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Office of Work-Life Programs : Ombudsman Program - Command Frequently Asked Questions

 What is a Coast Guard Ombudsman?
An ombudsman is an official volunteer of the command who is trained to assist command families with referral resources, facilitate communication between Command and families and provide readiness support during deployments, emergencies, or crisis.
 Is it mandatory for the unit to have an Ombudsman?
Yes and No. COMDTINST 1750.4 (series) mandates that Area, District, Sector and Base Commanders, and Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy appoint an ombudsman. It is the goal that all families have access to an Ombudsman. Admiral Papp states “Simply put, ombudsmen provide support to our families. Ombudsmen provide our families with peace of mind; we couldn’t do our jobs without them!”
 What if I have no spouse that will to volunteer?
There is a waiver process outlined in Enclosure (1) of the Ombudsman Instruction in the event you have been unable to get a spouse to volunteer, at which time another family member, an auxiliarist, or other individual may be considered.
 What if I am a small command? Do I still need to appoint an ombudsman?
Commands can share an ombudsman if all parties agree and it is clearly established by issuing an appointment letter from each command sharing an ombudsman and signed by the CO. Copies of each appointment letter should be provided to every unit sharing an ombudsman, and to the HSWL RP Ombudsman Coordinator. Each command will also assign the ombudsman to their unit in the CG Ombudsman Registry.
 How is the Command Ombudsman Program funded?
Every unit with an appointed Ombudsman will establish a funding line item to support their Ombudsman program. Use of appropriated and non-appropriated funds is authorized for this purpose. Reimbursable items: Child care, mileage, parking, tolls and travel expenses. Ombudsmen must be acting in an official capacity and reimbursements must be pre-approved by the command. Invitation Travel Orders (ITOs) may be issued per COMDTINST 12570.3 (series) and ombudsmen must have an appointment letter.
 How do I decide how many Ombudsman I need?
Generally units that are larger in size e.g., air stations, cutters, sectors etc. have at least one if not two. Factors that play a role in determining the need are unit demographics, number of military members and their families, and probability of disaster evacuation, i.e. hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires. However, it is the decision of the CO/OIC of how many ombudsmen to appoint.
 How do I show my Ombudsman appropriate appreciation?
Ombudsmen should be recognized at unit luncheons, receptions, all-hands meetings, annual Ombudsman trainings or other appropriate gatherings. March 26 is designated as Coast Guard Ombudsman Appreciation Day. You may additionally consider your ombudsman for the Swivel Shot Award and Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year when additional guidance is provided starting late December until mid February.
 When does an Ombudsman receive training?
Upon appointment, within 4 weeks your ombudsman completes the Online Core training. Thereafter the CO/OICs will coordinate training with the servicing HSWL RP Ombudsman Coordinator to ensure the ombudsman attends training within three months of appointment. An ombudsman unable to attend training within their AOR will be referred to the servicing HSWL RP Ombudsman Coordinator to reschedule for the next available training or coordinate attendance at an alternate training, approved by the Ombudsman Program Manager.
 What Ombudsman training is available to Active Duty/Reserve members?
Ombudsman Online Core Training is available through the CGPortal Learning Management System, course catalog 000695, and Coast Guard Ombudsman Training (CGOT) standardized live training is offered through the servicing Health, Safety and Work-Life Regional Practice. Schedules are posted on the CGPortal Work-Life Division/Work-Life Training page.
 How does my ombudsman access the online training?
Once appointed, the Ombudsman Coordinator will provide your new ombudsman’s information to the Atlantic or Pacific Area Regional Ombudsman Coordinator (ROC). The ROCs submit monthly updates to the Auxiliary Learning Management System (AUX LMS) administrator. Upon completion of updates, the Coordinators will send notification and directions to access AUX LMS to newly appointed ombudsman.
 What materials should be provided to Ombudsman?
Commands should provide the Ombudsman with the command roster with families’ information, a contact list for POCs on and off base, local resources and the contact information for the Regional Work-Life staff. Copy of the most current Ombudsman instruction, CG Ombudsman Training Manual and other equipment or supplies the command deems necessary.
 How often do I meet with my Ombudsman?
It’s up to you. You can meet quarterly, monthly, weekly, over the phone or in person. This will depend on what is going on with your unit.
 What’s in it for me?
These testimonials are typical responses received from commanding officers just like you after working with their properly appointed and trained ombudsman:

"The ombudsman is a tremendous force multiplier and a critical member of my command team. My ombudsman keeps the command grounded, and ensures that despite dynamic patrol schedules and high-tempo operations we never forget our commitment to the Coast Guard Family. My ombudsman has immeasurably contributed to the outstanding command climate we enjoy aboard EDISTO."

LT Philip Baxa
Commanding Officer
San Diego, CA

"I first wanted to start off and say how thankful I am for the Ombudsman Program. I've been wanting to write you for some time now to let you know how blessed I was to have such a wonderful Ombudsman during my fiancée's deployment and his brothers. My fiancée is part of the PSU 309 unit who was deployed to Cuba and his brother is part of the PSU 309 that was deployed to Kuwait. We had a wonderful Ombudsman. I did not know her at the beginning of this deployment. I met her at a Yellow Ribbon program, which I am also grateful for. However, throughout this deployment, which was my first, the ombudsman did a phenomenal job with being there any time I needed her. She kept us informed and communicated flawlessly throughout the deployment and after the deployment. It is the above and the beyond that made me write this letter to you. She not only was there during the deployment but also afterwards. She still has been communicating and informing us about birth announcements, prayers for families dealing with loss of loved one and any other updates. From this communication and commitment she made me feel like I was part of a real family, the Coast Guard family. I've been able to make many close friends during this time; I had people to talk to in time of need, people to cry with and most important people to laugh with. I had so many concerns with this being my first deployment experience and I was full of questions. Questions on what to do when I was feeling low, questions on how the Yellow Ribbon worked questions when I hadn't heard from my loved ones in awhile. If there were ever conflicts the PSU 309 handled them wonderfully. I had problems working out bills with TRICARE and she pointed me in the correct direction to have my questions answered. I could go on and on of how the ombudsman helped me and is still helping me with this deployment. I will forever be grateful to her and grateful that you chose her to be our Ombudsman! I hope if I have to go through another deployment again she will be my Ombudsman again! She did phenomenal with her job for both PSU 309 units and I wanted to bring that to your attention."

Nicole V

"Mrs. Casey Vanhuysen was extremely instrumental in providing support to families of Sector NY but here support also reached the MSST, CCG Bainbridge Island, CCG Sailfish, Ant Bayonne, Station New York, Station Sandy Hook and several other units. She used very innovative methods to help get support for the impacted families. One such example was using Facebook to reach out and let people know what kind of support was needed for the impacted families. This method was so effective there were two vacant housing units full of relief supplies. So many supplies flowed in we actually had to ask folks to stop sending stuff. When all these supplies came in Mrs. Vanhuysen organized a group of volunteers to categorize the supplies and inventory them so impacted families knew what was available and could quickly get exactly what they needed.

Additionally she worked very closely with the deployed Personnel Support Team (PST) and the Spouses Association packing loads of donated goods for the affected members and delivered them to forward locations so families at Sandy Hook could get supplies without coming all the way to Staten Island.

Mrs. Vanhuysen was also the go to person to know the status of each impacted family. She continually worked with the Ombudsmen from other units to make sure they were getting the support they needed and that no issues were falling through the cracks. If support was needed she made sure it was provided by whatever means necessary.

Through everything she kept a very friendly and supportive attitude."

R. Shane Hooker
Command Master Chief
Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS)

“[Our ombudsman] was a critical part of our command team through a particularly dynamic period including over 350 deployed days and the first-of-its-kind decommissioning, cross-deck and homeport change. She established herself as the primary conduit of command information to the unit’s families and friends and organized valuable initiatives that educated others on available support services. Her value to the morale of our crewmembers was immeasurable and she routinely found ways to make them feel loved and appreciated. [Her] contributions to the family readiness of our more than 200 dependents allowed our shipmates to focus on their responsibilities while deployed with the reassurance that their families at home were in her great hands. In my 22-year Coast Guard career, I have never met a person more dedicated to our extended Coast Guard family and instrumental in a unit’s readiness, effectiveness and resiliency."

CAPT Matthew Gimple
(Former) Commanding Officer

"As a unit that deploys members throughout the US and across the globe at a moment's notice, our ombudsman is critical to this command's success. She ensures the members and their families feel comfortable with the command and its expectations and keeps the command well informed regarding the morale, health and welfare of command families. She a terrific representative of the command and it is a great honor to have her as a part of our team."

Signed - Deployable Unit Executive Officer

 What can an Ombudsman do for you?
  • An Ombudsman is the command’s liaison with family members and provides official command information to families.
  • An Ombudsman can direct a grievance or a suggestion to the proper departments.
  • An Ombudsman can familiarize families with a variety of organizations.
  • When challenges arise at home, an Ombudsman can refer families to the best possible place for direct help or professional guidance, thereby resolving issues before they require extensive command attention.
  • An Ombudsman is a source of information and outreach.
  • An Ombudsman can pass along important information to families (scholarships, childcare subsidy, work-life and local resources).
  • An Ombudsman can keep your families abreast of the unit’s movements during deployment, trainings, etc., and as a seasoned veteran of deployments, minimizes rumors and unnecessary worry or stress.
  • Ombudsman can play a vital role in disaster response. An Ombudsman can be a valuable advisor for the command and a source of information for families in times of crisis.