Mel Wathen

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Station Newport

Number of Deployments: 14

Number of PCS's: 14

Share your military spouse story:
My adult life has been associated with the military in one way or another. I was prior service for six years in the Air Force and have been a Navy Spouse over 28 years. I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today! Whether it’s a short notice PCS, extended deployment, birth of a baby, geo-bachelor tour, family emergency; each experience has made me stronger and helped me realize the impact military families can have on their Sailor and the importance of strong families within the military. I have had the opportunity to try many different careers, but the one I love the most is “Mom”. I have had the privilege of home schooling my two resilient kiddos in many different states based on where we were planted. Jacob, 20 years old, is now a college student in Massachusetts and Veronica, 14 years old, a high school freshman. Together, we have navigated this wonderful Navy lifestyle and what always rises to the top is “family”. When my children decided to go to school “outside the home”, I wondered what I would do next. I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time. I landed my dream job at the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center (NLEC) as the Lead Spouse Instructor for the Command Spouse Leadership Course. It took my love for teaching and my joy of being with Military Spouses and combined them. The Spouses Course is a 5-day leadership course, held 14 times a year, for Command Leadership Spouses in Newport, Rhode Island.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As a Command Ombudsman, I use available resources to help many families help themselves. Watching those families, then go on to help other families brings it full circle for me. While at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, I was part of a planning team comprised of Command Leadership Spouse that organized a very fun Children’s Holiday Party. This free event drew over 200 families and all the children that attended received age appropriate gifts, played games, made crafts and ate lots of food. As Ombudsman Assembly Chairperson at Naval Station Newport, I’m able to make sure the Ombudsmen have the most current resources available. I also help find organizations to come talk to our Ombudsmen about what is available for their command families.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have served on many volunteer boards for Spouses Groups, to include having been an active member in the USS Abraham Lincoln Family Readiness Group (FRG) and the USS John C. Stennis Family Readiness Group (FRG). I have been an Ombudsman for four commands and am currently serving as Command Ombudsman for the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center. I am also currently serving as the Base Ombudsman Assembly Chairperson, working closely with the Ombudsman Coordinator at our Fleet and Family Support Center at Naval Station Newport. I have recently completed the Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) training, a six-hour training session, that allows me to assist Service Members and their families get resources, information, financial assistance, housing assistance, and counseling in the event of a disaster in our region.

Describe how you support your community:
In my family, we volunteer, by making a meal if someone is sick, has a baby, or just needs the support. Shoveling snow off driveways or raking leaves for families who cannot is another way we support our community. By volunteering I am showing my children that by giving of yourself, you gain so much more. I have been my daughter’s Girl Scout Leader since she was in Kindergarten. I am currently the proud Co-Leader for Girl Scout Troop 31 in Narragansett, Rhode Island. We are an outdoorsy troop that loves to camp, hike, and explore. With each move, scouting was one of the first organizations I would look for. My son is an Eagle Scout and my daughter is a Silver Award Recipient. With a love for volleyball, I am in my second year coaching the middle school volleyball team. Last year we won 4 of 9 and had so much fun!! This year, we’re shooting for 5 of 9!

What do you advocate for? Why?
I feel deeply about advocating for the Military Family. I have been the recipient of amazing leadership and kindness during tough times and I want to give back.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
As Lead Spouse Instructor at NLEC, I have the perfect platform for empowering Spouse and family teams. I have the privilege of working with three amazing military spouses. We are able to facilitate discussions about the many resources that are available. We also discuss leadership, values, ethics, and self-awareness to name just a few of the topics for the Command Leadership Spouses. Having the opportunity to speak at the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Leadership Mess, for the past two years is definitely something I will never forget! Talking about the Spouses Course, and the wonderful work we do there, to the Navy’s entire enlisted leadership team was incredible. Lastly, I like using social media as an avenue to promote Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Ombudsman Appreciation Day, and Month of the Military Child.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I’d LOVE to empower Military Families and talk about the resources available to us; there are SO many and so many places to find them. I’d also like to promote the uniqueness of military family life to the private sector. By discussing our challenges and how we use our resources to overcome any obstacles, and how this makes us more resilient and ready for the future.