Reservist

ISS2 2017

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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While the VTU program was a start, Handy knew more formal training was needed, along with the enlisted billets to support. At the end of April 1949, Handy and two other reservists were called to active duty for a few weeks to flesh out the idea for a real training program, which would incorporate the VTUs into port security efforts. One of the reservists, Lt. Cmdr. Malcolm McGuire, was from Seattle, and upon his return, McGuire sought support from his Washington State senator. Sen. Harry P. Cain agreed to support an amendment to secure funding for the Reserve training program and Handy pitched in to help. Handy and Cain's letters slowly traveled back and forth across the country as the young lieutenant prepped Cain for his upcoming statement to the Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations, including written support from the Navy for the Coast Guard's port security mission and references to a 1947 (Congressionally-directed) survey recommending upkeep of a Coast Guard Reserve for the port security mission. Using Handy's materials, Cain fervently defended the Coast Guard's mission, purpose, and importance. Unfortunately, the request for $1 million to jump start the training program was still denied – especially frustrating given the fact it was a mere fraction compared to the other armed services' combined requested (and approved) Reserve appropriation figure of more than $813 million. The Importance of Networking Handy occasionally visited "the Coast Guard Building" on Pennsylvania Ave. and 13th Street in downtown Washington, D.C. (The location of Coast Guard headquarters was ever-changing over the last half of the twentieth century as departments were shuffled due to administration changes over the years.) While there, he met "Lt. Cmdr George Downing, D-O-W-N-I-N-G, he was from a New England wealthy socialite family who believed in having a lot of social contacts." Downing called Handy aside and suggested that what the Reserve really needed was an organization to promote itself. "He suggested that I form a chapter of the Reserve Officers Association [ROA]," said Handy. He obtained the Reserve officers' names and addresses from Coast Guard Headquarters, and sent them a letter informing them of the intent to form an ROA chapter to fight for a Reserve appropriation. Three hundred officers signed up. Though the first ROA charter was granted in 1949 to the DC chapter, Handy eventually broke the membership into smaller, more manageable chapters nationwide. "The first thing we had to do after setting up the Washington chapter was cultivate political contacts in the House, the Senate and the Treasury," said Handy. "So, strategically, instead of just accepting the [new] charter from the ROA, we planned a 'charter presentation' dinner." We're almost three hours into the interview before Handy's niece Theresa is able to convince him to stop long enough to eat half a sliced chicken sandwich. His thoughts continue shortly after , and presses on as we munch our own sandwiches and listen raptly. Jeff and I are shaking our heads at how clever and well-thought out this 1949 lieutenant version of Captain Handy is. The charter presentation dinner, held in October 1949, would be the first of several held at the Officers' Club in the Naval Gun Factory near what is referred to today as the Navy Yard in Washington. Handy invited Reserve and active duty officers [or 'regulars' as he called them], Secretaries and executives of the Departments of Defense and Treasury, and anyone else with any clout who might be able to speak on the Coast Guard's behalf. "The main problem we had in Congress…was 99 percent of the people didn't know anything about the port security program, or even the Coast Guard itself," said Handy. Each VIP was tactically assigned a chapter member as a host or hostess to" provide introductions and liquid refreshments". The objective of the dinner was to demonstrate support for the Reserve "all the way to the top." He purposely coordinated his requests for guest speakers at the dinner to show support for the Reserve and "grind down opposition" in future appropriation attempts. A sit-down interview with Capt. Walter K. Handy, USCGR (Ret.) during which he discusses the stand up of the Coast Guard's Washington Chapter of the ROA as well as how the change of the Coast Guard's parent organization from the Dept. of Treasury to the Dept. of Trasnportation greatly impacted his ability to train and his decision to stay in the Reserve. 22 RESERVIST � Issue 2 • 2017

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