ASAN, Guam – Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas professionals are lending a hand in the COVID-19 response by supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ hotel to healthcare and arena to healthcare initiatives.
A NAVFAC Marianas team in Guam, consisting of 14 engineers and public works employees, played an integral role in the USACE’s alternate care facilities (ACF) assessments of various buildings including public schools, hotels, and a number of miscellaneous public and private meeting spaces. The buildings were identified by the government of Guam and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as possible temporary healthcare facilities to augment those currently available.
“In March we were contacted by the USACE seeking our expertise to support their hotel to healthcare initiative, which is a program designed to retrofit spaces into alternate care facilities in emergencies such as the COVID-19 crisis,” said NAVFAC Marianas Executive Officer and Joint Region Marianas Deputy Regional Engineer Cmdr. Jacob Segalla.
Segalla said the NAVFAC Marianas team not only eagerly rose to the occasion, but members have gone above and beyond, in some cases, working around the clock to support this collaborative effort with its federal, military, local and private sector partners.
“This has been an amazing collaboration between and among various local and federal agencies, to include FEMA, USACE, the Guam Homeland Security (GHS), the Guam Air National Guard, and the Guam Fire Department,” he said. “I could not be more proud of our team and their Can-Do attitude and approach to everything that they have been requested to do.”
“Having NAVFAC Marianas’ engineers on-the-ground providing us with time critical site assessment data was invaluable to our ability to support FEMA and the Government of Guam,” said Jeff Herzog, COVID-19 site assessment team coordination program manager, Honolulu District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This was an absolute team effort with multiple partners and agencies, and we’re grateful the joint partnerships allowed Guam government to make informed decisions on potential construction of Alternate Care Facilities.”
NAVFAC Marianas Chief Engineer Andy Herr has helped to manage the effort and coordinate teams. He expressed his gratitude for the professionalism and teamwork that his engineers have demonstrated during this difficult healthcare emergency.
“The team stepped up when they were asked to take on this extra challenge,” said Herr. “In addition to their regular and routine work for the Navy, they have pitched in to validate required infrastructure that is available in Guam, and identify facility deficiencies that may impact its suitability for alternate care facilities,” said Herr.
Herr recognized one individual who dedicated extra time to this effort. “Vince Sablan, a supervisory licensed architect for NAVFAC Marianas, is one of only three architects that we have. Vince’s availability and willingness to participate at a moment’s notice are commendable as he has been wearing three hats in this process,” Herr said. “Vince has been the primary coordinator for all three teams, the team lead for one of the teams, and a working member on another team,” Herr said. “He has done much of the heavy lifting and has worked tirelessly while still maintaining a get-it-done overall great attitude throughout this unprecedented crisis.” Herr said Sablan is “truly the lynch pin of the entire effort.”
“I’m honored and humbled by these positive words,” reacted Sablan. “However, we are one team, and I couldn’t have done my job effectively without the support of the entire group and in particular the other assessment team leads Romeo Velesrubio and Peter Sardea,” Sablan said.
“I’m thankful for those that were willing to make some sacrifices by putting themselves at risk,” Herr said. “They not only took on the challenging tasks but assumed more work while still executing their regular jobs.”
One such engineer, who participated in several of the assessments, was NAVFAC Marianas Civil Engineer Noel Ocampo. “I was responsible for looking over existing utilities,” Ocampo said. “I also reviewed the proximity of existing permanent hospitals, and space availability for screening, pharmacy, and medical gas storage in front of the main entry ways.”
Asbestos Program Manager for Naval Base Guam Public Works Division Ron Bills holds specialized certifications, and as a result, has participated in every ACF assessment.
“I supported the effort by attending each inspection, specifically looking for the presence of any material that may contain asbestos, lead and checked for any issues pertaining to mold,” Bills said. “I then prepared a written evaluation on each issue and submitted a detailed report to be attached to total facility evaluation.”
He said although COVID-19 has drastically changed his work life, and agreed that this a tenuous time, he credited his colleagues and their great support as the main reasons he has been able to manage the extra workload and stress. “I am just glad that I’m able to contribute in a small way to help through this situation,” Bills said. “Other people are doing so much and I have always been the type of person that if help is needed, I step up, I was just brought up that way.”
Ocampo agreed and echoed this sentiment. “The dedication of the entire team, from the engineers and designers to the operations department in providing these assessments to the government is outstanding.”
Eighteen ACF assessments were completed, of that, 15 were in support of the USACE and three supported Naval Base Guam. Detailed reports and recommendations were submitted to the USACE and FEMA for their final determination. NAVFAC Marianas stands ready to respond to any additional requests for support in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in Guam.