Ombudsman support is provided by both the individual command and the Navy community. The command should provide the ombudsman not only with materials and equipment, but with their time and support. An ombudsman must have the command’s support to effectively carry out her/his responsibilities.
The local Ombudsman Assembly is an important component of the Ombudsman Program. The Assembly exists to support the local, appointed command ombudsmen; it is not a policy-making or supervisory entity. An Ombudsman Assembly usually meets monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. All command ombudsmen in a given region are members of the Assembly and should attend to represent their commands and their families’ interests. Command leadership (COs, XOs, CMCs, chaplains and their spouses) are also encouraged to attend the Ombudsman Assembly.
The Ombudsman Assembly:
- Serves as a resource for professional development of local ombudsmen by arranging relevant training.
- Serves as a liaison for policy discussion and clarification by appropriate local authorities regarding issues of interest to ombudsmen and command family members.
- Assists commands in recognizing/showing appreciation to their ombudsmen.
Advanced training for ombudsmen can be defined as all training that occurs after the completion of Ombudsman Basic Training (OBT). The purpose of advanced training is to support ombudsmen’s ongoing educational and informational needs. Advanced training may be held in conjunction with Assembly meetings or at separate times. Many locations set a yearly schedule including number of trainings, locations, dates and times. Command ombudsmen should be encouraged to attend all trainings.
OPNAVINST 1750.1G, enclosure (7) requires that each command establishes a program to recognize the volunteer contributions of their ombudsmen. There are many ways to recognize ombudsmen including an individual command event or token of appreciation, or a base-sponsored event for all area ombudsmen. For detailed information and suggestions for recognizing and appreciating the command ombudsman, see Ombudsman Recognition.
Communication among and between command leadership, the ombudsman, command members, and their families reduces rumors, assures family members that they have the most current information, and instills confidence in the ombudsman that she/he will be kept informed.
Command leadership should continually promote the Ombudsman Program including contact information and how ombudsman can be of assistance. Information should be in the POD, the command or ombudsman newsletter, on the Careline, and on the command Web site. For important information, such as the appointment of a new ombudsman, an email blast and perhaps direct mail should also be considered.
Command sponsored Carelines, newsletters and telephone trees are key tools to facilitate communication. It is important for the commanding officer to establish and inform the command ombudsman of expectations for the use of these tools.cReview Ombudsman Communications Tools.
OPNAVINST 1750.1G solidified ombudsmen as pivotal partners in disaster and emergency preparedness. Ombudsmen should be included in regional, installation and command plans for disaster preparedness and in disaster preparedness exercises. The ombudsman’s role is critical as:
- The ombudsman is often the first person affected members of the Navy family turn to following an emergency or disaster.
- The ombudsman has the ability to increase awareness about disaster preparedness and planning.
Turnover of an ombudsman occurs whenever an ombudsman’s spouse transfers, is discharged, or retires, the ombudsman can no longer perform her/his duties, or the commanding officer terminates an ombudsman. A letter of resignation from the ombudsman is also required whenever there is a change of command. The new commanding officer may ask the ombudsman to remain until a new ombudsman is trained or may reappoint the existing ombudsman.
Commanding officers may also choose to remove an ombudsman from his or her role by simply sending a letter thanking him/her for service, or for cause. Termination for cause may include:
- Any violation of the Ombudsman Code of Ethics, including failure to report a mandated reportable.
- Theft or making false claims for reimbursement.
- Sexual harassment.
- Inability to work effectively as a member of the Command Support Team.
- Unavailability to command family members.
- Failure to participate in required and available training, as directed.
No matter the reason for ombudsman turnover, it needs to occur in a professional manner. Information and items that should be discussed or transferred to the new ombudsman include:
- Contact logs or other written documentation.
- Newsletter production process.
- Directions for use of the Careline.
- Turnover of any command-owned equipment and supplies.
- Procedures for alerting families to the change in ombudsman.
- Any other topics that might affect families.
The commander or commanding officer, or designee, shall update the Ombudsman Registry as changes occur.
Review a Sample Termination for Cause letter.
At times, issues or challenges may arise related to a specific situation or ombudsman. When this occurs, it is important to:
- Clarify OPNAVINST 1750.1G and how it applies in this instance.
- Determine whether the ombudsman acted outside of guidance.
- Consider available options.