Naval Station (NAVSTA) Norfolk’s Transient Personnel Unit (TPU) has been critical in providing support during the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic. Over the last several months, the TPU team has been delivering meals to and caring for more than 500 Sailors in quarantine and Restriction of Movement (ROM) status.
After contacting the NAVSTA Norfolk’s Emergency Operations Center, potentially exposed or positively tested Sailors are directed to a place to isolate or ROM. Navy personnel who are ROM status must remain in temporary housing for 14 days. Personnel in quarantine follow strict protocols to reduce the opportunity for spreading COVID-19, which requires personnel to ensure that the needs of these Sailors are met so that those personnel need not leave their room for any reason.
The quarantined and ROM Sailors are geographically spread across six different bases and ten locations. TPU is responsible for delivering three meals a day to the Sailors and conducting two welfare checks per day. To accomplish this massive undertaking, they established a “TPU Coronavirus Task Force” which is led by a Senior Chief and six First Class Petty Officers.
“Interacting with these sailors and making sure they are okay, and in a good place, is one small thing we can do to boost their morale,” explained Operations Specialist First Class Antwain Bain. Bain is one of the coordinators for the meal delivery and part of the team that created the system to make this possible.
The task force has been so effective that they were able to expand capacity to assist other commands in delivering food three per day as well.
“All CMC’s love bragging to our peers about how great our Sailors are. I would challenge any CMC in the fleet with finding a crew as professional and dedicated to the command mission as the staff at TPU. TPU Norfolk is manned with a small staff designed to handle leading only 200-300 transient Sailors at any given time. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, our numbers have reached as high as 1,200 with nearly 500 in ROM and our staff performed flawlessly,” said Command Master Chief Angelo Rappa, TPU Command Master Chief. “Our CO empowered and trusted our First and Second Class Petty Officers with a great amount of responsibility, typically expected of a Chief or Division Officer. Once she explained her expectations to the crew, they started running with the ball and never missed a step. I’m truly inspired and humbled to come to work each morning and watch their amazing plans fall into place.”
In addition to delivering food, the task force has a medical team comprised of five Hospital Corpsmen that provide daily diagnostic checks for the ROM Sailors under TPU’s care. They closely monitor our Sailors and provide on demand medical capabilities in the event of COVID-19 related symptoms.
“What our TPU Sailors are doing each day to care for their fellow shipmates during the COVID pandemic is NOTHING short of a herculean effort. Our team is supporting the fleet, working with ships and Sailors across the waterfront as well as the incredible teams (Galley/EOC/Housing) on each installation to ensure that all Sailors are supported during this unprecedented time,” said Cmdr. Brandi McGehee, TPU Commanding Officer. “We were tasked with this mission, and our Sailors made it happen. I could not be more proud of how they have and continue to respond.”
While, how long COVID-19 will affect the Hampton Roads area is unknown, until no longer needed, the selfless efforts of the TPU Sailors will continue.