Ombudsman Campaign Underway

Photo -- On March 25, 2022, the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy honored Auxiliarists Kathy and Mike Pascale for their service as Ombudsmen to Academy families. Pictured (left to right) CAPT Randy Brown, MLEA CO, Kathy and Mike Pascale, CMC Ed Briganti and XO CDR Ben Gullo. The Pascales wore civilian attire, which is standard for Ombudsmen. Briganti and Gullo have transferred since this photo. Credit: Ken Weber

Although their role is not well known by many, Ombudsmen serve as the point of contact, informational resource, facilitator and advocate for Coast Guard families and as their direct messengers to Command.  The Ombudsman’s role takes on special importance when that service member is out to sea and gone for months at a time leaving their families to fend for themselves, often in unfamiliar settings.

A volunteer program created by the service in 1996, an Ombudsman position exists for every one of the service’s 767 commands.  The position is most often a spouse of an active-duty member. Relatively recently, however, Auxiliarists have been invited to participate in the program as well, and for good, practical reasons. Most active-duty members and their families transfer to another unit at a different location every few years. By contrast, most Auxiliarists are long-time locals who are well familiar with the workings of and the key players and organizations in their communities. Moreover, most are unlikely to relocate any time soon.

Kathy and Mike Pascale, both members of 07-12-06 in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., are Ombudsmen for the service’s Maritime Law Enforcement Academy, which is based in nearby North Charleston and trains active-duty members in specialized seagoing activities such as vessel pursuit and boarding. Since most of the instruction takes a year or less, the throughput of trainees and their families is nearly constant, making Auxiliarist-Ombudsmen especially valuable resources. For their part, the Pascales say helping those short-term residents access local services has proven to be both a “pleasant challenge” and a “fulfilling” role.

VADM Kevin E. Lunday, Commander Atlantic Area, considers the Ombudsman “a lifeline for Coast Guard families, providing essential information, resources, crisis response, and advocacy at all levels.” He deems those volunteers “vital to ensure the readiness and resilience of our forces and families” and are “key members of each command leadership team.”

Despite the importance of the role, however, hundreds of those positions go unfilled service-wide, and particularly among the smaller units.

Accordingly, in February, VADM Lunday, notified all LANTAREA commands that every unit is to have access to an Ombudsman or have identified a prospect for the position “before the end of August 2023.” Meanwhile, “Smaller, subordinate commands may share an Ombudsman” with either their parent command or a larger, local command.

“I will continue to advocate for resource needs within the Ombudsman Program,” VADM Lunday assured the units. He added that at future All Hands meetings, “I will request participation of the unit Ombudsman at visits and will seek out opportunities to engage with the Ombudsman as I engage with the crew and other members of the unit command team.”

By William Garvey

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Spotlight on Jihwan Baek

Interview and photo illustration by Deborah Heldt Cordone, AUXPA1

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year's theme, selected by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, is "Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity," which builds on a leadership advancement theme.

As we celebrate this month, we remember that the Coast Guard Auxiliary is stronger together with a diverse and inclusive workforce, with all members valued for their skills and contributions.

Today, we spotlight Jihwan Baek, an Auxiliarist since 2008. Serving out of 054-22-01 (Flotilla Curtis Bay), she currently holds the positions of
International Affairs Outreach, Branch Chief-INDOPACOM and Public Affairs Photo Corps, Branch Assistant-Archivist. She is certified as an Auxiliary Interpreter and has earned the advanced AUXOP award.

What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month mean to you?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month resonates deeply within my being, carrying profound significance. It stands as an exuberant tribute, casting a radiant light upon the extraordinary contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in shaping our society. This momentous month ignites an unyielding fire within me, a fire that reminds me of the power of my unique identity, one that is not merely acknowledged, but fervently celebrated. It infuses me with an indomitable sense of empowerment, a firm pride in being Asian American. With joy in my heart, I offer my skills and services through my lens, eager to be an integral part of organizations that fervently raise awareness. Together, we kindle the flames of change, illuminating the path towards a brighter future, where diversity is embraced, celebrated, and woven into the very fabric of our collective existence.

Who is your inspiration?

My inspiration is not confined to a single individual; rather, it arises from the collective tapestry of people I've encountered throughout my life. Each person, whether they brought goodness or challenges, has left an indelible mark on my spirit. Yet, it is through my volunteer career that I have found extraordinary inspiration. The camaraderie of fellow shipmates and the unwavering dedication of those with profound spirits of service have truly awakened my passion. Witnessing their selflessness and deep commitment to making a difference gratifies me with hope and belief in the innate goodness of humanity. I encourage each reader to embrace the power within to inspire others because it can create a ripple of inspiration that shapes a better world.

What does it mean to you to be in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary?

Being an Auxiliarist means much more than volunteering—it signifies a steadfast commitment to serving my country in a unique and impactful way. My journey commenced 15 years ago, driven by a deep longing for meaningful influence. Little did I know that it would guide me to the pinnacle of my career as a Branch Chief within the International Affairs Directorate, where I discovered my true passion and purpose.

In my role, I embrace daily growth and challenges that transcend limits, enabling personal and professional development. By willingly devoting my time, being part of this remarkable team enriches me beyond measure.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow Auxiliarists, entrusted with demanding responsibilities, is a humbling honor. It is also a testament to the profound meaning of dedication and service, molding our characters and purposes. Through my journey in the Auxiliary, I have learned that genuine fulfillment arises from what we give and gain—the wisdom, growth, and great sense of purpose accompanying our extraordinary expeditions.