Spouse of Navy Cmdr. Edward Simmer
Director for Quality Management
Head of the Navy Medicine East Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team (SPRINT)
Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth
Peggy Simmer may not wear a Navy uniform, but as command ombudsman at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, she works tirelessly to improve the lives of service members everywhere, especially those who have volunteered as individual augmentees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At this moment, one of those IAs is her husband, Cmdr. Edward Simmer, the director for quality management at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and head of the Navy Medicine East Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team (SPRINT) when he’s in Norfolk. Currently, he is with an Army Combat Stress Control Team at Camp Taji, Iraq.
“Peggy gives many hours of her time each week, much of which is directed at individual family members of active duty personnel who need help or are in crisis,” wrote Cmdr. Simmer from Iraq. “Much of her time is spent being a sympathetic ear, and helping family members identify solutions to problems that develop during a deployment. She is available to family members 24/7, and attends every farewell and homecoming, and often is called upon to help spouses from other commands who are admitted to the Medical Center.”
Peggy has taken her commitment to IAs to the highest level, serving as a member of the Individual Augmentee Family Readiness Executive Board of Directors, the people who set policy for IA family readiness Navy-wide. She is also a member of the Commander, Navy Installations Command working group for IA family issues.
“Her work has led to significant improvements in many aspects of family support at NMCP, including chartering their Family Support and Readiness Group, improving homecomings and coordinating predeployment briefings,” Cmdr. Simmer wrote.
There are 230 personnel deployed from the medical center and only three ombudsmen.
“We’re trying to get it up to seven,” Peggy explained. “We’re trying to increase our support to the families as well. We contact the families throughout their deployment to let them know about activities that are specific to the medical center. We also get information back from the field, what is going on wherever the service member might be.”
There are IAs in Kuwait, Djibouti, and Guantanamo Bay who are assigned to the 2nd Marine Division and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. There are others assigned with the Army or Air Force.
One of her more memorable experiences as an ombudsman was setting up a video teleconference so a service member could bond with his new baby. She also coordinated the United Through Reading Program <<A target="_blank" href="http://read2kids.org/united.htm">http://read2kids.org/united.htm> up and running with service members deployed to Kuwait from Expeditionary Medical Facility-Portsmouth at the time. Now many deployment cycles later, the program continues.”
Being an ombudsman has its tough moments.
“One of the most difficult tasks I have had to do was to recently call and inform the families of one of our 2d Marine Division Units that their loved ones’ deployment to Iraq had been extended several months,” Peggy said. “Deployments are never easy, but we all have to go through them. We take our turn and make the best out of it and help others benefit from what we’ve learned.”