NORWICH, Conn. – Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) and the United States Navy Command Ombudsman Program held an unforgettable luncheon in gratitude to SUBASE New London ombudsmen, Sept. 27.
A command Ombudsman is a spouse of a Sailor assigned to a unit or command, who volunteers for the job and is appointed by the commanding officer to act as a liaison between the Navy command and the families shore side.
The luncheon was held in appreciation of 5,000 hours of cumulative volunteer time by SUBASE New London’s command ombudsmen and featured Commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Rear Adm. Leonard “Butch” Dollaga and SUBASE Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Moore as guest speakers.
“Google is an amazing thing,” said Dollaga with a laugh. “I learned the word ‘ombudsman’ comes from Scandinavian countries where the origin means ‘protector of the people.’ And I see the ombudsman as someone who protects the crew; the families of the crew. I believe in order for the crew on the submarine to take care of God’s work and focus on the mission, the families need to be stable and taken care of back home. The individual who can flow information from the lowest level, the spouses and most junior personnel to the command so the right decisions can be made is the ombudsman.”
The luncheon, held in a hotel’s banquet hall, began with a buffet for lunch, after which Moore and SUBASE New London Command Master Chief Raj Sodhi presented awards to Ombudsmen who went above and beyond in their volunteer service to their commands.
“What came out Sept. 15, 1970, the statement probably went something like, Wanted: volunteer, courage of a lion, wisdom of an owl, warm as a summer sun, hard as iron, impeccable integrity, full of poise, tact, acumen, professional, to serve as liaison between two mutually incompatible organizations,” said Moore. “One is behemoth layered in bureaucracy unanswerable to its constituents, sometimes absent. The other, also incomprehensible, but sometimes scared and confused, new to the area. This group has given what they value most to that organization. And we need somebody to bridge that gap. These are the challenges our ombudsmen deal with. They bridge the gap.”
The Command Ombudsman Program was established by Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt. Moore added the Navy cannot properly function without ombudsmen.
“It is law, regulation, that the commanding officer of every Naval unit shall safeguard the morale, health and welfare of all personnel in the command,” said Moore. “And by extension, that means the families as well. Naval Regulations. There is no way a commanding officer can do that effectively without the advice and guidance of an ombudsman. That Z-Gram Adm. Zumwalt signed that created this program and brought this all into existence has served us well. When we send our loved ones over the horizons to undisclosed locations and unreachable by all, we as a nation are spending over a million dollars a day to keep that warfighting unit on station and on task. There’s no way we can do that unless all those Sailors know that their loved ones are being taken care of.”
The Ombudsman Appreciation Luncheon is held annually in September to recognize the important role ombudsmen play in command morale and family unity.