Navy Reservists Fill Essential Role in Denver's Operation Pacific Passage Mission

Last Updated : 5/10/2011 12:50:30 PM

DENVER (NNS) -- Reservists assigned to Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Denver have served as the Navy's official welcoming committee in that city for military families arriving from Japan since March 24.

NOSC Denver has a multi-service team of military professionals, caregivers and volunteers at Denver International Airport greeting families arriving as part of Operation Pacific Passage.

The Department of Defense recently established joint reception coordination centers (JRCC) in Denver and other airports to provide administrative, financial and comfort support to passengers who have voluntarily departed Japan.

"The active duty Navy can't be everywhere, every time. The Denver NOSC is the face of the Navy for Denver, and its role in Operation Pacific Passage," said Capt. Marcus Cromartie, commanding officer of Navy Region Southwest's Reserve Component Command. "Denver NOSC is sharply focused on Operation Pacific Passage and will be for the near future."

DoD families have been arriving in Denver on connecting flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and direct flights from Japan.

"The families are under extreme stress and we are here to do anything we can," Cromartie said. "No one planned to be a part of Operation Pacific Passage, it's not something we specifically train for. But the Navy trains to be anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances."

Most passengers arriving in Denver have been making connecting flights to their final destinations within 24 hours. While at the Denver reception center, they are met by military and civilian specialists at a diverse array of service tables and booths, providing everything from pay and finance assistance, travel and lodging aid, medical care, legal advice, daycare and pet walking services.

Navy reservists who are Sailors of many different rates and backgrounds, have been performing many of these tasks. Naval Aircrewman Mechanical 2nd Class Sergio Vesga maintains helicopters for Denver's civilian air ambulance squad in his civilian life, but to support Operation Pacific Passage, he was carrying suitcases, walking dogs and escorting exhausted passengers through customs as they disembarked an international flight from Japan.

"I don't mind helping these people," he said. "They've come all the way from Japan and they need a hand. Making their life easier is my job while I'm here, and it's a welcome break from maintaining helicopters."

Vesga reported to Denver International Airport with 37 other reservists from units assigned to NOSC Denver and NOSC Fort Carson.

"The reservists have been a key element in this mission," said NOSC Denver Commanding Officer Leith Kimmer. "Approximately 25 percent of this operation involves reservists. Without reservists here the mission could not be accomplished. They've performed flawlessly, manning this operation 24/7 in 12-hour shifts. They've met every requirement placed on them. There are folks staying beyond their shifts to make sure the mission is getting accomplished."

Lt. Jeff Williams, assistant officer in charge of the Naval Intelligence Reserve detachment in Denver, said the first priority for everyone concerned was to make the arrival experience for passengers as painless and efficient as possible.

"We're here to support military families," he said. "For this type of operation, a lot of work goes behind the scenes."

The Denver JRCC will remain open to assist military families with much needed support as more planes continue to arrive.

For more information on the voluntary authorized departure for eligible DoD family members from designated areas in Japan, read NAVADMIN 093/11 at www.npc.navy.mil

All Sailors or family members who are in need of assistance should utilize the NFAAS support site at www.navyfamily.navy.mil to ensure the Navy can track and assess support requirements for all parties affected.

Navy Fleet and Family Support Center has a 24-hour hotline available to provide family support information at 866-854-0638.

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