When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered millions of Pennsylvanians in late March to stay at home in order to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, mission critical military personnel, like Chief Warrant Officer Three Timothy Camacho, continued to report to work. In Camacho’s case, his work requires him to commute 180 miles round trip from his residence in Abington, Pa., to Colts Neck, N.J., where he serves as the officer in charge in Military Sealift Command Atlantic’s port office at Naval Weapons Station Earle.
Camacho said his two hour commute to New Jersey each day gives him time to reflect on some of the domino effects of COVID-19. The closing of thousands of businesses, causing millions of people to be unemployed, upsets him. The 1.7 million people who have contracted the virus, causing more than a hundred thousand deaths to date, frustrates him. “All of this is a lot to process, leaving me with a range of mixed emotions from feeling a sense of fear to anger, especially when someone close to you succumbs to the virus.”
Last month, one of Camacho’s nearby neighbors tested positive for COVID-19 and died six days later. His death hit home because it meant that the virus was closer than he realized Camacho said. “This crisis is so different from other community crisis events like the mass school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech and the 9/11 terror attacks on American soil.” With those events, he said, there was a clear visible enemy to go after; but with COVID-19, “the enemy is invisible, indiscriminately attacking anyone in its way. So, it is the unknown that gives me mixed emotions as the spread of the virus continues.”
In spite of Camacho’s mixed emotions, he remains committed to keeping MSCLANT’s port office doors at Earle open to support the command’s critical mission to carry out the nation’s call to deliver on-time supplies and replenishment services to the Navy ships at sea. Following the strict guidelines set by Military Sealift Command, he has implemented better hygiene and social distancing practices. In-person meetings are now reduced to 10 or less participants, with each participant wearing a face mask and staying six feet apart. Video and telephone conferences now take the place of face to face meetings to ensure his office, along with other tenant commands, totaling 60-plus personnel, remain COVID-19 free.
Camacho credits his 23 years of military service to remaining level headed throughout this crisis. “My time with the Navy gives me the assurance and confidence to push pass my fears.” If you live long enough, you learn that life can be filled with troublesome times, and this virus is no different he said. “The key to coping with it is to first recognize that bad things happen in life and to second know that you have no control over the situation. What we do have control over is our reaction. For me, I refuse to live in a constant state of fear; so, I make a concerted effort to wake up every morning, mission focused and excited about this one precious life that has been given to me, casting all of my fears onto my Heavenly Father.”
NWS Earle, one of the busiest MSC detachment ports in the country, remains open. Camacho and his staff coordinate the loading and unloading of 15 MSC ships a year. Some of the ships are nearly aircraft-carrier size, with loads of more than 100,000 square feet of cargo holds and other large-size military equipment. The total annual square footage loaded at the port equals approximately 1.5 million square feet or enough to cover all 32 NFL football fields with ammo, support equipment, and food.
MSCLANT is represented by six geographic port offices. In addition to NWS Earle, there is Beaumont in Texas, Charleston in South Carolina, Jacksonville and Port Canaveral in Florida, and Sunny Pointe in North Carolina. All six offices provide direct support to MSC ships and act as MSCLANT’s representatives with local commands.
For the most accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, go to https://www.coronavirus.go
v. To review the Navy specific guidelines, go to https://navylive.dodlive.mil/2020/03/15/u-s-navy-covid-19-updates