Ombudsmen help out the Coast Guard

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (05/06/00)
By Ray Pendleton

Surrounded by open ocean for thousands of miles, it should be no wonder that Hawaii's recreational boaters seem to appreciate the U.S. Coast Guard more than boaters in other states.

When an emergency arises at sea, the Coast Guard is the one agency boaters can count on to respond with needed assistance. And, it follows that with such assurance, the dangers of venturing offshore seem less daunting.

Correspondingly, Coast Guard personnel too have a group of people they can count on for assistance. It is an internal organization made up of men and women called ombudsmen who help make military family life less daunting.

Webster's dictionary defines an ombudsman as "one that investigates reported complaints, reports findings, and helps to achieve equitable settlements."

Within the Coast Guard, an ombudsman is all of that and more. He or she is a volunteer - normally a Coast Guard spouse - who spends countless hours every week attempting to solve the myriad of emergencies associated with military life.

When Coast Guard personnel are routinely transferred every three years to stations thousands of miles apart, or when they have sea duty for weeks on end, their families are surely effected.

Imagine a Coast Guard wife's relief at being met at the airport by an ombudsman, when her husband's cutter is at sea and she and her small children are moving to Hawai`i for the first time.

Or consider how important it can be for a husband to hear from an ombudsman that his wife's Coast Guard cutter is safe after riding out a tropical storm.

Last night, the 14th District's Coast Guard Foundation - a non-profit fund raising group that provides assistance for personnel and their dependents - held its annual Ombudsman Recognition Dinner at the Hale Koa Hotel.

At their dinner, 18 ombudsmen from as far away as Guam and Japan were recognized for their selfless efforts and were deemed heroes by retired Coast Guard Admiral Howard Gehring.

For the Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis, three volunteers share the ombudsman duties: Bill Bauman, Elizabeth Edge and Melissa Mabe.

For the C.G. cutters Rush, Walnut, Kukui, Washington, and Kiska, the ombudsmen are respectively: Alicia Stone, Roberta Hanson, Kim Andersen, Albert Anderson, and Jennifer Sorensen.

At the Coast Guard air station at Barber's Point, ombudsman duties are performed by two volunteers: Pamala Howels and Doreen Carey.

On Guam, there are three ombudsmen with separate responsibilities: Sharon Fisk volunteers for the Cutter Galveston Island; Connie Sharp takes care of problems for the Cutter Sassafras; and Stephanie Callaway is responsible for the Marine Safety Office.

The ombudsman for the Honolulu Integrated Support Command is Wendy Menze and for Station Honolulu is Dana Warren. Edna Monroe works in the Ombudsman Support Program and, in Japan, Eileen Nguyen serves the Far East Activities personnel.

The recipient of this year's special award for efforts above and beyond the call of duty was Mary-Allyn Bullard, ombudsman for the cutter Assateague, for her "hundreds of extra-hours work as assistant ombudsman coordinator."

To all I offer my most sincere congratulations for a job well done.

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