NEWS | April 28, 2020

Distributed Mobilization Process Accelerates Navy Reserve Support to COVID-19 Response Efforts

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Magan Strickland

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Sarah Bowllan, assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility Bethesda, monitors patient vital signs in Javits New York Medical Station’s patient care facility, April 26, 2020.
SLIDESHOW | 1 images | 200426-N-OE749-1081 U.S. Navy Cmdr. Sarah Bowllan, assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility Bethesda, monitors patient vital signs in Javits New York Medical Station’s patient care facility, April 26, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Barry Riley)

As detailed in NAVADMIN 099/20, the new DM process provides an exception to policy in support of providing Reserve Sailors to the COVID-19 response effort. The change allows Reserve Sailors to be mobilized through their local Navy Reserve Activities in place of the standard first stop for mobilization processing at Expeditionary Combat Readiness Command (ECRC).

“The Navy Reserve’s ability to rapidly mobilize Reservists and avoid unnecessary risks to the force required a process change that is different from the current mobilization model,” said Capt. Mark Crowe, CNRFC deputy chief of staff for operations. “DM for COVID-19 has enabled us to leverage our Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSC) to meet mobilization requirements more quickly and effectively.”

According to the NAVADMIN, the exception to policy reduces risk to force health by minimizing travel stops on the way to the mobilization location. The change also reduces risk to the mission as many Reserve Sailors mobilizing for COVID-19 may already be serving at their supported commands on voluntary orders.

CNRFC Deputy of Operations, Paul Borkowski, said part of the success of DM was thanks to efforts put into a similar concept process already in development before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the last 19 plus years, mobilizations have been based on the Individual Augmentee (IA) model with U.S. Fleet Forces oversight and processing through ECRC,” said Borkowski. “We had been challenged with figuring out how to do it ourselves if ECRC was not available, so we were already in the process of examining this; COVID-19 just accelerated it.”

Borkowski says the first steps of the DM process have been a success, but he’s still reserving final judgment of the entire process until the last step is accomplished — the return home from mobilization.

“When the Secretary of Defense ordered the activation of USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, we were able to have the required number of Sailors onboard prior to ship’s movement — that’s success,” said Borkowski. “But it’s only half of the battle — bringing Sailors home, demobilizing them properly, making sure they have everything they need, is what we’re focusing on now.”

Bringing a Reserve Sailor on mobilization requires completing a checklist of dozens of requirements — from medical readiness and civilian occupation coordination, to completion of required training and issuing proper gear and uniforms.

The mobilization steps are expected and normal business at ECRC, but through collaboration between CNRFC operations department and local Reserve activities, Borkowski says his team’s work contributed to the success.

“The operations team here at CNRFC has done a fantastic job and provided tremendous value in their oversight and coordination of the process,” Borkowski said. “But it could not have been done without all of the other moving parts coming together. It’s an amazing tribute to this organization that we’re all a part of.”

According to CNRFC Chief of Staff, Capt. Errin Armstrong, nearly every directorate of CNRFC was heavily involved in the DM process.

“This wasn’t just an operations thing,” said Armstrong. “It was a heavy lift across the staff, from our manning and personnel department to our force medical personnel. The Reserve Regional Component commanders, their teams, and over a hundred Navy Operational Support Centers demonstrated that DM could get our Sailors on mission in record time.”

Armstrong says that personnel from U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Navy Personnel Command, and the Bureau of Navy Medicine, also played key roles in making DM a reality.

Reserve Sailor support to USNS Mercy and Comfort, Navy Medical Support Teams, Emergency Medical Facilities (EMF) Bethesda, EMF Camp Pendelton, and many other COVID-19 relief efforts have shown the DM process to be an invaluable tool in rapidly providing Navy Reserve support.

Vice Adm. Luke McCollum, Chief of Navy Reserve, says the force’s hard work and focus on maintaining Reserve readiness is paying off.

“I can't thank our Navy Reserve members enough,” said McCollum. “At a moment's notice, our Sailors quickly mobilized from across the country to answer the Nation's call. Many had less than 48 hours to get where they were needed, and they made it happen because they were properly trained and ready.”

For 105 years, the Navy Reserve has been a ready, agile force that provides valuable, vital support to the Navy and the Nation. The Ready Reserve Force consists of approximately 49,550 Selected Reserve (SELRES) Sailors, 10,163 Full Time Support (FTS) members, 48,815 Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) members and over 422 civilians. This force of over 100,000 delivers strategic depth and unique capabilities to the Navy and Marine Corps team, and the Joint Force in times of peace and war.