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NEWS | Sept. 14, 2022

Navy Recognizes Four Ombudsmen with the Mrs. Sybil Stockdale Ombudsman of the Year Award

By Timothy McGough, Commander, Navy Installations Command

What does it mean to be a Navy Family Ombudsman?

According to OPNAV Instruction 1750.1G CH-2, Ombudsmen are appointed by the commanding officer and serve in an advisory capacity to the commander on matters affecting service members and families within their area of command responsibility.

Although, according to Byrne Blumer, USS SAN JUAN (SSN 751) Ombudsman and Ombudsman of the Year award winner being an Ombudsman requires a little something extra.

“It takes resiliency, flexibility, and ability to pivot,” said Blumer. “I tell all of our families that I would compare the Navy schedule to if you tried to take a nail and hammer jello into a wall. Nearly impossible that it stays in place.”

Blumer is one of four Navy Family Ombudsmen who are recipients of the 2022 Mrs. Sybil Stockdale Ombudsman of the Year Award.

She advises that ombudsmen need a thick skin while handling a lot of moving parts.

“You are there for families' best and worst days,” said Blumer. “Those worst days take some experience. You have to learn to be empathetic, but understand that you have a job to do. An Ombudsman has to be well organized. We are responsible for email distribution, phone trees, homecoming lists, and much more. The role demands you keep all of it in order with no room for error.”

In late July, the Navy announced in NAVADMIN 153/22 that four dedicated ombudsmen who went above and beyond in 2022 has earned the Mrs. Sybil Stockdale Ombudsman of the Year Award.

Congratulations to
• Mrs. Byrne Blumer, Ombudsman for Commanding Officer, USS SAN JUAN (SSN 751), selected from all sea commands under Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
• Mrs. Melanie Reed, Ombudsman for Commanding Officer, USS FRANK CABLE (AS-40) selected from all sea commands under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
• Mrs. Michelle Rohner, Ombudsman for Commanding Officer, U.S Naval Medical Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) & Commanding Officer, U. S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) selected from all naval shore activities in the Navy.
• Mrs. Colleen Weaver, Ombudsman for Commanding Officer, Navy Reserve Center Alameda selected from all Reserve commands under Commander, Navy Reserve Force.

Since 2015, the Navy has presented the Mrs. Sybil Stockdale Ombudsman of the Year Award to four outstanding ombudsmen. The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations established this award to honor the service of Navy family ombudsmen.

The award winners exemplify the spirit of Mrs. Sybil Stockdale who supported the families of Prisoners of War during her husband, Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale’s internment in Southeast Asia. This award recognized those who serve an inspirational ombudsmen and embody the ideals of volunteer service and commitment to Navy Sailors and their families.

“These four ombudsmen proved themselves to be the best of the best,” said Brandy Littler, Navy Family Ombudsman Analyst at Commander, Navy Installations Command. “They selflessly serve their commands and Navy families with distinction.”

While serving Ombudsmen follow a strong code of ethics to ensure they are supporting families and commands with the highest integrity.

“Our amazing volunteers are key to ensuring the success of family readiness,” exclaimed Littler. I couldn’t be more proud of our volunteers!”

The Ombudsman Program was introduced to the U.S. Navy by Z-gram 24 on 14 September 1970 by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr. Since then the Navy Family Ombudsman Program has improved mission readiness through improved family readiness. A strong command Ombudsman Program, ashore and afloat, help ensure families have the information necessary to meet the challenges of a military lifestyle.

Each year installations recognize and thank our ombudsmen with Ombudsman Appreciation Day on 14 September, the anniversary of the creation of the Navy Family Ombudsman Program. Recognition events may be hosted by installations or individual commands on or near the date, depending on operational schedules.

“Even if you’ve never communicated directly with your command ombudsman, knowing that someone is available to help answer questions or provide guidance through a unique situation should give you and your Sailor peace of mind,” said Littler. “Every day our Navy Family Ombudsmen do an awesome job.”

“Being selected is such an incredible honor,” said Blumer. “This award is a reflection of the SAN JUAN's commitment to ensuring families are taken care of back home. Family readiness is mission readiness and I believe that now more than ever.”

Congratulations to Blumer and all the 2022 Mrs. Sybil Stockdale Ombudsman of the Year Award winners. For more information on the Navy Family Ombudsman Program visit