NEWS | April 13, 2020

Podcast E17: Staying Connected During COVID19

In the 17th episode of “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Edward Graham of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, an American Non-Profit Organization, joined Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-CNA) to discuss Samaritan Purse’s support to Italy during the coronavirus and how their work ties into the efforts of Italy and other countries around the world.

Before introducing his guest, Foggo addressed the American military community serving in Italy.  He highlighted the efforts of the American military community and the continued support for the host nation.

The discussion between Foggo and Graham primarily focused on the NGO and its contributions to assist those affected by the coronavirus in Italy.

The conversation then shifted to other topics such as the efforts being made by Sailors and their families in Europe and Africa to stay safe during the pandemic and the greater impact on military operations throughout the region.

COVID-19 and Our Partners

Foggo discussed joint efforts across the area of operations to combat the coronavirus. He talked about the steps taken by Americans in Italy to protect Sailors, families, and our communities, including efforts by the DODEA school system and adherence to host nation decrees.

“I want all of our military spouses out there listening to know that you have our local DODEA school system at your disposal; their number is on our website.”

He emphasized the importance of following the Italian decrees and doing your part.

“We’re in this together… We’re stronger together, and we’re going to get through this thing. I don’t know how much longer it will take… but we will get through it.”

Foggo discussed the U.S. Navy’s activity in the region and the importance of continuing the mission while their families hold down the fort at home.

“Our warships, submarines, and aircraft continue their patrols to deter and defend against any threat in the Euro-Atlantic region. There are some very dedicated and brave men and women in the U.S. Navy manning their watches with stalwart determination so that we can maintain this deterrence posture and that freedom will prevail. The families at home are providing resolute support despite very arduous circumstances… so that the Sailors can remain focused on the mission.”

Teamwork and cooperation with our host nation is emphasized throughout this episode.

“The men and women of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa are in solidarity with our Italian counterparts as we are fighting this devastating virus together.”

U.S. naval forces are not just in solidarity with the Italian community, but with other partners and allies throughout the world. Foggo touched on recent discussions with his counterparts throughout Europe and Africa, to get a sense of where our forces can assist.

“I’ve scheduled calls with many regional heads of the Navy so that we can better understand these challenging times and where we can assist… We’re in this fight together.”

COVID-19 and Samaritan’s Purse

In the next segment, Foggo introduced Edward Graham, a senior official from Samaritan’s Purse who was able to join via phone, and discussed the work his team has been doing in Northern Italy.

“Edward’s team has established one of the first [non-government organization] field hospitals in a place called Cremona, Italy, which started seeing Italian citizens,” said Foggo. “Within a few days, they build an incredible tent city and a field hospital in the parking lot of the Cremona Hospital so that patients come in and go right into Samaritan’s Purse Hospital to be treated.”

Graham, a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, discussed the mission of Samaritan’s Purse and how they came to be in Italy during the coronavirus.

“As the story of the Good Samaritan, we want to meet [people’s] immediate needs first,” said Graham.” We had this field hospital capability that we created years ago that one of our leaders had the vision for… to supply well-trained medical staff, with doctors and nurses, to deploy anywhere in the world.”

“When the virus hit and we saw it spreading, we sent a note to the Minister of Health,” said Graham. “We got an answer back within almost two days, ‘Yes, we want you and we need you…’ And within 24 hours of landing, we had our first patients being transferred to us.”

Graham discussed how the organization has been working with the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the U.S. administration to rapidly respond with their resources.

Foggo commended the organization for their quick response time and admired the militaristic organization of the logistics and how streamlined the move to Italy has been.

“You got 35 tons of stuff over there in two trips, so that is amazing,” said Foggo.” Everything was palleted up and labeled in a military fashion. You must have a lot of [veterans] in your organization.”

The two discussed Graham’s service in the Army and how his experience in the military taught him the importance of fostering relationships.

“We have a great relationship with the military because of these connections and resources… When there’s work that we can do together, whether that’s shipping equipment or getting there, putting in our resources or connection together, I’m all about that. And then that’s to save lives and getting need where it’s needed.”

Foggo touched on his personal and professional tie to Samaritan’s Purse.

“I was asking about what relief efforts are going on in Italy, and somebody told me about Samaritan’s Purse… And the executive assistant came back, ‘Hey, there’s a guy out there named Eric Timmens. He says he knows you…’ He and I worked together at the Pentagon,” said Foggo.

The admiral revealed how impressed he was to learn how quickly the NGO was able to set up shop and begin assisting.

“I said, ‘When are you going to be ready to be open for business?’ This was on a Friday. He goes, ‘Saturday… We’re moving fast. This is the way we do it.’ And you took your first patients that weekend.”

He commended Samaritan’s Purse and the great work they have been doing.

“This is the epitome of America. It’s Americans who want to help in a time of crisis. I am so proud of you and everybody that is risking to come over here and to help the great Italian people with the coronavirus… As we are here in Italy, in the epicenter of the virus in Europe, our heart goes out to all Americans, all of our friends, all of our partners and allies.”

Greater Impact on Operations and Exercises

Foggo commented that though some regularly-scheduled exercises have been postponed or cancelled, operations are continuing as normal.

“We're still meeting our national obligations and ready to respond to any threat,” said Foggo. “Exercises aside, ships are at sea, aircraft are in the air. As [Vice] Adm. Franchetti says,’ we are open for business.’ Let no one doubt that. And we are as strong as we ever have been.”

The admiral discussed the great efforts of all branches of the military throughout Italy, mentioning the U.S. Army and Air Force bases in Northern Italy and their joint efforts with the nation.

“As Italy strengthens its resolve, the U.S. military team is working to support our host ally and bolster our long-term relationship. Our service members are finding ways to help in their own ways”

Foggo mentioned the importance of staying socially connected throughout the pandemic, using USS Mount Whitney as an example.

“[The] ship cranked up every loudspeaker on the ship and blasted out the Italian national anthem in her home port of Gaeta, Italy, at the exact hour that the rest of Italy was doing the same thing,” said Foggo. “These are acts of friendship, and love, and support for the Italian people.”

He concluded the podcast with a final message to everyone around the world.

“To the listening audience and everybody out there who’s involved in this crisis – and that’s the entire world – be kind to one another and take care of one another. That is what I see today. We are here together with you, as allies and partners, and we are stronger together. We will work with one another to get through this coronavirus safely and successfully.”

To learn more about how CNE-CNA is handling the coronavirus, listen to the podcast or read the transcript.

Listen to "Episode 17 On the Horizon" on Spreaker.