What is an Ombudsman?
Navy Family Ombudsmen are a critical communication link between the Commanding Officer and family members. They must be the spouse of an active duty or Reserve member of the command. Once appointed as the command Ombudsman, the volunteer receives standardized Ombudsman Basic Training (OBT). OBT provides the basic knowledge and tools necessary to be an effective representative of the command and an advocate for family members.
The Ombudsman represents and reports to the Commanding Officer who maintains ownership of the command Ombudsman program. Ombudsmen are primarily Information and Referral Specialists who help command family members gain the assistance.
A bit of Ombudsman History….The Ombudsman program has its roots in 19th Century where ombudsman positions were established to give ordinary private citizens access to express their concerns to high government officials. Always accessible, the ombudsman acted as a troubleshooter, advocate, intercessor, and interpreter.
In 1970, Chief of Naval Operations Elmo Zumualt brought the ombudsman concept to the Navy when he issued Z-gram 24. Initially the Wive's Clubs elected the ombudsman. In 1973 OPNAVINST 1750.1 established that the ombudsman was to be appointed by the commanding officers, and this remains the practice today.
The Role of the Ombudsman Today… OPNAVINST 1750.1 has shifted the focus away from the grievance processing role. The program's scope was expanded and now identifies the ombudsman as an appropriate person to assist the commanding officers in their responsibilities for the morale and welfare of the families of the command.
The ombudsman represents and reports to the Commanding Officer who maintains ownership of the command ombudsman program. Ombudsmen are primarily Information and Referral Specialists who help command family members gain the assistance they need to succeed as part of the extended Navy family.
Today's ombudsmen receive extensive training and serve as the direct liaison between commanding officers and family members. They are quite often the cohesion that helps keep families and Sailors connected during deployments and in times of crisis.
Did you know? All information shared with the Ombudsman remains completely confidential with the exception of the following situations:
- Potential suicide
- Suspected and established child abuse/neglect
- Known incidents of spouse abuse
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Potential homicides, violence, or life-endangering situations