Branch: Coast Guard
Duty Station: Coast Guard District 8
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
Community service and teamwork is in my bloodline. My mother is a nurse. My dad, a Vietnam veteran. My college degrees is in psychology which led to my employment in non-profits. when my husband enlisted in the Coast Guard, I thought my career path would simply be that of a supportive spouse. That changed when I realized I might be able to apply my skill set to improve my situation, which I shared with others. Although it started as a small gesture, this quickly became a need for action in search of an advocate that, by default, fell upon my shoulders. With the collective group of spouses and the support of the community-minded commands, I believe we are making our military families closer and stronger. But it has not been a yellow brick road to success. As a military spouse, and mother of two, perseverance is needed to help make it through my day. The very nature of the day-to-day life of a military spouse means that I must confront and frequently cope with the many challenges the lifestyle brings. Defining a new normal with each permanent change of station (PCS) every three years or during a deployment that removes my husband from the household for weeks or months at a time can be exhausting. Even with the multitude of struggles and challenges that come with being a military spouse, I would still choose this life over a spouse of a civilian. I have experienced hardship, but I have also been allowed the opportunity to experience people, places, and perspectives, that I would not have if my husband didn’t join the CG. I live an adventurous life and have traveled to parts of the country that I never would have if it wasn’t for a mandatory PCS. I have built amazing friendships with other military families, and some have become family.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have served as a CG Ombudsman for 2 of USCG's largest units. In my performance of duties, I have assisted over 2400+ AD & Reserve members & 5000+ dependents. I volunteered to sit on the MOAA board. I'm the Chair for the CG D8 CoP, where I provide peer mentoring, coordinate training, for other Ombudsmen across 26 states. I created the Sector's first FB group where I pass relevant & timely information pertaining to free family events, professional networking opportunities, & career development tools. I established robust & dynamic partnerships with the local USO, Red Cross, Combined Arms, & Veteran Spouses Network to maximize resource opportunities to assist families. I coordinated a Resource Network event with 21 military servicing organizations. I also facilitated a monthly, military focused mobile food pantry & resource truck to aid over 2,145 military members from the area struggling with the historic inflation rates & increased mental health concerns.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I’m currently serving as the USCG Sector Houston-Galveston Ombudsman. I have daily interactions with our spouses and Active-Duty members. My job is to listen to the issues our Coast Guard families are having and work with them to find the correct resources to resolve the issues. I work constantly on making new partnership with community organizations that help to provide a wealth of resources for the Coast Guard families in the Houston-Galveston area. I also performed the duties of a Sector Ombudsman when we were assigned to Los Angeles-Long Beach, being honored as Ombudsman of the Year for 2019. Before becoming an ombudsman, I served as the Secretary and then eventually, the President of one of the oldest Coast Guard spouses clubs. When my family had to PCS to Los Angeles/Long Beach, I worked hard to help start the area’s first Coast Guard spouses club, which is still going strong today.
Describe how you support your community:
Networks of support are essential when it comes to solving problems. My goal is to provide a warm and inviting demeanor that facilitates the development of trust so I can provide families with an emotionally safe place to share concerns, seek advice, & ask for assistance. Connecting families to community resources is also important to me. Anticipating & securing the types of resources families may need ensures they that they are easily accessible when needed. Attending community events, keeping abreast of community resources, and signing up for emails, connects myself with professionals & programs beneficial to the CG families I serve. Additionally, creating any opportunity, like our resource fair, allows for representatives from various social-service, veteran focused & mental health organizations, to come to our unit to showcase their program portfolios.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for all CG spouses and their families. Due to the unique needs of the CG, the locations of their units are rarely near a DoD military base. CG families often do not have access to benefits like the commissary, exchanges, and clinics that are found on the bigger bases. This also means that our cost of living tends to run higher because we are required to find a home to rent or buy on the economy as base housing is not often available to us. As a result, we also pay higher prices for groceries and other fundamentals. There are even some resources available to help other branches that don’t always include CG families. I believe the CG is underrepresented and could benefit from having a larger platform to help educate legislators, the public, and our sister branches of the uniqueness of being the smallest branch of the military (yes we are military) and the grit that our spouses have as they sacrifice to support their member and our country.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
The use of social media and networking services such as Facebook has become an integral part people’s daily life. I have found that social networking platforms play a vital role for Coast Guard spouses. Social media provides spouses with a range of benefits and opportunities to empower themselves in a variety of ways. Thus, I created a private Facebook group that currently has 270 Active Duty, Spouses, dependents, and civilians who are attached to a Coast Guard unit that my overarching unit serves within its area of responsibility. People within this group can maintain social connections and support networks that otherwise wouldn't be possible due to the remote locations i.e., some units are in Southeast Texas/Southwest Louisiana. The verified resources shared, and social interactions spouses form online can be invaluable for bolstering and developing self-confidence, social skills, resiliency, and moral.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
When military spouses and families receive appropriate services, they experience long-term benefits and resiliency. Unfortunately, military families report lacking access to needed services and having difficulty navigating service delivery systems. It’s no secret, military families face added stressors such as deployment and relocation. I would like to use this opportunity to not showcase myself, but the life of military spouses and their families, as well as the many organizations that value their sacrifices and have programs available to help them thrive during and after their service to our great nation.
Jenna Hall is nominated for exceptionally service as a military spouse. She has an amazing ability to inspire, engage & advocate for the military community locally & nationally. Since 2018 she has served as a USCG Ombudsman for 2 of USCG's largest units; Sector LA & Sector Houston, supporting 2400+ AD/RES members & 5000+ family members serving as a conduit of info between commands, community & family members. In addition, she is on the board of the Military Officers Association of America representing USCG spouses & Chair for USCG D8 Community of Practice to provide peer mentoring/info sharing in support of families in 26 states.
Last year alone, she has maximized social media/email & built partnerships w/USO, Red Cross, Combined Arms & Veteran Spouses Network to share resources/info. In 2022 she coordinated a Resource Network event w/21 military serving organizations, military food pantry/resource truck providing assistance to 2145 members struggling w/historic inflation & more.
- by Jason Smith