By Ginger Manley, USS CARL VINSON Ombudsman
When my husband brought home a copy of his new orders to the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), I read through them and noticed a sentence that said something about “this assignment to arduous sea duty.” Somehow even after many years as a military spouse, several PCS moves, and many deployments, I was not personally familiar with the term “arduous sea duty.”Don’t worry though, I know all about it now!
My husband reported to the Vinson on January 3, 2010. Since that time we’ve had a homeport change, our ship and Sailors were part of the relief effort in Haiti, we’ve had two combat deployments, sea trials, many different inspections and qualifications, and now we are working through an extended maintenance period. I added up the months that my husband had actually been home since that day in January 2010, and I figured that it was about 10 months (non consecutive). Even though our ship has had a busy schedule, I know that there are other commands that have been deployed even more. The reality is that the days of the standard six-month deployment schedule are pretty much over, and even when a ship is home from a deployment it’s not tied up to the pier gathering dust.
We hear the phrases “Needs of the Navy” and “Mission Readiness” a lot, but the term that is most important to me as a spouse, a mother, and as a command Ombudsman is the term “Family Readiness.” We hear it often as “Family readiness equals mission readiness!” It’s a simple sentence, but it has a lot of importance behind it. Sometimes I hear it and I roll my eyes. Sometimes I hear it and it makes me sad because I know it’s a prelude to my husband leaving again. Sometimes I hear it and it’s like a battle cry, and it gets me fired up and ready to do my part! However it makes you feel, just know that it’s true! Our Sailors, our commands, and the US Navy need us in order for them to be successful. We know this to be true, and they also know it to be true.
Even though deployment schedules have been increased, so have the resources and programs available for military families. I am amazed and impressed with the changes and additions made to these programs and resources over the 17 years that I’ve been a Navy wife. One very important program, a personal favorite, is the Navy-wide Ombudsman program. Your command Ombudsman is an invaluable resource to you. Use them! Not only can your Ombudsman help with family readiness by educating you about Navy life, they can help plug you in to resources, information, and programs that will help you during a deployment and during your entire career as a Navy spouse.
Your Ombudsman is also an advocate for families. They have direct contact to command leadership and can let them know about issues that command families, as a whole, are having. Ombudsmen also have access to other groups and are often asked for input regarding the challenges military families face and for suggestions to make improvements and changes. “Big Navy” reaches out to command Ombudsmen often for their input. Make your voice heard and your suggestions used. Talk with your Ombudsman!
A few times every deployment, one of my favorite people, a Senior Chief I’ve known for years tells me, “Our job’s not hard – all we have to do is get up and go to work everyday. It’s our families back at home who have the hard job because they have to do everything. We couldn’t do this without them.” I don’t ever really believe him that our Sailors have the easy job, but I do know first hand how challenging deployments can be to a family. It is even more challenging when you haven’t planned and prepared for it.
Family readiness isn’t something that you should only think about in the couple of months leading up to a deployment – it’s something that should be worked on all of the time. If your Sailor came home tomorrow and told you they would be deploying in 24 hours, would you be ready? It’s natural to want to push the thought of another deployment back to the deep dark corners of your mind. My secret hope is that somehow, someone will accidently forget to schedule the Vinson for any future deployments. It’s my hope, but obviously not reality. So until the last day of our final deployment, my family will be ready, and I’ll be doing my best to support you and your family’s readiness!
There are many fantastic resources and programs available to military families. Here is a short list of a few of the resources that I would recommend:
- Ombudsman Contact – Global Ombudsman registry to contact an Ombudsman at your current command or future command.
- CNIC Website – News and information as well as links to individual bases and the resources available at that base. This site also has links to the Fleet and Family Service Centers for every Navy installation.
- Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) – Links and information about the EFMP. Each Fleet and Family Service Center (FFSC) also has EFMP liaisons to help answer questions, share resources and information, and to assist with the EFMP enrollment process.
- Military Homefront – Designed to give service members and their families critical information and resources related to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
- Exceptional Advocate eNewsletter – ENewsletter for families with special needs.
- Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) -Weekly eNewsletter providing you with access to the latest Quality of Life news and information from the Department of Defense and dates for upcoming Guard and Reserve onsite sales.
- Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) – Private, non-profit organization that provides educational and financial assistance, including emergency loans and grants, to Navy and Marine Corps families.
- Military Homefront – DoD site for reliable Quality of Life information for troops and families, leaders, and service providers.
- Military Onesource – Comprehensive source to help service members and their families with life’s challenges.
- Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) – Runs over 150 programs worlswide. Making Military Life Easier for Military Families by Helping Military Families.
- USO – A private, nonprofit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to support the troops by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services.