By Julie M. Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs
Supporter, listener and reference guide are just a few words that are used to describe command ombudsmen. On Sept. 21, an annual luncheon was held in honor of their service, sponsored by Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC).
Twenty-nine tenant command ombudsmen were recognized in front of their command leadership at the River Cove Catering and Conference Center for the 47th anniversary of the luncheon. Lt. Cmdr. Al Dozier served as master of ceremonies. ACC(AW/SW) Ayanna Gregg performed the national anthem and Lt. Ian McCarthy, Navy chaplain, gave the invocation.
Guest speaker for the event was NAS Jax Executive Officer Capt. Michael Connor. Connor said he looks forward to the luncheon every year because, "it is a chance to recognize an amazing group of volunteers."
"Volunteer is a key word, as they dedicate themselves to working around the clock to help Sailors, while going through the exact same situation," he said.
Connor spoke about the recent need of the ombudsmen during Hurricane Irma, which hit the Jacksonville area. Ombudsmen typically work to keep families informed about matters both on and off base, which can be helpful to those in new geographical areas.
"Our ombudsmen played a big role in keeping our families informed and updated," said Connor.
The Ombudsmen program started to help families during deployments. Commanding officers are charged with selecting their ombudsmen, often times with more than one serving in a command.
Commands can chose a previously trained ombudsman or elect a new person. Once chosen, they are provided with classroom training.
Topics include standards of conduct, confidentiality, disaster and crisis preparations.
According to FFSC Ombudsman Coordinator Jodi Arden, it's ombudsmen who are the link between the command and families, with information going both ways.
"By allowing families to better understand what their Sailor is going through allows for the service member to be better prepared for the mission," Arden said.
Ombudsmen have numerous reasons for getting involved. One local ombudsman said she felt the need to serve the squadron.
"I can relate to how it feels being new to the Navy and I wanted to give back to our command and families," said Jamie Kirchert, ombudsman for Patrol Squadron 30.
"Even though I've only served in this capacity for six months, I'm excited to see what the future brings and to be there for our families."
For more information about the Ombudsman program, contact FFSC at 542-5637 or stop by building 554.