Branch: Coast Guard
Duty Station: Coast Guard District 14
Number of Deployments: 50
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse journey began while volunteering in the community where I grew up. I was the events coordinator for my grammar school’s alumni association; planning and organizing all events to help raise funds for the school. Little did I know, when meeting the other board members, I was meeting my future mother-in-law. After a few years of volunteering in this position, I met my now husband at an event I planned. I knew upon meeting him that he was going to be joining the Coast Guard and heading off to boot camp in Cape May in just a few short months. We spent the summer together before he left and we knew if we could survive boot camp, we could survive anything. Well, boot camp was nine years ago, and we are still together! My husband and I have been married for almost eight years and have a five-year-old daughter. We are at our third duty station together and I am truly enjoying our Coast Guard journey. I did not come from a military family, so I genuinely had no idea what to expect upon getting married. Being a teacher, I always taught about the different branches of the military, and the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, and that was the extent of the military knowledge- so I knew I had some work to do educating myself. While being stationed in Key West, FL and my husband on an FRC, a hurricane was going to hit our little island and this New York City girl was clueless on what to do. Our unit did not have an Ombudsman to assist, so I stepped up and volunteered to take on the position. From that point on, I knew just how important this role was and started to think about all the ways I could help families. Going on my sixth year as an Ombudsman, this program means the world to me.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
An example of my leadership within the military community is serving as Community of Practice (CoP) Chairperson for my current district, fourteen. The CoP Chairperson supports the districts ombudsmen. We cover a very large area in my district- all the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, Japan, and Singapore. I wear many hats in this role, but my main ones are hosting monthly meetings, to serve as a resource for ombudsmen professional growth and training, and provide peer mentoring and information sharing. Serving as a liaison for policy discussion and clarification on information to relay to families is key. I also work with local representatives from Morale, Well-being and Recreation (MWR), Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, Work-Life, and more. These programs are essential for our families, especially while living so far.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
My first few years as a military spouse my involvement was on a smaller scale. For example, the school I taught at collecting postage stamps for the recruits. As the years went on, I was able to see more needs. During the 2019 government shutdown, I started a food pantry in Key West. I reached out to all our local resources, including Feeding South Florida. We received numerous deliveries of non-perishables, produce, meat, formula and diapers. This took a huge burden off the 500 plus Coast Guard members. Most recently, I served as a principal source of support to our families impacted by the Red Hill fuel leak here on Oahu. Serving as the unit’s sole representative at town halls and meetings; voicing concerns and advocating for our Coast Guard families. I also assisted families with local resources and aid through TLA support, distribution of Mutual Assistance grants, proceedings on individual property claims, and true transparency regarding the unfortunately ongoing incident.
Describe how you support your community:
I try and foster a family and spouse involvement by promoting for the Coast Guard Spouses Association of Oahu, specifically. During the Coronavirus Pandemic it became extremely difficult to keep the club active with so many local heath rules. For the past three years I was able to plan and execute many safe events for our families including Trunk or Treats and holiday craft bags for hundreds of Coast Guard families. This year we were able to gain new memberships and strive for the club to flourish. This past Thanksgiving and Christmas we continued our relationship with the Fisher House (where military and veterans can stay free of charge while in hospital or receiving treatments), by providing dinner and presents for families staying. In addition, I assisted in establishing a baby pantry in Key West by utilizing my networks. Supplies were all donated from infant to toddler clothing, accessories, toys, diapers, maternity clothing at no cost to members and dependents.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the Coast Guard Ombudsman program. As many are aware, this program serves as the link between commands and families. Building a community/military support system is key in an Ombudsman role. Since being an Ombudsman in an OCONUS location, I have learned about so many more challenges for families, and the importance of making changes to help families. In a district where many families are isolated, it makes housing, childcare, medical, shipping of cars and pets, all so difficult. Ombudsmen are also crucial in relaying and providing accurate information to the families, especially during deployments, or times of crisis. My goal for the Ombudsman program is for every Coast Guard unit to have an active Ombudsman.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I continue to spread the message about the ombudsman program by staying in constant communication with spouses and educating spouses on the importance of the ombudsman program, since even the most seasoned military spouse is sometimes unaware of the program. Whether it is sharing information on social media, facilitating community events among CG families, or suggesting CGSA and USO meetings for spouses looking to connect with others. As Ombudsman and CoP Chairperson, I am continuously providing information to new spouses, along with new families moving to our area; all while listening to the current needs and concerns. I also spread the word on how great the Coast Guard is. I may be biased; I feel it is a hidden gem among the military branches!
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
If awarded the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I will continue to advocate for all Coast Guard families including my platform of the value of the Ombudsman program; making sure that each individual Coast Guard unit has an Ombudsman. I will maintain dedication to all spouses’ networks, and give an unwavering commitment to the families, needs of deployed spouses and impacts to the home life throughout demanding schedules. I will continue to cultivate a strong network of spouses that support each other, while creating interest to become Ombudsman and military spouse leaders by bringing in the new generation and continuing the successful Ombudsman program.
Andrea works tirelessly to create an inclusive, welcoming environment, and dedicates herself to enriching the military family experience. An ombudsman for the past 6 years of 2 units, and currently also serving as the Community of Practice Chair for District 14 (D14), when she recognizes a need in the military community, she takes action. She started a Food Pantry in Key West during the 2019 government shutdown when Coast Guard (CG) families did not receive their paychecks, a Baby Pantry in Key West, a Trunk-or-Treat in Honolulu with the CG Spouses Association, countless meal trains and item collections for families in need. During the Red Hill water contamination, she was the voice of the families living in military housing affected by the crisis, and advocated our needs to CG leadership. She has met and engaged with both of the recent CG Ombudsman at Large during their Hawaii visits, and shared our concerns and unique challenges stationed OCONUS that D14 CG families experience.
- by Erina Namihara
I feel Andrea exhibits all the requirements listed for being eligible to proudly represent this role. She is dedicated and her intentions are truly to help the Coast Guard community and be a respected leader.
- by Maureen Pollard
Andrea is a world of knowledge. She knows so much, from basic CG information, to how to navigate TriCare, and how to help spouses and families become comfortable moving to Hawaii before they even arrive. During the 2021 Water Crisis on Red Hill in AMR located in Oahu, Hawaii (still a crisis to this day), Andrea has advocated for safe drinking water and living conditions for all military families, no matter the branch here in Hawaii. She answers texts, calls, and emails at any time of the day. She will go out of her way to help spouses and their children. She always encourages relationships between spouses and families by letting people know when events are happening around the island. She has also helped foster a relationship with the Fisher House and connect the Oahu CG Spouse Club so the members can donate their time, energy, and resources to the people who need healing. Andrea is a wonderful spouse who is always looking out for the best interest of everyone around her.
- by Kinsley Godwin
This woman is everything to everyone in our Coast Guard Community here USCG Hawaii Pacific Region. Andrea has a welcome smile, a giving heart, and a love of community and volunteerism. Andrea is the current Ombudsman of the MSST Honolulu and community of practice chair. Andrea lead our Coast Guard families thru the Red Hill Water Crisis with grace and knowledge sending out updates, and communications on Facebook, and organizing food and water pick-ups while dealing with the crisis herself. Andrea was key personnel when help was needed to support a domestic violence family and ultimately move the spouse off Oahu. Andrea restarted our USCG Oahu Spouse Association and provides support to incoming spouses and families. Andrea is a friend, mentor, mom, and spouse. She embodies the Coast Guard and never says No when help is needed. She is the first to volunteer or find solutions to any question that comes our way. Andrea should be your Military Spouse of the Year.
- by Katie Joca
Andrea has worked tirelessly for the last 6 years as an Ombudsman for the Coast Guard, and currently serves as Ombudsman for her husbands' unit in Honolulu, HI. She brings strength and compassion to our CG families. Andrea was/is a fierce advocate for families affected by the Navy Red Hill water crisis. She helped ensure information was relayed to the families and that something was being done to help them. All the while she and her family were also displaced and affected because of it.
Andrea was the driving force behind restarting the Oahu CG Spouse Club after Covid restrictions were lifted. It would have been dissolved had it not been for her. She is an intelligent, caring person who truly cares about our Coast Guard families, spouses and service members. She would be a fantastic MSOY!
- by Karen Fosse