Written by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir
What is an Ombudsman? They are a communication link between the commanding officer and family members. Ombudsmen are mainly information and referral specialists who help command family members gain the assistance they need — this is especially relevant for deploying commands. Usually, a military spouse fills the role, and while they are not professional counselors or social workers, they can assist families with finding the help and services needed.
Rebecca Lawrence has five years of experience as a Coast Guard spouse and is married to Petty Officer 1st Class Louvin Lawrence, an electronics technician attached to the Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WPB 215). With only one year of experience as a Coast Guard ombudsman, she dove in to help her community in Guam, one of the most remote areas in which the Coast Guard serves.
“Sequoia is lucky to have “Becky” Lawrence as our ombudsman,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christian Adams, the cutter’s commanding officer. “During her time in this role, Mrs. Lawrence has shown dedication to the families and those serving on the Sequoia through typhoons, transfers, welcoming newborns, the death of a crew member, and now, through the government shutdown that affected our entire Coast Guard. She strongly supports the ombudsman network on Guam, filling in for other Coast Guard unit ombudsman when they are absent and staying closely connected to the Navy ombudsman network as well.”
In addition to her dedication to the role of ombudsman, Lawrence volunteers her time to the community by acting as head coach to the Morale, Well-Being and Recreation‘s Typhoonz Swim Club and as a Sunday school teacher at the base chapel. Lawrence has a Masters of Education and Bachelors of Science in Physical Education and is a physical and health educator at Guam High School. She also coaches the high school’s golf and volleyball teams. Additionally, she lends her voice to help improve services for families at the Naval health facilities in Guam through sit downs and follow-up meetings with administration.
“My motivation is family,” said Lawrence. “I want my husband to be able to get underway confident that his family is prepared and taken care of, and I want the same for his shipmates. My parents always taught us to use our time and talents to the best of our abilities—being an ombudsman seemed like something that would allow me to use both of those things and be helpful to others.”
Her dedication and professionalism have resulted in exceptional support for Sequoia’s members and dependents, as well all Coast Guard families on Guam.
“Right after we had our son, Becky helped organize meals for dinner for a couple of weeks because we were just so busy being new parents,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Austin Holbrook. “I know it is something that seems small, but it meant a lot to us and helped a lot during our first couple weeks with Ollie.”
The region faced seven significant tropical storms. Four of those storms ultimately reached Super Typhoon strength over 160-knot winds, including Super Typhoon Yutu, the most intense storm of 2018. Throughout every storm, Lawrence closely monitored broadcasts and passed up to the minute information from a myriad of military, government and weather service sources. Both ahead of and during the storm season she provided personal guidance for storm preparations to families, and when Sequoia, the other cutters, and Navy ships sortied on multiple occasions for storm avoidance, she managed accountability reports for Sequoia’s Coast Guard dependents and significant others not otherwise officially tracked.
While the cutters were deployed, she visited residences and coordinated post-storm support for families, which included removing downed trees blocking access to houses and supporting families without power for extended times. During a few hour logistics stop during Yutu post-storm operations, Lawrence coordinated with the Marianas Chief’s Mess and Coast Guard Ombudsman network to organize personal donations of relief supplies. Her efforts in rallying the Coast Guard community led to a sizable collection of cleaning supplies, general food, baby supplies, pet food, paper products, and clothes in a matter of a few hours. The supplies were then carefully loaded, transported and delivered to those desperately in need on Tinian and Saipan.
She took personal initiative to aggressively manage new family orientation, coordinated welcome committees from the seasoned families and created new welcome packages which included more orientation and tourism information. She worked hard with Naval Hospital Guam to ensure spouses and their children were getting the care needed in a timely fashion. On her initiative, she brought solicited concerns from spouses to hospital round tables on multiple occasions for resolution.
As a result of all these efforts, Lawrence was chosen as the Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year for the U.S. Coast Guard. Lawrence is an outstanding role model for all Coast Guard ombudsmen, and her selection highlights the accomplishments of an invaluable command representative. Her efforts continue to help the men and women of the 14th District fight, float, and navigate the gamut of missions in the Coast Guard’s largest geographic district area of responsibility.