Ombudsmen get deserved recognition

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (05/15/99)
By Ray Pendleton

Does the title "ombudsman" sound familiar? I've written about them before, but let me refresh your memory.

According to Webster, an ombudsman is "one that investigates reported complaints, reports findings, and helps to achieve equitable settlements."

In the military, and in this case, the Coast Guard, an ombudsman is a volunteer who assists personnel and their dependents in coping with the rigors of military life.

And, while this usually means being a point of contact between those individuals and their commanding officer, it often means a lot more.

For example, a Coast Guard wife lands at Honolulu International Airport with a small child in her arms and tons of luggage, following her husband to a new duty assignment. But, as luck would have it, her husband's cutter had to make an emergency run a 1,000 miles out to a sinking fishing vessel and he can't be there to greet her.

Or, in another scenario, there has been a report in the news about the injury of CG personnel during a search and rescue operation.

Naturally, family and friends want to know as soon as possible who, specifically, got hurt and how badly.

In these, and many other instances, the person who meets the spouse at the airport, or implements a phone-tree for rumor-free information during a crisis is the ombudsman.

Most frequently, the ombudsmen are wives of CG personnel, so in this politically correct world, you might think they would bristle at the gender-specific title. But, after a survey was conducted a couple of years ago, it was found that there was 100 percent agreement that their title should remain unchanged.

Last week, the Coast Guard Foundation - a non-profit fund raising group that helps provide for the welfare of CG personnel and their dependents - held its annual CG Ombudsman Recognition Dinner at the Hale Koa Hotel.

At the dinner, 22 ombudsmen from throughout the 14th CG District were introduced and individually recognized for their selfless efforts to enhance military life.

The following list will give you some idea of the wide range of duty assignments.

As the only active duty ombudsman, John Muth works at the Coast Guard's Activities Far East Station in Tokyo, Japan.

Lorraine Thorson and Wendy Menze have the responsibility at Stations Sand Island and Honolulu, and Eva McAndrews is the ombudsman for the Marine Safety Office.

Roberta Hanson is the ombudsman for the soon-to-arrive buoy tender Walnut - replacing Theresa Rugenius - while Georgia Wells will be taking over from Kim Andersen, for its sister ship Kukui. A third buoy tender, Sassafras, based in Guam, has ombudsman Katherine Skinner.

Kelly Gaudet and Wendy Lawson have shared the ombudsman responsibilities for the Barber's Point Air Station, and now are being relieved by Doreen Carey and Pamela Howels.

Two ombudsmen, Edna Monroe and Alesia Stone, also share the duties for the cutter Rush.

The cutter Washington will have ombudsman Albert Anderson replacing Tellisa Sword, while cutters Kiska, Assateague and Point Evans, continue to be served by Dawn Belson, Mary-Allyn Bullard and Debra Lee, respectively.

Sherry Reitz will be replacing the cutter Jarvis' long-time ombudsman and the support program's assistant coordinator Melissa Root.

Congratulations to all for a job well done!

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