Ombudsmen: Linking Coast Guard Families Together


Dana Moehling, the ombudsman of Coast Guard Station Cape May, N.J.

When people enlist in the Coast Guard, they must complete eight weeks of basic training. It is during this initial phase of service where they learn the ropes — and knots — of being a member. However, there is no basic training course for their spouses or children. That’s where the ombudsmen come in.

The Coast Guard Ombudsman Program aims to enhance communication between the command and Coast Guard family members. Coast Guard ombudsmen are communication links, providing information and referral resources and acting as advocates for family members.

Dana Moehling has served as Coast Guard Station Cape May’s ombudsman for two years. Her husband, Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Moehling, is a boatswain’s mate at the station.

At the beginning of her appointment as ombudsman, Dana underwent a two-day training course, where she said they covered everything a person might expect to encounter as an ombudsman, from confidentiality to operational security. She also attends monthly meetings for the Community of Practice, a component of the Coast Guard Ombudsman Program that provides a forum for sharing and exchanging successful ombudsman practices and may serve as a venue for ongoing training.

Dana says she is available for people who need her, and she makes it easy for them to reach her.

“They can call me, text me, email me, Facebook me,” said Dana. “If it’s an emergency situation and they need to get out of their house, my door is open.”

Dana said she enjoys helping her fellow Coast Guard families.

“I’m a people person — I love to meet new people and welcome new babies,” said Dana. “It’s rewarding, especially when somebody does need something — not just for a baby or a new spouse — but showing people resources they didn’t know they have is very rewarding.”

Dana mentioned programs that aren’t very well known among Coast Guard families. For example, the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Layette Program, which provides a receiving blanket, outfits and other items for a newborn child to families of the Coast Guard community following the birth or adoption of a child.

“People are thankful when I can pass stuff along they didn’t even know about,” said Dana. “Same with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. I did have a few spouses who didn’t know about that, and we filled out paperwork and got money back. People are excited about that! So it has been rewarding being able to show people things they didn’t know were an option.”

The station’s commanding officer, Lt. Scott Farr, said he’s grateful for her service in keeping his crewmembers’ families informed of what’s going on.

“In 2012 when we went through Hurricane Sandy, we had to leave New Jersey and go up to Philadelphia for about three days,” said Farr. “During that time, I really saw the benefit of having an ombudsman to communicate crucial information to the families.”

About an hour north of Station Cape May, you’ll find Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, where Tiffanie Holt is the ombudsman.

Tiffanie and her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Holt, along with their four children, moved to South Jersey in 2012 after Tim received orders to serve at the air station as a helicopter pilot.

“We keep the mindset that home is where the Coast Guard sends us,” said Tiffanie.

Tiffanie Holt, an ombudsman at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., with her family.

Tiffanie Holt, an ombudsman at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., with her family.

Tiffanie’s job as the air station’s unit ombudsman is to keep other locally stationed Coast Guard families current on sources of assistance available to them, command policies and information about activities of interest.

“My job as the air station’s ombudsman is to link the air station command to Coast Guard family members stationed here,” said Tiffanie. “I am an extra arm of support for military family members who live far from friends and family.”

Tiffanie also helps with morale events at the air station.

“She’s great because she not only keeps the families informed of what’s going on here, but she’s active with unit morale events, which involves everyone at the unit,” said Lt. Matt Kroll, a pilot at Air Station Atlantic City.

Tiffanie said simply serving in the Coast Guard guarantees family support from nearby Coast Guard members, but it is nice to be stationed where the community is so welcoming with a support system of such great local friends.

“It’s really something special,” Tiffanie said.

Dana and Tiffanie are just two examples of people volunteering their time to enhance communication between the command and Coast Guard family members, but units throughout the Coast Guard benefit from the ombudsman program.

The word ombudsman dates back to the 1800s, and it means a person who has an ear to the people. There might not be a basic training course for Coast Guard families, but they can rest assured knowing someone’s watching out for them.