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    Keeping the people who keep Naval Support Activity Panama City safe, safe

    COVID-19 Prompts Changes with NSA Panama City Security Force

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Clyde Laster | PANAMA CITY, FL -- The novel coronavirus has presented challenges to the Navy Security...... read more read more



    Story by Edward Buczek 

    Naval Support Activity Panama City

    They are the first people you see when entering Naval Support Activity Panama City and the last when leaving. They are here to ensure your safety and well-being while on the base.

    The Naval Security Force (NSF) is responsible for the protection and defense of the base perimeter and maintaining good order and discipline. Its critical mission is making sure the bad guys don’t get in.

    However, a new adversary has appeared and it’s one that remains unseen but capable of great harm: COVID-19. This novel coronavirus has presented challenges to security protocols but nothing that can’t be overcome.

    “Our number one concern is keeping (personnel) and the installation safe,” Major Dave Hardman said.

    As operations chief, Hardman is responsible for a cadre of 40 civilian police officers and Navy Master-at-Arms who comprise the NSF. He has been with NSA since August 2003 when he started as a patrolman and become the operations chief in November 2017. Hardman’s career also included a stint in the Air Force with the security police and also with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

    The most visible activity of the NSF is at the Entry Control Point just off Thomas Drive and Crag Road. This is the first line of defense – where drivers are either allowed to proceed or turned around. The security force implemented a no touch ID card policy in mid-March and in early April began wearing face coverings and gloves.

    Hardman said other safety precautions include moving the guard mounts to an outdoor location. Guard mounts are conducted at the start of all shifts for roll call, announcements, inspections and assignments.

    Another practical change occurred when personnel complete their shifts. Prior to the pandemic it was normal procedure to return the gear immediately for turn-in. However due to COVID-19, “We sanitize our gear and vehicles before and after the shift,” said Officer Adam Posar, a patrolman with NSA Panama City for the past 12 years.

    It’s clear these are not normal times and adjustments have been made to how business is done. According to Chief Master-at-Arms Demarcus Rice, the leading chief petty officer and training officer for the NSF, “Everyone is considered essential personnel.” And because of that, Rice stated, “there are few Sailors who’ve had to either activate their family care plan so they can come into work or request exemptions.”

    Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Ashley Burtongoode, is one security force member who did not want an exemption. She’s been in the Navy for the past 12 years and considers herself a ‘seasoned Sailor.’ “I want to pull my own weight,” she explained. “I don’t want to say I can’t come in.”

    Burtongoode is a single mother and family is too far away to enact the family care plan which left her with few alternatives when the pandemic closed schools and day care. But, Rice and others helped enroll her child into daycare on base which by the way was only accepting essential personnel. “The command has been supportive,” she said.

    “Every day brings different challenges,” Rice said “As professionals, you learn to be flexible, adaptable and overcome.”

    To do that, preparation is paramount and Hardman and Rice agree the coronavirus has even impacted professional training. “Training involves a lot of physical contact and interaction with others and with the close physical contact that goes with the job,” said Rice.

    “A typical training day with the Naval Security Force involves an 8-12 hour day, with instructor-led training, interactive training, and drills,” Hardman said. “It’s impossible to conduct the training and maintain social distancing without additional safety protocols in place to keep us safe and still execute the NSF mission.”

    “NSF’s professionalism throughout this pandemic has been impressive,” said Hardman. “They understand everything we’re doing is to protect them and the base population from potential contamination and to keep our force safe and healthy.”

    According to Burtongoode, the pandemic has changed how the NSF conducts business. “It’s made us more cautious of how we interact, even with each other,” she said. “When we’re responding to service calls and traffic stops. I have to remember to keep my distance from people.”

    She does offer some advice to personnel coming on the base, “Wear your protection; wash your hands; and follow the guideline put out (by CDC and the Navy),” said Burtongoode. “If you go out, protect yourself so you protect us, so we can do our job.”




    Date Taken: 05.19.2020
    Date Posted: 05.19.2020 09:59
    Story ID: 370287
    Location: PANAMA CITY, FL, US 

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