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Navy Families and their Supporters

Above: YI-I-I ! IT’S A BOY! Bearing glad tidings of the birth of a son, Chaplain Rickel delivers a field message to Corporal Edward J. Combs … The young Marine is recovering from injuries suffered on the eastern front. Photograph taken by Sgt. Martin Bolhower. Original print bears no date, but it was filed with illustrations for the August 1952 issue of All Hands magazine, and was presumably taken a few months previously. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, from the All Hands collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command. (NH 97120)

Writing in 1939 for Proceedings, Chaplain Truman Riddle, wrote of the Navy’s policies on families:

“Several years ago, the Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet, called together a large group of officers to consider the problem of enlisted men’s families. Prior to this, Commander Battle Force had surprised not only the Navy, but the press, by publishing the results of a survey showing that 9,000 enlisted families were living in Long Beach, California. Both instances point to the fact that the Navy is facing today a social situation never before encountered in naval history. As a ranking Admiral expressed it, “I am responsible not only for my material, but for my personnel, and with a large portion of the enlisted personnel married, I cannot close my eyes to their family problems.'”


Indeed, as this unnamed Admiral put it, the the families of Sailors and Marines are part of the Navy Family as a whole. This week, in conjunction with Dr. Winkler’s author chat with Dr. Ann O’Keefe, we are highlighting just some of the important contributors to family wellness, readiness, and health: Chaplains, Social Workers, the Ombudsman Program, and Fleet and Family Support services.

Each of these Navy organizations and affiliates supports the true back bone of the Navy and Marine Corps: the families of service members. Without the encouragement and care of military families, made strong by these Navy organizations and more, our Navy would be utterly ineffective.

Navy Chaplain Corps:

The history of the Chaplain Corps of the U.S. Navy parallels the history of the Navy, itself. During the past century-and-a-half, chaplains of the Navy have shared the hardships and rewards that come to other naval personnel and have ministered to these in many ways. The chronicle of the activities of these padres of the sea—representing many religions and denominations—began with the Continental Navy and carry on to the present day.

Navy Social Workers:

The United States Department of Defense established military social workers over 50 years ago and currently includes greater than 500 active duty military social workers and many additional civilian social workers assigned to various military components. In addition to active duty components, social workers serve many roles within the Veteran Affairs Administration, non-profits, and community organizations serving veterans and their families. Client needs are complex and the need for social workers who are properly educated, trained, and skilled in working with this population has significantly increased, making the demand even more critical. Military members, Veterans, and their families will continue to seek care in both the Veteran Affairs Administration and many additional community agencies. It is our national priority to provide high quality cultural and clinically competent care. 


Navy Ombudsman Program:

What is an Ombudsman? Every Command has an Ombudsman who is normally a spouse of a sailor at the Command. The Ombudsman serves as the liaison between the command and the families. The Ombudsman is the point of contact for the families. He or she can assist families with navigating through Navy life through resources and information.

Navy Family Ombudsmen are key resources for family members, particularly during deployments. Ombudsmen maintain current resource files with information on military and civilian community agencies that can help families solve a variety of problems, and successfully meet the challenges they face before, during, and after deployments. In addition to providing referral information, Ombudsmen can facilitate communication between the Command and family members. Ombudsmen may publish or contribute to command newsletters or maintain care lines, which have recorded messages with information for command families that can be accessed 24 hours a day. Ombudsmen can also assist families in contacting the Command for a variety of reasons.

Selected by the commanding officer, the ombudsman voluntarily serves as the official liaison between the command and its families. The Ombudsman is a vital resource to support the morale and welfare of the command’s families. The Ombudsman is the link between the command and the Navy family. This is especially true in deploying commands, where the Ombudsman is the primary point of contact between the families at home and the command during deployment. As a spouse, it is important to get acquainted with your command’s Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is not a counselor or a social worker, but can show you a direct route to getting the assistance you need to find solutions and resources. The Ombudsman is there for you in your time of need. Call or email her if you have questions about services the Navy has for you and your family. The Ombudsman Code of Ethics guarantees professionalism and confidentiality, within program guidelines. Destroyer Squadron 21 is very fortunate to have an Ombudsman who is experienced and dedicated and can provide the help and guidance you need.

Fleet and Family Readiness Programs at Commander, Navy Installations Command is responsible for policy development, resourcing and oversight of quality of life programs for Sailors and their families. The mission of the Fleet and Family Readiness team is to maximize the physical, emotional and social development of the Navy family. Fleet and Family Readiness enables a ready Navy force through its Fleet ReadinessFamily Readiness and Navy Housing Programs. It also includes the Support Services Center and the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor Program.
The Fleet and Family Support Program provides services through Fleet and Family Support Centers, such as relocation assistance, new parent support, deployment services, clinical counseling services, financial management counseling, family employment services, family advocacy and the transition assistance programs.

Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society:


The Society provides financial assistance and education, as well as other programs and services, to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, their eligible family members, widows, and survivors. The Society also receives and manages donated funds to administer these programs and services.Our main goal is to help each person who comes to us get support for their immediate needs. Our long-term mission is to help Sailors and Marines become financially self-sufficient by learning how to better manage their personal finances and prepare for unplanned expenses.


The need for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was recognized long before it was organized. Our newly formed nation couldn’t afford to provide a benefits package for its armed forces. There were no medical benefits for service families, no retirement annuities or survivors’ benefits for families of deceased personnel. Sailors and Marines would “pass the hat” to collect funds to help their shipmate’s widows and orphans.

WAVY Archive: 1981 Special Naval Address Admiral Thomas Hayward

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