

Patricia Eldredge, Charlottesville’s Auxiliary detachment leader and a mentor to the University’s AUP, said Pentimonti reached out to her about starting an AUP program at the University while she was researching how to begin one herself. 

“I wanted to start an AUP unit here because when I was asked to lead the unit here in Charlottesville, I thought about what our unique area could offer in the context of the Coast Guard mission and there were some areas that I thought were clearly appropriate for what we do here,” Eldredge said. “I had contacted the AUP national office and asked them for information and some guidance, and right about that time, Kenneth actually called me and said that he wanted to get involved in starting up an AUP program.” 

Although the AUP is officially affiliated with the  local Charlottesville Auxiliary detachment, it does not run the program directly but provides mentorship and support to the AUP through Flotillas — the most basic unit of a local auxiliary program which typically includes about 15 individuals. 

“They [the AUP] are at out meetings every month … which is important for them to understand what’s going on in a larger context, and among the Auxiliary Flotillas,” Eldredge said. “They get to interact with us, we get to interact with them.” 

Eldredge said the program faced some difficulty from University administration during the approval process for the AUP due to certain guidelines imposed by the University concerning the AUP’s categorization as an academic program at U.Va. 

“The greatest difficulty we have is actually because of the administrative requirements within U.Va.,” Eldredge said. “It’s not our end that has slowed any of this down, but we needed to get guidance from U.Va. as to how they wanted us categorized. They have rules and restrictions as to what’s allowed, particularly after everything that happened this past summer. They have changed their requirements as far as what constitutes different categories, and so we are trying to adhere to U.Va. guidelines.”

According to Pentimonti, members of the AUP  do not receive a commission and are not required to serve with the Coast Guard upon graduating as with traditional ROTC programs — such as the the University’s Army, Air Force and Navy branches. 

“While participation in the AUP, like ROTC, will prepare students for leadership positions in a multitude of different fields, there are no requirements to continue serving with the Coast Guard,” Pentimonti said. “The AUP is open to all students and will meet once per week here on U.Va. Grounds”.

Pentimonti said the training and activities members participate in as part of the AUP would allow students to apply their coursework to real world situations such as operation patrols and search and rescue missions.

“The program is structured in a way that UVA students will have the ability to learn in a classroom environment (through courses in marine safety, communications, homeland security, etc.) and apply their training in practical, real-world situations,” Pentimonti said.

According to Pentimonti and Aguilera, there are currently only a few students involved with the Coast Guard AUP, but added that the program is seeking additional members.

Eldredge said the AUP allows participants to become involved in humanitarian aid efforts and is beneficial to them as a result.  

“I would like to see it [the program] grow,” Eldredge said. “It’s the kind of thing that appeals to people because not only are we involved in humanitarian search and rescue efforts, but in addition, they draw a huge benefit from it.”

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