By Nas Sigonella Public Affairs Office
In coordination with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s (DSCA) Humanitarian Assistance Program and the U.S. Mission to Italy, Naval Air Station Sigonella provided the second of three donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to local hospitals in Catania on behalf of the U.S. Navy.
“Italy and the United States have a long, shared history and deeply entwined economies and societies. Since World War II we have been close and constant allies who share the same values of democracy and free enterprise,” says United States Ambassador to Italy Lewis M. Eisenberg. “When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in Italy, the United States moved quickly to support our friend and partner with a broad range of resources. To date, the United States government has provided sixty million dollars in assistance to Italy through our military and USAID, while assistance from the U.S. private sector exceeds 55 million dollars. Together we will get through this crisis, and together we will prevail.”
Masks and surgical gowns totaling $370,916 were donated to Ospedale Garibaldi-Nesima, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Policlinico, and Azienda Ospedaliera Cannizoro to aid local medical first responders in combating COVID-19, as well as to assist in numerous other medical procedures.
"I am grateful to the military base for the thoughtfulness shown toward our hospital which is in line with a much wider and long-standing collaborative relationship between our institutions,” said Cannizzaro Hospital General Director Salvatore Giuffrida. “The generous donation increases the availability of personal protective equipment for our medical staff engaged in the care of COVID and non-COVID patients."
“It is an honor and privilege to facilitate these donations. We hope they will contribute to our united fight against this disease by assisting the front-line workers in local hospitals,” said Capt. Kevin Pickard, commander, Naval Air Station Sigonella. “For over 60 years, the Sailors and families assigned to NAS Sigonella have proudly called Sicily home. Together, we will always stand with our Sicilian family as neighbors and allies. We have, and will continue to, stand together in response to this pandemic, and we will emerge stronger.”
The PPE represented a portion of the contracts awarded by the Naples Contracting Shore Team in support of Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-A)’s donation efforts across Italy. The contracts are worth approximately $1.37 million in equipment and supplies.
The U.S. Navy has been a part of the Sicilian community for over 60 years. Throughout this time, many relationships have been developed with host nation counterparts across several different commands that reside on the base. U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Sigonella has built robust relationships with numerous Italian health care facilities and the Italian public health departments in the area.
“Our thanks go to the military base of Sigonella for the donations which were given during this time of pandemic,” said Graziella Manciagli, acting medical director of Garibaldi Nesima Hospital. “We had a chance to appreciate the generosity of the military base of Sigonella which expressed sympathy to all the Garibaldi Hospital’s health care workers who are engaged on the front line in the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.”
There are well-established procedures for transferring patients between these local hospitals and U.S. Naval Hospital Sigonella. In the event of a medical emergency, most Americans, especially those living off base and out in town, would be taken to one of these local hospitals. Additionally, Sigonella public health and emergency management personnel have held regular pandemic meetings since February with the Sicily COVID Commissioner and other Italian public health professionals to better understand the specific nature and risk nuances of the current pandemic in the region.
“We have developed a very special bond with our local Italian medical counterparts at these hospitals over the years,” said Capt. Denise Gechas, USNH Sigonella Commanding Officer. “It is our sincere hope that this small token of goodwill will continue to aid the fight against COVID-19.”
Over 2,200 U.S. military personnel and families live and work on NAS Sigonella and call Sicily “home.” As Italy and Sicily implemented national and local decrees restricting movements and closing non-essential establishments, NAS Sigonella enacted parallel measures. These changes were implemented in line with the Italian and Sicilian governments to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect U.S. forces and families and host nation personnel.
The last round of donations scheduled to occur in 2021 will include latex gloves totaling an additional $145,000.
NAS Sigonella continues its missions of supporting service members and enabling operations critical to the defense of the NATO alliance and partner nations, even as they seek ways to help fight COVID-19 and recover from its impact. NAS Sigonella’s strategic location enables U.S, allied, and partner nation forces to deploy and respond as required to ensure security and stability in the European, African and Central Command areas of operation.
U.S. Naval Hospital Sigonella is located at the “Hub of the Med,” the strategic crossroads for three geographic combatant commands. Its mission is to ensure the safe delivery of care to maintain healthy, fit and ready forces, which enable forward presence and global responsiveness.
“The mission will go on, and we will continue to protect our allies and partners here at NAS Sigonella as we have done for the past 60 years and counting,” added Pickard. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to our Sicilian neighbors and local communities, our allies and partner nations, and the United States.”
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet continue their missions of conducting maritime operations in Europe and Africa. Forces stand ready throughout the two theaters, and command leadership remains committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of forces, as well as local residents. Warships, submarines, and aircraft continue their patrols to deter and defend against threats to U.S., NATO, and partner nations.