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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2011

Ombudsmen honored during 41st anniversary

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station celebrated the 41st anniversary of the Navy-wide Ombudsman program, recognizing each command's Ombudsman for their hard work and dedication during an appreciation luncheon held at the Red Bank Club, Sept. 28.

Much like the Air Force's Key Spouse program, the Ombudsman program was established to improve mission readiness through family readiness. Ombudsmen are command-appointed volunteers who play a vital role in establishing and maintaining a strong line of communication between a command and its Sailor's families.

"It is absolutely essential that each command takes the time to honor their Ombudsman. They are the Navy's selfless volunteers who create and maintain a communication line between families and the command leadership," said Master Chief Petty Officer Billy Cady, JB Charleston - Weapons Station command master chief. "Being an Ombudsman is not an easy job; it takes a lot of hard work, training and dedication to be an effective ombudsman.

"Their primary concern is a Sailor's family while he or she is deployed. They are trained to help with any problem or concern that a family may have and bring it to the attention of the chain of command if necessary," he continued.

While the responsibilities of morale, health, welfare and the efficiency of a command fall solely on the commanding officer, an Ombudsman will be able to relay information to the command that may improve certain qualities of life.

"The way an Ombudsman supports the command mission is to take care of the families so the service members are able to focus on their job. Ombudsmen disseminate information, assist with crisis management and provide social and recreational opportunities for families," said Kim Brown, JB Charleston - WS Ombudsman coordinator. "They are considered to be 'network specialists' and often find themselves taking on the role of mother, mentor, friend and confidante. An Ombudsman is a 24-hour, seven-days a week job which carries no paycheck, but offers great rewards to those who heed the call."

"Being in the Navy is hard on all families in more ways than one," Brown continued. "It is important to have someone families can go to, someone to help them work through the challenges of Navy life."

Originally introduced to the Navy in 1970 by Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, the primary focus of the Ombudsman program remains the same even though the program has grown and adapted to the ever-changing challenges of the Navy and its Sailors.

"As a Navy spouse, I watched the Navy's Ombudsman program grow. The program is stronger than ever thanks to the program managers and an amazing, global network of volunteers," said Brown. "They are doing extraordinary work in extraordinary times. I am proud of their service and their passion for Navy families."
There are currently more than 15 professionally trained Ombudsmen serving in the JB Charleston area. For Michelle Taylor, an Ombudsman from the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston, the job is demanding but it gives her a great deal of pleasure to serve.

"Being an Ombudsman is a challenging job, but I feel it is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done. I think family is a very important element of a Sailor's career and for me to be able to make a Sailor's life a little bit easier and less stressful by taking care of their loved ones is a very humbling experience," said Taylor.

"From day one, my command has always shown me a great amount of support. But, after attending this luncheon and seeing the support shown from everyone around the base and other Ombudsmen, well I'm just amazed," she concluded. "These luncheons remind all of us just how much we are respected by our commands which make it all worth it in the end."

"Family readiness equals operational readiness and a command Ombudsman is going to make sure each family is taken care of while a Sailor is deployed," said Cady. "This also helps in making sure a Sailor is not stressing about any issues at home and can concentrate on the job at hand."

"The Ombudsman is a key factor to the success of the command," he concluded. "They are an essential piece of the puzzle and without them we couldn't operate smoothly."