By Alicia McNeely
Port visits on deployment usually mean liberty filled with relaxation or exploring new places, but during the COVID-19 global health pandemic, ships have had to take precautions to ensure the health and safety of their crews, partners, and allies. When two ships pulled into the Port of Naples in August, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples made it their mission to ensure a fun and safe visit for the Sailors where crews could still maintain their “bubble” of no outside contact.
NSA Naples supported two separate port visits for Sailors assigned to USNS Trenton (T-EPF 5) and USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, respectively. In accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, the crews enjoyed liberty at Carney Park, an NSA Naples recreational area located in an extinct volcanic crater.
Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Naples, through close coordination with the visiting units and other NSA Naples partners, worked to meet the unique challenge of eliminating outside contact for the crews in order to ensure readiness.
“In this specific instance, MWR and its various partners and teammates on the installation quickly came up with plans to serve the crews of the USNS Trenton and the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams safely with recreational programming, while also providing it in a safe bubble at Carney Park,” said Christopher Kasparek, MWR Naples community recreation director.
The NSA Naples public works department transported Sailors directly from the Port of Naples to Carney Park, where the crews had exclusive use of the entire park and its amenities.
During both visits, Sailors were able to take full advantage of all the facilities and sport courts at Carney Park. Some played golf at the nine-hole course and hit golf balls at the new practice facility driving range. Others spent their time roller blading and bicycling throughout the grounds, swimming in the Olympic-sized pool, and playing basketball, volleyball, football, and tennis. Lawn games such as cornhole and horseshoes were also set up for their use.
MWR also catered to those looking for a more relaxed time in port. The team set up sound systems outside for music, and the bar was open at the on-site clubhouse. Plus, free Wi-Fi was available. Meals were organized for the Sailors at the restaurant, and they could grill at the pavilions.
“Sailors from the USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams were able to enjoy food and beverages at Fairways Bar and Grill, as well as a barbecue provided by MWR,” explained Kasparek. “Sailors from the USNS Trenton enjoyed food and beverages from Fairways.”
In addition to MWR offering memorable days in a unique location, the Navy Exchange (NEX) and Commissary participated in the port visits to ensure Sailors’ needs would be met prior to getting back underway.
"We partnered with both ships and the Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center to process orders for individuals on both ships so that they could receive personal care items and sundries while maintaining their ‘bubble,’" said Lisa Brennan, NEX Naples general manager.
The Naples Commissary offered a similar service: crew members aboard each ship were able to purchase food goods and necessities with contact-free ordering and delivery.
With private use of a golf course and swimming pool inside an extinct volcano, as well as deliveries of favorite pantry and toiletry items, NSA Naples was able to facilitate a successful and safe port visit for Trenton and Hershel “Woody” Williams crew members.
“The visits were a shining example of what makes NSA Naples truly special: a community of professionals working together to serve those that are carrying out the mission of our Navy,” said Kasparek.
Kasparek also noted that liberty may continue to look different as the Navy navigates deployments and port visits while also mitigating COVID-19 spread.
“It not only sets a precedence for future visits, it sets an expectation as well as an example of what can be done for future visits,” he said.
The mission of NSA Naples includes providing support to visiting units, and in coming alongside MWR and organizations such as the Commissary and the NEX, NSA Naples will be able to continue accomplishing this duty, even in the ever-changing times of the coronavirus pandemic.
NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.
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