By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Scott Wichmann
Naples native Giuseppe Fresegna is smiling behind his mask. It’s the eyes that give him away.
The silver-haired former firefighter and married father of three has been driving the support site shuttle bus for 23 years, conveying military members and their families to their destinations with a steady reliability that’s easy to overlook.
For Fresegna and the members of the NSA Naples Public Works Department transportation team at Naval Facilities Engineering Command Navy Region Europe Africa Central (NAVFAC EURAVCENT), the primary goal is to keep that same steady, reliable service throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every one of our team members approaches their job in a highly dedicated, professional manner,” said PWD NAVFAC EURAVCENT Transportation Branch Head Jim Williams of Fresegna and his fellow transportation team members. “They’re very courteous and respectful and we’re very proud of each and every one of them for how they’ve performed, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in general across the board.”
Williams said one of the first challenges facing his team at the onset of the pandemic was putting in place procedures to ensure increased sanitization of everything from vehicles to maintenance tools to minimize transmission of the coronavirus.
“We had to think about sanitizing things like vehicle keys and surfaces people touch on a regular basis,” said Williams. “We had to think through all of those different areas to protect our passengers, customers and employees as much as possible.”
Williams said reducing the daily on-site workforce and moving to a shift rotation using three separate transportation teams allowed him to keep people safe and healthy.
“We went from having usually 25 or 30 people in to work on-site on a daily basis down to about seven,” said Williams. “We also made sure teams were segregated so if one of the team members were to become COVID-19 positive, they wouldn’t infect the entire transportation branch.”
NAVFAC Transportation Operations Specialist Rudy Criscuolo said the transportation team was able to keep operations moving seamlessly though several new daily considerations had to be made.
“We kept the same level of service during the COVID-19 restrictions,” said Criscuolo, a Naples native and 36-year veteran employee of PWD NAVFAC EURAVCENT. “But we had to reduce the bus capacity in order to observe social distancing. We also had to provide masks to workers, ensure proper sanitization of the buses, that kind of thing.”
Criscuolo said the shuttle service, which runs routinely throughout the day and covers locations at both NSA Naples and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is operated by local Italian nationals, like Fresegna, who drives the buses for a majority of the workday before being relieved by U.S. Navy Sailors.
“One of our goals is to integrate our military staff with our local nationals to the greatest extent possible. So we’re constantly using the PWD NAVFAC EURAVCENT Seabee community,” said Williams. “We have 11 Seabees assigned to transportation and we’re constantly employing them in day-to-day operations, whether they manage the yard where the vehicles are parked and all the equipment is stored, or they’re assisting in driving on the bus routes, operating forklifts, supervising crane operations or turning wrenches right next to a local national mechanic.”
Criscuolo said the relationship between the Seabees and the local nationals is based on mutual respect, teamwork and camaraderie.
“Working with the Seabees is like working with friends from another land,” said Criscuolo. “We have a good relationship, we are very well integrated and we try to do our best to work together to accomplish our mission.”
Fresegna agreed wholeheartedly. “I have many friends who are Seabees,” he said, “and everyone I have met in my 23 years here are all good people.”
Installation guidance currently requires shuttle bus riders to enter and exit the bus via the rear doors in order to ensure distance from the bus operator, who is also protected by having the first few rows of seats behind him blocked off. Currently, the wearing of masks onboard the bus is also mandatory, a practice Criscuolo highly encourages.
“Wear the mask in public spaces,” said Criscuolo. “Whether on the buses or in the vehicles, try to observe social distancing, even when in line to board the bus. Keep distance between seats so that everyone is safe. The more we follow medical advice, the faster we’ll beat this thing and be able to go on with our normal lives.”
Fresegna said wearing the mask helps protect everyone, especially against the prospect of a second wave or resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the region.
“It is very important to wear the mask,” said Fresegna, “because someone may not understand the real problem of the pandemic.