Moving can be difficult anytime, particularly when moving abroad. Fortunately, members of the military and their families now have an important resource to help them evaluate a potential assignment, plan for their move, and engage in a community where they can assist one another in connecting with people and resources to help make their move effective.
The Virtual Ombudsman website provides a means for armed services members to learn about their new communities before they move. The idea was initially developed by a former military couple who experienced dozens of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) with an Ombudsman experience. The site is uniquely designed to focus on the issues that are most critical for families who find themselves frequently relocating. Providing 24/7 service and very open to suggestions via e-mail, Virtual Ombudsman is a critical resource for members of the military.
Let’s take a look at many of the areas in which Virtual Ombudsman assists members of the military in planning their move and preparing to become a member of their new community.
The user will first find themselves looking at an overview of their new station. For example, the webpage about Sasebo, Japan, provides a brief summary of the culture of the area and highlights many of the ideal places to visit. This section includes information about the base operator and a bucket list which features YouTube videos about popular attractions such as the hot springs at Beppu, Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, and beautiful outdoor attractions.
From the initial overview section, families learn important information about the area including the operation of the base and a number of housing services. Links have many photos to help members get a sense of what the location looks like, which is a nice touch that enables people to envision their new home.
One of the most confusing aspects about deployment is figuring out health care. Virtual Ombudsman provides a listing of various sources for health care and pharmacies including links to information such as the TRICARE coronavirus guide. This section helps families better understand where they will go in order to tend to medical needs.
One of the most useful features on Virtual Ombudsman is the review system. Think of this somewhat like a mini version of Yelp where service members and their families can help one another identify the best places to use. As members of the military have unique needs, being able to inform one another through recommendations is one of the most useful ways in which this site helps engage the armed forces community.
The education section is something that parents in the armed services will definitely want to check out. The website provides a listing of the various elementary, middle, and high schools that serve students, including information on the number of students and the history of facilities. The detailed nature of this includes things such as early intervention services and base libraries.
This section is also an invaluable resource for people desiring to enhance their own education as it lists resources to help connect service members with collegiate programs. This makes it relatively easy to discover who to contact to explore options. Oftentimes, one of the most difficult aspects of transferring to a new assignment is identifying the relevant contacts for different things. Virtual Ombudsman makes this process an ease.
While some housing information is included in the overview of an area, there is detailed information in a number of sections. A locale’s page provides information on base housing as well as various independent housing options. This includes official partnerships between local landlords and the military as well as information regarding the base housing services which aims to act as an intermediary to help members and their families navigate the housing process.
One of the most exciting things about a new assignment is experiencing the culture of a new area. For many people, one of the highlights in this regard is becoming immersed in new food. Virtual Ombudsman features a large listing of local restaurants, discussing the types of food offered as well as various types of entertainment found in each place.
Additionally, for those interested in taking advantage of the local nightlife, simply navigate to the section on “Drinking and Dining,” which provides a listing and ratings of the area’s top bars and clubs. These sections are an easy way to begin creating a bucket list of new places to try upon arrival.
If moving to a new assignment was not hectic enough, families with pets have more things to consider. Fortunately, Virtual Ombudsman provides in depth information on pet care. This includes local veterinary facilities and animal hospitals as well as options for boarding the beloved family pet in order to travel. One of the most useful things in this section is the listing of facility requirements to engage in boarding.
Military members and their families tend to be much more active than civilians. Thus, finding ways to engage in exercise and recreation is important. Virtual Ombudsman provides many listings aimed at connecting to area services including gyms, group exercise classes, adult sports leagues, and youth sports services. If you are an active family, this is an area of the site you will want to check out.
There is also in depth information about traveling within the area including many outdoor activities as well as other points of interest. Whether looking for theater, amusement parks, excursion to nature, zoos and aquariums, or other options, Virtual Ombudsman will help you to find places for a date night or family vacation.
The unique nature of the website’s design, with pages featuring different deployment areas, is that it truly allows to highlights some of the unique things about each place. For example, the page on Sasebo highlights a number of Japanese Onsens (famous hot springs and spas) where people can relax and experience a unique aspect of the local culture.
There are truly too many areas addressed by Virtual Ombudsman to highlight in a single blog. Whether you are looking to purchase a car, find information about voting, access legal services, find a bank, or check reviews of local dentists, Virtual Ombudsman provides important information for service members and their families.
Moving to a new assignment can be a stressful process for members of the military and their families; however, Virtual Ombudsman is an important resource that can help people learn more about their new home while also easily connecting with the resources they need. This site has many benefits:
Created by a military couple who knows what is important
Distinct sections for different needs makes it easy to navigate
Contains ratings from military members who have used services
Highlights many unique travel and cultural aspects of an area
If you’re looking to find an easy and reliable way to begin planning for your next PCS, Virtual Ombudsman is a useful resource with in depth information.
The news of a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) is always stressful and daunting; well, any move for that matter. But it does bring up a whole new level of emotions and anxiety when your orders to Bahrain would take you (and your family) to an unfamiliar and foreign country.
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Pets are a part of our family; hence, they need to be included in the planning process for any change in duty stations.