SANTA RITA, Guam - U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) has been designated a safe haven liberty port for ships to safely pull in for potential logistical re-supply, possible repairs, and the rest and relaxation for Sailors and crewmembers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) along with USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) pulled into Guam for safe haven liberty port visits in early June. The Nimitz Carrier Strike group, consisting of aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), and guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), pulled into Guam for a safe haven liberty port visit June 24.
NBG has been recognized for the ability to support and maintain U.S. ships’ COVID-free “bubble,” while enhancing liberty opportunities for 7th Fleet ships conducting COVID mitigations.
“NBG provided support to a critical and unique, never before accomplished mission of remediating a national strategic asset, the Theodore Roosevelt, from a global pandemic,” said NBG Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Grimes, “and now we’re going to continue to support the fleet and our warfighters by providing them a safe place whether it’s operational or for their quality of life. Quality of life is integral to mission readiness.”
Policies and procedures for COVID mitigations are strictly enforced, including social distancing, the use of masks, and gloves. Additionally, the interaction with personnel outside of the designated liberty areas is kept at a minimum, barring a few exceptions for key personnel.
For NBG port operations, it’s business as usual but with the added emphasis on ship and crew safety.
“With NBG being designated as a safe haven liberty port, the added responsibility falls on us to ensure these ships can one, maximize their limited space and time and two, ensure the ships and crew remain safe and healthy in order to continue on with the mission,” said NBG port operations planning officer, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jared Klevens. “It is a new challenge, but like everything else we have encountered over the last few months, we adapt, overcome and move forward to the next challenge.”
During port visits, Sailors have access to specific designated areas on the pier and a secured beach on base. The safe haven liberty port visit is designed to provide the necessary mental and physical relaxation that the crew needs in order to better perform their jobs and feel rejuvenated.
MWR Guam is one of the NBG entities currently supporting the pier liberty by enhancing quality of life, boosting crew morale, readiness, and effectiveness while mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“We are leading the charge in offering exclusive liberty options for sailors who have been underway for extended periods of time,” said MWR Guam director Julian Bogan. “Through community recreation programs (including) outdoor recreation, the marina, bowling, theatre, deployed forces support and food and beverage options we are enabling the warfighter to be ready and resilient, boosting morale. We will continue to strive to think outside the box, be innovative in our programming, and ensure the warfighters enjoy a much-deserved break.”
Navy Exchange (NEX) Guam is also supporting the liberty calls and work with the individual ship’s leadership to find out if there is anything specific the NEX can provide. “We are offering a variety of services from laundry and dry cleaning, to food, tent rentals, ship orders, and the Downrange program to sailors,” said NEX Guam General Manager Lisa Ballejo.
The NEX Downrange Program, proved valuable in recent weeks, as thousands of remote orders were processed for Sailors of the Roosevelt. The Downrange Program is a service developed to provide NEX shopping for Sailors who are unable to physically visit the store. “We have to be creative and think outside the box - if they can't come to us, we have to bring the services to them,” Ballejo said. “A liberty call is so important to our sailors to recharge their batteries so they can be ready for the next mission. It is an honor to help support that mission.”