BOSTON – One of New England’s busiest Coast Guard Auxiliarists, Arnie Geller of Warwick, Rhode Island, has another honor to add to his long list of boating safety accomplishments.
After devoting hundreds of hours to boating safety instruction in New England in 2016, Geller has been named “Northern Region Educator of the Year” by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Geller, one of three regional honorees, will receive the award during NASBLA’s national conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, on September 11 where he will also compete with the other regional winners for NASBLA’s “National Boating Educator of the Year” title.
“I am totally honored, but especially since a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary has been chosen for this great award,” Geller said. “Normally, the people who are honored are state boating officers. I took a look back over the names of winners in recent years and didn’t see another Auxiliarist listed,” added Geller, who has been a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Flotilla 07-08 in Providence, Rhode Island for 37 years.
“I am speechless,” the effervescent Geller said of the award. “And for me that is really saying something!”
Geller can often be found at regional boat shows and maritime events where he mans the Auxiliary’s “Damage Control Trailer” exhibit, instructing both commercial and recreational boaters in effective damage control techniques, proper wearing of personal flotation devices, safe shipboard practices and vessel examinations – all part of the Coast Guard’s safety message to those who venture out on the water. Geller also attends numerous maritime safety events for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
“Every time I spoke with him, [Arnie] was preparing for or going to a boating safety event,” said Jennifer Ogren, Boating Safety Education Coordinator for the Rhode Island DEM, who nominated Geller for the NASBLA award. “Whether it was teaching the Sea Scouts, giving a boating presentation to a school or attending a show or event, he was constantly promoting boating safety and doing it with such incredible passion, humor and joy,” she said. “He is what happens when you really love what you do.”
In addition to his maritime safety seminars and related events, Auxiliarist Geller is a full-time volunteer staff member for Coast Guard Sector Southeast New England’s Waterways Management Division. “You make your own opportunities,” he explained. “It all started when I volunteered a couple of times when the [Coast Guard Cutter] Eagle came into the Sector five years ago. That got me in the door. Then, all of a sudden, my extensive available time became dedicated to my great interest in all of this.
“While working at waterways management in the winter of 2015, everything froze over and I had the opportunity to serve as an ‘Operation Reliable Energy for New England Winter (OP RENEW) Ice Coordinator’ for the Sector. One thing just led to another,” he recalled. “I got into the waterways management shop and was there five or six days a week – and there were even periods of time when for various reasons, we had no petty officer in the division. As I was the only staff person there, opportunities presented themselves to contribute even more.”
The Coast Guard Auxiliary has been a life-long commitment for Geller, who followed his parents’ lead in joining Flotilla 07-08 as an 18-year-old, and has gone on to hold a number of CGAUX local and district offices over the years. Now, his wife Maureen and sons David and Joshua are also active Auxiliary members. “I told Maureen that it might be the only time when she gets to spend some time with me,” laughed Geller. “She said the just wanted to go with me to the meetings, but I’ve got her with the Damage Control trailer at boat shows and she is now the Division 07 secretary. She has gotten a lot more than she bargained for [laughter].”
Outside of the Auxiliary, Geller has enjoyed a wide range of professional experiences, working at various times in the fields of law enforcement, security, retail management, as owner of a courier business, and in insurance sales and management. “I draw from my experiences in all of these vocations in what I am doing now,” explained Geller, who said that he is a “full-time Auxiliarist” since retiring from his professional careers in 2012.
In addition to his Coast Guard waterways management specialist qualification, Geller is a recreational boating safety program specialist and is certified as an Auxiliary and Rhode Island boating safety instructor. Arnie also serves as a leader of a Sea Scout chapter in his home area, and recently served as a member of the Coast Guard’s National Task Force for the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Beckley, West Virginia – a Scouting event that drew more than 40,000 participants.
“Selfishly, I love doing, this,” Geller confided about his Auxiliary assignments. “I have always told my kids, ‘When you are doing what you love, it’s not work.’”
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit www.cgaux.org.