The Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC), celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, officially opened its first location July 16, 1979 in Norfolk, Virginia. Today, there are 81 service delivery sites worldwide with 58 sites delivering a full portfolio of programs and services, and the staff has transformed from active-duty and volunteer to a mix of full-time employees that include civilian service (GS), non-appropriated funds (NAF) and contractors.
Over the next few weeks, Tester will be spotlighting the various free programs and courses available through the NAS Patuxent River FFSC, located at 21993 Bundy Road, Building 2090.
Growing up as a military child and now being a military spouse, Jessica Winfield is uniquely qualified to effectively handle the position of Ombudsman Program Coordinator at NAS Patuxent River.
The Ombudsman Program was put in place to provide an opportunity for families to express their concerns and receive useful resources, with the overall goal of ensuring mission readiness. Each command aboard the installation has an ombudsman, usually the spouse of an active-duty service member, who is a critical communication link both up and down the chain of command.
Each ombudsman is an official volunteer representative who acts primarily as an information and referral specialist. Information on financial programs, quality of life issues, new parent support, playgroups, and free activities are just some of the resources they have. And while they are helping command family members receive the assistance they need to succeed as part of the extended Navy family – it’s Winfield who makes sure the ombudsmen receive the assistance they need.
“It’s my responsibility to ensure that each command-appointed ombudsman has completed their required Ombudsman Basic Training [and related paperwork],” Winfield said. “I also provide direct support to the ombudsmen team, disseminating information on the Navy, region, and community resources.”
Winfield also serves command support teams by providing education and consultation.
“I work closely with Assembly Chair and NAVAIR Ombudsman, Terra Johnson, who goes above and beyond helping me plan monthly advanced training with seasonal topics relevant to our local military community,” she noted, “and also quarterly assemblies where we get the opportunity to bring the concerns of our command families directly to the triad and command leadership.”
Winfield, who herself was the Fleet Readiness Center Command ombudsman for more than two years, understands how moving to a new duty station or simply navigating military life in general can feel daunting and isolating to a spouse.
“I can empathize with families needing assistance, information, guidance or just a friendly face,” she said. “Knowing they have someone willing to be a guide can be a relief. The purpose of the program is to provide families with a direct line of communication, empower them with knowledge, and serve as a lifeline.”
September is Ombudsman Appreciation Month and Winfield is currently coordinating with vendors, sponsors and leadership to plan a fun recognition event for the Pax River ombudsman team.
“The Ombudsman Program is instrumental in providing support and community to our families on both sea and shore duty tours,” she explained. “Families have the opportunity to tap into resources and make connections while on shore duty to arm themselves with the tools they’ll need to navigate sea duty within the next three or four years.”
Winfield says she feels lucky to have had coordinators in her past who were passionate about their role and served as mentors throughout her own ombudsman experience.
“My hope is to pass down the training and knowledge I’ve gained and keep the momentum alive,” she added.
To find your command ombudsman, visit www.ombudsmanregistry.cnic.navy.mil and click on “Contact Your Ombudsman,” or call the FFSC at 301-342-4911 and ask for Winfield.