Even though the last twenty of my thirty years in the Coast Guard saw me wearing a suit instead of a uniform, I always took pride (and still do) in a sharp uniform.
Here at the J. Strom Thurmond COE, all the rangers have uniforms, yep, even with the Smokey Bear Hat, but the volunteers don’t have a real uniform. Each volunteer is given a red vest with a name tag.
On the vest is a patch identifying the person as a COE volunteer.
On nice sunny days, with warm weather, we wear the vest so we are highly visible to the people we meet out around Thurmond Lake.
But recently, for a strange reason, we’ve been bundling up. Something about a Polar Vortex that keeps making unwanted visits to the Southern states.
When bundling up, our vests are under the coats and jackets, they really aren’t large enough to wear over them, the vests are more designed for warm weather or indoor use.
My concern when we are out walking around COE boundary lines is our visibility to the people we encounter, which usually means fumbling to open up our coats to show the vest and the COE volunteer patch.
Being in a part of the country where firearms are prevalent and there is a distinct possibility of a “shoot first-ask questions later” encounter when we come walking along the woods, or even through someone’s property, I wanted a faster and more recognizable way to identify ourselves to the people we meet.
Ergo, a nice U. S. Army Corps Of Engineers hat would certainly be a fast way to show our identity. I asked our ranger boss if I could buy a couple of COE hats. He said yes I could, except the uniform supply system was having problems and none of the rangers had been able to get any uniform items for quite a while. He had no idea when the problem would be resolved.
So I decided to take action myself, after all, I don’t want a butt full of buckshot. I researched on line and found a place where I could have two hats custom made for Marti and me. I placed the order and we sat back to wait. And wait. And wait.
The order was shipped via FedEx Ground. Not the fastest way by any means, but it should have taken about a week. Little did I know that FedEx also uses the U.S. Post Office to make the final delivery.
Following the package via its tracking number, I was dismayed to find out that once the package was delivered to the Post Office, it would take an additional three to five business days for the package to show up in the mail. Sheesh!
The day finally came, and our package arrived. Inside were the two hats, making ourselves readily identifiable.
We donned our new hats and headed in to the COE office. I wanted to show our hats to our ranger boss.
We walked into the office, with our hats off in our hands, ready for the big reveal. As soon as the ranger saw me, he said he had something for me. He opened his desk drawer and said these just came in. Duoh!
So now we have two hats. I guess we’ll use our custom made hats for the dirty work and the the other one for more “formal” occasions.
We’ve been working hard on the COE school water safety program with a great team of volunteers putting together informational brochure packages. We’ve sent packages out to over fifty schools offering to bring our free water safety program to their students.
We (the team) are developing the actual course, something that will appeal to elementary and middle school children. Our finished course will be about 30 minutes, with cartoons and life jackets to try on that hopefully will make an impact on the kids, and maybe even save their life.
It’s been a lot of work, but we’re happy to do it.
And Marti seems to prefer writer’s cramp to falling down into ravines in the woods! ;c)
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