Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 56 took time to thank the old guard and welcome the new in a Change of Watch ceremony on Saturday at Fabulous Foods by Julie in Smith River.

Flotilla Commander Wally Gorski emceed the event that saw a change of leadership for the group.

Gorski has been a member of the auxiliary for nine months and had to get an exception to the rules in order to become flotilla commander.

"I had to get a waiver from the district office," he said, "because you are supposed to have been a member for a year before holding any office."

When asked why he wanted to be the commander, he explained that when he joins a group, he likes to get highly involved as soon as possible.

Gorski has a number of goals as the new flotilla commander, including continuing the work started by former Flotilla Commander Ken Range.

"I want to work on recruitment," he said citing Range's 55-percent increase of membership over his two-year tenure. "I also want to work on retention of existing members."

Gorski has plans to work with the area high schools to recruit new members as well as working with various service organizations.

"This is a great organization," Gorski said. "We do a lot to support the Coast Guard."

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Hawthorne of Air Station North Bend agreed.

"The auxiliary is critical to the Coast Guard and Station Chetco River," he said. "Flotilla 56, you step up to the plate on a daily basis. For that, I thank you, and the captain thanks you."

Range was given a citation by Master Chief Peter Janusch for his two years of service as commander and his many accomplishments.

In the citation accompanying a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Medal, Range was cited as having been involved in more than 59 commercial fishing vessel examinations, which led to a safer working environment for fishermen in the Port of Brookings Harbor.

"Mr. Range led Flotilla 56 in over 255 underway training and patrol hours, 266 vessel safety inspection, 10 public education classes and 37 burials at sea," the citation stated. "During his tenure as flotilla commander, Flotilla 56 increased its overall membership by an impressive 55 percent."

The round of applause from the auxiliary members as Range was presented with his award was an indication that the members of the Flotilla who were present were in complete agreement with the citation and appreciative of Range's service.

"Thank you to Ken Range for his two years of service," Hawthorne said. "And to Wally Gorski: Your reputation as a highly motivated and dedicated man precedes you, I wish you the best of luck."

Also cited at the dinner was Barbara Rockfort for her service in the auxiliary over the past six years.

Rockfort was cited with having 2,453 hours of volunteer service, which included helping service members' families with transitional issues, assisting families with burials at sea and preparing food and helping with the station's galley.

"The tremendous effort she poured into this event was a major contributor to the excellent morale and esprit de corps at Station Chetco River," the citation said with regard to a Hawaiian Luau Rockfort directed. "Mrs. Rockfort's diligence, perseverance, and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard."

Gorski has big plans for Flotilla 56 and enlisted his fellow auxiliary members to his aid.

"We are part of a great organization and for it to continue to prosper and grow we must all do our parts to make sure it succeeds. Our main focuses this year will be recruitment, retention, vessel inspections, public education, partner visits and direct Coast Guard support," he said. "I know that this is a large order, but with cooperation and support we can accomplish these goals."