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My Coast Guard
Commentary | July 8, 2020

COVID chaos? Your ombudsman can help. Here's how.

Ironically, this is an article about avoiding information overload – and finding just the resources you actually need.

“Families are getting 5,000 emails a day about coronavirus, and it makes our eyes glaze over,” says Tiffany Lyford. Her husband is active duty on board the CGC KATHERINE WALKER, and she’s the unit ombudsman. “I stay on top of it all, so our families don’t have to be alert for every single thing that changes over the course of the day.”

The Ombudsman is a volunteer, who serves as an information link between command leadership and CG families. If you haven’t gotten around to meeting your ombudsman yet, consider COVID your invitation to make it happen.

As our families work diligently to protect their loved ones and community from illness, many are also experiencing a deployment, awaiting a PCS move, schooling their children at home, and trying to access medical services remotely. Your ombudsman can help you make sense of the chaos – and connect you to resources you didn’t even know you need.

“Right now, I think mental health is really the big thing. We’re sitting inside the house, with our kids and dogs, staring at four walls. It wears on you, doing the same routine day after day,” said Ms. Lyford, noting that CG SUPRT is standing by to help families work through the stress and anxiety issues they’re facing. “People can be afraid to reach out for those resources, so I send it to their inboxes directly.”

District and units may have additional information, meetings, and Town Halls that may not be posted on the USCG’s coronavirus website . Your ombudsman is tracking all those local opportunities, and can make sure you are up-to-speed. They’re also able to answer many of your questions, or make sure Command knows they need to share more information about a certain topic. If you’re overwhelmed with childcare or financial concerns, they can provide referrals.

Ombudsmen are trained to disseminate information both up and down the chain of command, including official CG and command information, command climate issues, local quality of life (QOL) improvement opportunities, and community information.

To contact your ombudsman, go to the CG Ombudsman Registry webpage at scroll to the bottom and click on “Contact Your Ombudsman” to locate your unit. If you cannot locate your unit, please contact the closest Sector or Base. The Ombudsman Registry doesn’t list individuals’ names (in order to preserve their personal privacy), but it will help you email your assigned ombudsman directly.