Story by Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) formally recognized Shannon Afarin, command ombudsman, on Sept. 9, 2016, for her continual effort in providing support to NHB’s family members in conjunction with this year’s Ombudsman Appreciation Day.
“Shannon has done a tremendous job for us as our command ombudsman and with Ombudsman Appreciation Day on Sept. 14, we wanted to say ‘thank you.’ She does great work for us. She is busy with her own family, and still takes the time to assist our staff and their families,” said Capt. David Weiss, NHB Commanding Officer, addressing assembled staff members at the command’s Friday morning colors and award ceremony.
The Navy has designated Sept. 14, as Ombudsman Appreciation Day which provides commands the opportunity to acknowledge dedicated volunteers like Afarin who has given countless volunteer hours to help NHB’s leadership meet the needs of Navy families, from sharing timely communication on programs, events and updates to providing referrals, reasons and recommendations covering a wide spectrum of Navy life.
“This recognition was very unexpected and very nice. It’s a great feeling to be able to help. I even have active duty reaching out to me at times for assistance. Being able to support them and their families makes what I do all worthwhile,” shared Afarin.
The Navy ombudsman is a volunteer appointed by the commanding officer to serve as an information link between command leadership and Navy families. They are trained to disseminate information both up and down the chain of command, including official Department of the Navy and command information, command climate issues, and local quality of life improvement opportunities.
“As a first class petty officer who has been in for 18 years, I have seen the role of the ombudsman change from key wife volunteer to what it is today. Our ombudsman plays a vital role to a family with permanent change of station transfer orders coming into a new area. She can guide these Sailors and their families with the resources that are needed regardless if they are medical, housing, automotive shops, dining areas, or just places to relax. When we take care of Sailors it is considered to be our job, but taking care of their family is (also) hugely important as well,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (Fleet Marine Force) Danny G. Williams, NHB’s Staff Education and Training command orientation coordinator. He also noted the benefit of having Afarin share during NHB’S mandatory command orientation for all new arrivals.
“The staff who are checking onboard need to know that they have resources that are readily available to not only for them but for their family as well. Shannon Afarin’s presentation is well received by those newly on board. They see that an ombudsman is someone who can assist or point them in the right direction when they are faced with any type of problem,” Williams added.
The history of Navy ombudsmen goes back to 1970 when then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. E.R. Zumwalt, Jr. created the Navy Family Ombudsman Program to improve communication between commands and the families of Sailors. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, then re-emphasized in 2006 the importance of the program, and signed an updated instruction, highlighting the requirement that all Navy families have access to a Navy family ombudsman.
“I appreciate her every day. Mrs. Afarin is such a vital piece of our communication. What she does is very important,” added Weiss.