Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) has implemented the Department of Defense (DoD) requirement for all personnel to wear face coverings on military installations and other properties following the release of U.S. Navy administrative message, NAVADMIN 100/20, April 5, 2020.
This action is in addition to already in place force health protection conditions (HPCON) mandated by the DoD.
“We’re at HPCON Charlie with many force health mitigation measures in place and now we’re supporting the CDC’s [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] most recent guidelines that everyone should wear face coverings when in public to slow the spread of the virus,” said NBSD Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieswiadomy.
NBSD reported its first positive COVID-19 case March 14, with a number of cases reported Navy-wide since then. To slow the spread of the virus, the Navy has been implementing mitigation measures while maintaining fleet readiness. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Gilday and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith addressed the fleet last week about the challenges that face the Navy.
“We have to think, act, and operate differently right now to both protect Sailors and to remain mission ready,” said Gilday. “This is not business as usual. That is why many commanders have implemented a 14-day fast cruise for units preparing to get underway, which will conduct important training evolutions, exercises, or deployments,” he said during a March 30 video message.
NBSD is homeport to 58 ships and more than 200 shore tenant commands where about 25,000 Sailors work alongside more than 25,000 government civilians and contractors. With almost 50,000 people on the installation a day during normal operations, the commanding officer recognizes the need to implement measures to protect Sailors and their families from COVID-19, while at the same time supporting fleet readiness.
“The pre-COVID-19 21st century was already proving challenging, but this pandemic has added a new level of uncertainty to an already dynamic global landscape,” said Nieswiadomy. “The effect could have potentially unforeseen consequences, which could threaten U.S. interests and our allies abroad. The U.S. Navy must remain ready to defend our nation and its interests,” he said.
Nieswiadomy provides daily briefs to fellow leaders on the base about impacts to operations and shares information provided by the DoD, senior Navy leadership and the CDC to help them better prepare for mission impacts and to support the readiness of their Sailors, civilians and families.
“My priority from day one has been to minimize the spread of the virus among those living, working and visiting my base, whether mission critical or not,” said Nieswiadomy. “But our most important mission right now is keeping the fleet as operationally ready as possible despite the impact this pandemic is having on everyone,’ he said.
Nieswiadomy understands the stress placed on his Sailors, the workforce and their families, especially when for some, duty comes first.
“Fighting the spread of COVID-19 is important because Naval Base San Diego is one of the largest military bases with many different missions within,’ said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Juan Nieto, NBSD base watch captain and Palm Desert, Calif. native.
“I am very proud to be a part of the base watch team with everything going on. Everyone is so professional and dedicated,” he said of his team.
NBSD has been planning for weeks for an influx of restriction of movement (ROM) Sailors to be housed in living facilities on base. Sailors placed on ROM have met at least one of the criteria requiring a 14-day quarantine period, such as coming from a location identified as high-risk or they have likely been exposed to COVID-19. The NBSD Fleet and Family Readiness Program has shifted operations to specific facilities to house ROM Sailors during their 14-day quarantine period.
“There are Sailors living on base under the Homeport Ashore program. If these Sailors get sick they need a place where they won’t come in contact with other Sailors, so we have set aside a number of rooms that can meet that requirement,” said Brandon Workman, director of the Fleet and Family Readiness program.
To support the Sailor’s ability to get food and supplies while on ROM, the Sailor’s command delivers meals and picks up and delivers what the Sailor needs for daily care. “It’s definitely a team effort,” said Workman.
The NBSD Navy Exchange and Commissary are open, supporting the needs of Sailors and their families while also requiring all patrons to wear face coverings in their facilities. This ensures patrons can get the food and supplies they need while minimizing the potential exposure to the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Many NEX facilities are operating under modified hours and with other limitations and those changes are posted on the base’s social media sites to help patrons better plan for their shopping trips.
“Our NEX team is truly amazing. They have been resilient during these tough times to support not only our sailors, but also our families living in base housing and within our San Diego community,“ said NBSD NEX General Manager Dave Thompson.
The base will continue to support critical fleet operations while doing its part to fight the spread of COVID-19. The mission of NBSD is to deliver the highest standard of support and quality of life services to the Fleet, Fighter and Family, even when faced with unforeseen challenges.
“I’ve ensured my fellow leaders that Naval Base San Diego will continue to support the mission to keep the fleet ready, but with measures in place to help keep our Sailors and their families healthy and ready as well ,” said Nieswiadomy.
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