Coast Guard ombudsmen heed the call

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (6/2/01)
By Ray Pendleton

Last year, the United States Coast Guard responded to over 39,000 distress calls and saved over 3,500 lives, worldwide.

In the USCG's District 14, of which Hawai`i is the centerpiece, I doubt there is a boat or ship operator at sea who isn't comforted by the fact that CG assistance is but a distress call away.

It is with this mariner's appreciation for these ocean-going life guards that a national nonprofit organization called the Coast Guard Foundation was founded with a mission of improving the quality of life for CG personnel and their families.

One of the ways the CG Foundation in Honolulu supports the service is by hosting an annual recognition dinner for a select group of individuals within the CG family whose volunteer work makes them heroes among heroes.

These honorees have the title of ombudsman, and although this year they all happened to be the wives of Coast Guardsmen, they have no desire to change their title to a more politically correct term like ombudsperson.

An ombudsman, according to Webster, is "one that investigates reported complaints, reports findings, and helps to achieve equitable settlements." But, in the CG, an ombudsman additionally follows a creed:

"To be informed so that our caring efforts will join heart and head, that we might help and not hinder, heal and not hurt, and give the most precious gift of all - hope."

"An ombudsman provides a vital link between command and our personnel and their families," said District Commander Rear Admiral Jim McClelland, Jr.

This year Honolulu's CG Foundation honored 15 such "vital links," along with an additional volunteer whose job is to help keep all of those vital links connected.

For the Cutter Walnut, Bobbi Hanson and Caeleigh Villareal are volunteers who share the responsibilities as co-ombudsmen. Similarly, aboard the Cutter Rush, Linda Charest and Melissa Resendes are co-ombudsmen, and a trio - Liz Edge, Michelle Paterson and Melissa Mabe - team up for the Cutter Jarvis.

Doreen Carey is stepping down from the position of ombudsman at the Barber's Point CG Air Station and Jamie Hamilton will be taking her place. Kim Andersen serves as the ombudsman for the Cutter Kukui and is also on active duty with the CG Reserve.

The Honolulu Marine Safety Office is covered by Patricia Curtis, while the ombudsman for the Marianas MSO is Stephanie Callaway. The MSO in American Samoa is served by Janelle Orth.

Connie Sharp is the ombudsman for the Cutter Sassafras, stationed in Guam, and Eileen Nguyen serves the Far East Activities Office in Japan.

At the top of the 14th District's ombudsman ladder is Wanda Allen-Yearout who volunteers uncounted hours to improve the CG family by facilitating quality-of-life issues.

As the district ombudsman coordinator, Allen-Yearout conducts quarterly meetings, personally trains or coordinates training throughout the year, and is responsible for creating and updating the Ombudsman Handbook, the official CG guide used by volunteers and CG commanders alike.

"Ombudsmen work hard to ensure our active duty members attend to their duties clearheaded and focused on their job," said CG Foundation Director Jim Andrasick. "Mrs. Allen-Yearout's dedication to this goal has been and continues to be an example and an inspiration to us all."

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