NEWS | Dec. 18, 2020

ECRC STAFF Brings Holiday Cheer to ROM Sailors

By Petty Officer 1st Class Greg Ylvisaker

The holidays are upon us and the end of a very difficult year is quickly approaching. Throughout the Navy, Covid-19 has made it necessary to change the way things are done all across the board. One of the most hated aspects of these changes that sailors currently face is undoubtedly restriction of movement, or ROM. In a normal year being away for the holidays is not a fun prospect, but having to spend them on ROM after a challenging deployment isn’t something anyone wants to do.

The Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center (ECRC) at Naval Station Norfolk is charged with processing Reserve sailors as they travel to duty stations abroad and as they return home from mobilizations. This means, under current COVID policy, each of them must ROM for a 14 day period as they arrive for processing, with some having to ROM multiple times depending on their destination. This also means there are many sailors that spent Thanksgiving in a ROM status, and many looking at a ROM Christmas and New Year.

Staff at ECRC saw a chance to help brighten the spirits of those spending the holidays in Norfolk rather than at home as they would have in years past. The First Class Petty Officers Association made a plan to deliver a home cooked meal to ROM sailors staying at various locations on base and locally.  

“The idea was brought up during a mental health meeting about what we can do for morale for ROMers,” said FCPOA President PS1 Van Pham. “Having worked on ROM and seeing the importance of a meal, I proposed the idea to have it spearheaded by the FCPOA.”

Pham had spent time earlier in 2020 working alongside the ECRC ROM Team members tasked with food delivery for those sailors staying on base and conducting daily wellness checks for those staying out on the local economy.

Pham said given the short holiday week there were about 16 volunteers able to help out with the Thanksgiving meal delivery. Food was donated by command members, Fleet and Family as well as the command Ombudsman. Fleet and Family coordinated with hotel management to arrange suitable areas for food distribution that comply with state and Navy guidelines. Despite the challenges of a short work week due to the Thanksgiving Holiday which limited the number of staff available to help, the ECRC FCPOA were able to deliver 160 meals to sailors on ROM.

While not everyone accepted a meal, Pham said everyone was truly appreciative that ECRC had thought about them.

ECRC’s N5 ROM Department was set up early on in 2020 when Covid-19 began to spread and it was necessary to begin isolating personnel who were or may have been exposed. Aside from delivering meals to those on base, the ROM department must check on every sailor staying off base to ensure they are symptom free and do not require additional care. Many times members of the team will spend time talking with individuals who are just tired of being alone in their rooms.

During holiday meal delivery the ECRC Command TRIAD as well as several other senior personnel took on the responsibility of the wellness checks as an opportunity to acknowledge the work these men and women put in.

“Coming back from deployment is stressful,” said ECRC Director of Planning Captain Adam Bellin. “Add to that most of these sailors are reservists who have the added stress of shifting off active duty to a reserve status which is a complex process. Now layer in missing a holiday. That’s a lot of stressors, and not everyone handles stress perfectly at every instance. By giving these sailors a senior leader talk with, if only for a day, we can make them feel valued, listened to and acknowledged as a person.”

Bellin went on to credit HMCM John Garran with the idea, stating that it was”…on time and on target” and “It was a prefect idea from the second he spoke the words.”

He said response from the sailors on ROM was overwhelmingly positive.

“Many thanked me for calling, and appreciated the attention,” Bellin said.

When asked if this was something ECRC would be looking at doing in the future he said “absolutely.”

“There are a limited number of things we can do to positively affect a sailor’s stress level, this small gesture is simple and effective and will continue,” Bellin said.

Winter holiday plans at ECRC are underway to make the winter holidays a little brighter for those who cannot be at home.