JACKSONVILLE — Greg Deen has taught 23 boating-education courses over the span of two years, 10 of which were with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Central Arkansas Flotilla 15-8.
Deen, of Jacksonville, was recently named the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Education Instructor of the Year at the Arkansas Wildlife Federation Inc.’s Governor’s 2013 Conservation Achievement Awards banquet.
“When I got the award, it was very humbling, and I was surprised,” Deen said.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary teaches boating-education classes to the public, along with conducting free boat-safety inspections, monitoring navigation aids on the Arkansas River and maintaining displays of boating-safety literature at public locations around the state.
Deen said he was fascinated with boats at a young age.
“I grew up with boats and started driving them at 8 years old,” Deen said.
He lived in Florida with his parents and helped neighbors with their boats and taught others how to water ski when he was 12 years old, he said.
Deen bought his first boat when he was in high school, and boating has always played a large role in his life. Boating safety is important to him, he said, and he always felt he wanted to do something to give back to the community.
He went to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and took a boating-education course to get familiar with the boating terms and rules in Arkansas, he said. He then went to Jason Hooks, regional education coordinator for the commission, and went through the boating education material with him.
Deen’s working career began in the U.S. Air Force. He served active duty for 12 years before switching to civilian work. As an instructor, he taught pilots and crews in flight simulators at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville. He was an instructor for over 20 years, so teaching wasn’t new to him, Deen said.
He taught his first boating education class in Cabot, and the rest is history.
“It’s easy to say that even though [the number of boating accidents is] relatively low, many of the accidents and deaths could have been prevented,” Deen said. “Education is a key. Most of the accidents this year involved boaters who had never been to a safety course.”
Any person who was born after 1986 must take a boating-education course in order to legally drive a boat in Arkansas.
“Some of the kids I teach are as young as 12 years old,” Deen said.
Deen teaches one-day courses that last eight hours.
“The data is clear that the [classes] offered by the AGFC are effective,” he said.
Deen uses visuals to keep his students’ attention and uses skills he developed during his years as an instructor with the Air Force in his boating-education classes.
Deen is looking forward to continuing to educate the public about how to operate boats safely.