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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2011

Establishing a line of communication for spouses

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Hudson

Fleet and Family Support Center at Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station offered a standardized Navy Ombudsman Basic Training Course to volunteers, Feb. 14.

The course is designed to introduce aspects of the Navy Family Ombudsman Program and provide the necessary skill-sets to become an effective ombudsman.

The ombudsman program, introduced to the Navy in 1970, is a Navy-wide program established to improve mission readiness through improved family readiness. Each ombudsman plays a vital role in establishing and maintaining a line of communication between command leadership and Navy families, disseminating information up and down the chain of command and acting as an aid to Sailor's families.

"Ombudsmen are put in place to not only aid the families while the spouse is deployed but they also act as the eyes, ears and liaison between the families and the command," said Naval Support Activity Command Master Chief Billy Cady. "An ombudsman is the sole command source to help a Navy family in need when the ship, submarine or air wing is deployed. Every command not only cares for its Sailors but their families as well and having an ombudsman provides an avenue for hearing about their welfare.

"It is essential for each command to have an ombudsman who is effective, maintains lines of communication and provides assistance to families whether it is for resource information or for emergencies," he continued. "They act as the official link between a command and its families, allowing a Sailor to stay mission-focused and effectively do their job."

The 16-hour course taught new ombudsmen volunteers key points on how to actively listen, problem solving skills, what falls under confidentiality and how their professionalism is reflected upon not only themselves but the command as well.

"The ombudsman program is a way to support a command and their family members so that they may have a better understanding of what the command is all about and to help them get accustomed to the military lifestyle," said Becky Bowers, FFSC ombudsman coordinator.

"This course has been very informative and helpful for me because it's providing me with the tools I need to be able to assist spouses who require my help," Kelly Morris, the new volunteer ombudsman for the Naval Hospital Beaufort, S.C., said.

Often times an ombudsman will be able to problem solve small issues such as questions or give guidance regarding medical services or provide additional resources to a spouse.

"The ombudsman builds trust for the command; there are a lot of newer families here at the Weapons Station. Many of these young Sailors and their families do not understand everything the Navy has to offer and all the assistance the Navy can provide," said Mrs. Bowers. "When they see a spouse representing the command as far as a liaison, they do not feel so intimidated. An ombudsman can help solve problems often before it gets to the chain of command. They are able to build that trust factor because they are a spouse themselves and can relate to other spouses."

For more information on dates for the next course and scheduled meetings contact the Ombudsman Coordinator Becky Bowers at 764-7443.