New London Ombudsmen Recognized for their Dedication to the U.S. Navy
GROTON, Conn. – New London area ombudsmen were honored for their service and sacrifice during the annual Ombudsman Appreciation Dinner at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Officer's Club, Sept. 29.
Beth Darius, ombudsman coordinator, Fleet and Family Support Center kicked off the evening’s celebration by highlighting the outstanding work, dedication and integral support the ombudsmen provide to Naval Submarine Base New London, the U.S. Navy and the submarine force.
“Forty one years ago the Ombudsman program was created by Adm. Elmo Zumwalt. Through the years, ombudsmen have performed countless duties with strength, courage and compassion, creating a system of support and encouragement for our Navy families as well as stepping to the forefront to assist in times of great need during natural disasters,” said Darius.
Capt. Frank Lowery, chief of staff for Commander, Submarine Group Two praised the ombudsmen for their service to the nation and referred to them as “angels” of the submarine force.
“There are Sailors on our boats that don’t even know your name, but these same Sailors know that you have the watch and that you will keep their families informed as their submarines continue to execute world wide missions,” said Lowery.
Lowery thanked each ombudsman for their support during Hurricane Irene and praised them for the courageous tenacity they demonstrated in ensuring every family member was accounted for.
“Following Hurricane Irene we had 650,000 people in Connecticut without power. Our ombudsmen helped us verify that each and every family member was accounted for so that we could tell our Sailors at sea that everything was okay back home. That was an important mission well executed,” said Lowery.
Capt. Marc Denno, Commanding Officer, Naval Submarine Base New London, pointed out that ombudsmen are just as important to shore commands as they are to submarines and ships.
"Even for our Navy families ashore, ombudsmen can be that first call for a spouse who's looking for assistance in navigating the Navy's support systems," said Denno. "They help answer that question of 'what should I or we do?' with insight, experience, and understanding."
During the appreciation dinner Darius read the Chief of Naval Operations and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Ombudsman Appreciation Day messages to the fleet.
“We honor you, our Navy Ombudsmen, who are Navy spouses and highly trained volunteers that provide a vital communication link between commands and families. When our families are faced with the challenges of deployments or family emergencies, our dedicated ombudsmen promote resiliency and self-reliance by providing guidance that assists families to regain a sense of normalcy,” said Darius, who read the MCPON message to the ombudsmen and their guests.
Command Master Chief Wesley Koshoffer, Submarine Group Two attended the dinner and highlighted the critical importance of the Ombudsman program.
“The Ombudsman program is critical to our success as a Navy. Family support is one of the six core elements of the Brilliant on the Basics fundamental tenets. The other elements include sponsorship, indoctrination, career development, mentorship and recognition,” said Koshoffer.
“It’s an honor to take time out of our schedules to show our sincere appreciation for our ombudsman to recognize and support their tremendous contributions to the U.S. Navy and our submarine force,” said Koshoffer.
The ombudsmen recognized during the dinner included: Tara Farque, USS Alexandria; Eva Foxhoven, USS Annapolis; Jill Henry, USS Dallas; April Holtmeyer, USS Miami; Lisa Ory, Naval Branch Health Clinic; Trish Harris, USS New Hampshire; Beth Holmes, Naval Submarine Support Command; Melanie Thompson, Naval Submarine Support Facility; Christine Boling, USS Pittsburgh; Lauren Bomar, USS Pittsburgh; Courtney Vaira-Joyce, USS Providence; Nicole Guyton, USS San Juan; Joleen Westrich, USS Springfield; Abbie Cravens; Submarine Base New London; Joyce Willemot, USS Toledo; and Victoria Taylor, Ombudsman Assembly Chair.
Taylor, Groton-New London Ombudsman Assembly chairperson performed her last official duty during the dinner and reflected on the program as a whole and lessons she has learned.
“I look back at the past year and I come back to resiliency; it’s how I handle whatever comes my way,” said Taylor. “Never underestimate your importance because you make the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer and Chief of the Boat’s job a lot easier.”