By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Ian Carver
Dubbed a “Mobile NOSC,” the Kitsap staff took their administrative support capabilities to the road, delivering mobilization readiness events to multiple offsite locations, where more than 900 of the NOSC’s Reserve Sailors drill with their individual Reserve units.
“The only units that drill here at NOSC Kitsap are my Operational Support Units and Volunteer Training Units, so I don’t see many of my Selected Reserve Sailors from month-to-month,” said Capt. Jack Christensen, NOSC Kitsap’s commanding officer.
NOSCs are tasked with maintaining the deployment readiness of Reserve Sailors. Many of these Reserve centers set aside a drill weekend annually to provide a mass readiness event to complete medical, operations and administration tasks, bringing each Sailor in attendance up to the standard for mobilization readiness. But the task has been a challenge in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has added additional protocols to drill weekend in-person attendance.
According to Navy Region Reserve Component Command Northwest (RCC NW) leadership, NOSC Kitsap’s initiative demonstrates the Navy Reserve Force’s commitment to providing ready Reserve Sailors to meet strategic and operational demands at a moment’s notice.
“We expect every NOSC to do everything possible to ensure the readiness of our Reserve Sailors,” said CAPT Jonas Jones, Commander, RCC NW. “Our Navy is counting on us to be ready for ‘Day One;’ it is inspiring to see NOSC teams like Kitsap develop and implement innovative readiness solutions that overcome the challenges of today’s COVID-19 operating environment.”
For NOSC Kitsap, the concept of the Mobile NOSC has become a critical component ensuring the mobilization readiness of Sailors,
“When I first got to NOSC Kitsap we did a mass mobilization exercise to get Sailor numbers up,” Christensen said. “It was a good evolution but not effective for what we needed to accomplish, so we thought, ‘Ok, how can we make it better?’”
NOSC leadership ultimately landed on breaking mobilization readiness weekends into multiple engagements and delivering them directly to where Sailors drill through the Mobile NOSC concept.
One of the locations the Mobile NOSC visited was Joint Base Lewis McCord (JBLM), located southwest of Tacoma, Washington and over an hour from Kitsap.
“When we go to JBLM, everything is set up. We have a schedule for [the Sailors], and we have fewer people going through the lines,” said Lt. Kevin Lott, the NOSCs Operations and Training Officer. “It’s quicker — it’s a lot better a process for everyone.”
The medical and dental aspects of mobilization readiness are two key parts of mobilization weekends as they comprise the largest number of personnel to run stations and require the most significant amount of time to complete. To allow the Mobile NOSC to handle the task, the staff implemented a tele-med program allowing Sailors to check off many of the medical boxes over the phone or electronically through the computer before visiting the Mobile NOSC.
While certain aspects of medical and dental readiness, like HIV testing and dental exams, still require an in-person visit, reducing the number of in-person requirements underscores the importance of the Mobile NOSC during the pandemic. Limiting person-to-person contact with smaller groups and increased coordination on the part of NOSC staff have increased speed and efficiency in the Mobile NOSC process, while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“You’re able to reach out to a lot more people when you do it virtually versus individual units coming in at various times on different days,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Mark Rivas, NOSC Kitsap Medical Department LCPO.
The Mobile NOSC concept hasn’t been without challenges, according to Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Daniel Wheeler, assigned to the NOSC Kitsap medical staff. The day before a long-planned November Mobile NOSC, leadership learned JBLM had to be shut down due to a COVID-19 contamination requiring sterilization. Employing all the best attributes of the mobile NOSC, the staff pivoted and found a new location.
Wheeler was instrumental not only in setting up the originally planned Mobile NOSC, but he also helped lead the last-minute coordination of the new location and had high praise for the effectiveness of the process and the NOSC staff who were running it.
“[The mobile NOSC] has been going really well, all things considered, with COVID-19 requirements and limitations,” said Wheeler.