The Navy Ombudsman Program is celebrating its 50th year in 2020, and although COVID-19 forced a revamp of the annual traditional luncheon celebration, the ombudsmen at NAS Patuxent River were nonetheless honored via virtual recognition Oct. 2 and at an in-person Appreciation Drive-Thru event Oct. 3.

“The purpose of each event was to share publicly with the other commands and ombudsmen how much they are each appreciated for all the hard work and dedication they’ve voluntarily committed to providing to each of their commands and their command families,” explained Pax River Ombudsman Coordinator Maura Maund, who also serves as a NAWCAD co-ombudsman.

During the virtual online event, NAS Patuxent River Command Master Chief Abel Griego spoke about Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and the Z-gram he issued Sept. 14, 1970 establishing the Ombudsman Program. NAS Patuxent River Commanding Officer Capt. John Brabazon also expressed his personal support for the ombudsmen before each individual was recognized with expressions of appreciation by representatives of their respective commands.

The next day’s event was held outdoors at the Beach House, where each ombudsman and their command leadership representatives had a scheduled arrival time to exchange certificates of appreciation and other items of thanks before having their picture taken, all while adhering to recommended guidelines for face coverings and physical distancing.

“This year, as we strengthen our efforts in family resiliency due to COVID-19, we were fortunate to celebrate our ombudsmen both virtually and in person,” Griego said. “On the 50th anniversary of this vital program linking command leadership’s advocacy for family needs, it was even more important to renew those connections with our family volunteers. We cannot take for granted how in-person communication strengthens bonds. To the mission partners who attended and celebrated their ombudsman, thank you for making those connections last. Commands and families will be stronger through this year’s health crisis with all our attention on this brilliant-on-the-basics program. Thank you to all our ombudsman. “

Ombudsmen contribute to the wellbeing and readiness of their command by addressing issues and concerns that are unique to Navy families, and serve as a reminder to leadership that families are an integral aspect of the overall military lifestyle.

“They attend advanced trainings each month to stay current on the information and resources available to assist, and they ensure families are up to date with information from the command that service members may forget to relay,” Maund noted. “They are so much more than just a spouse in a volunteer position.”

Maund also expressed appreciation for the commands who stepped up, during a pandemic situation, to assist in recognizing their command ombudsman.

“It was humbling and did not go unnoticed,” she said. “It is appreciated beyond words. Each of their obmbusmen are phenomenal and are assets to their commands; and I’m grateful they took the time to share in that moment.”