By Donna Cipolloni
Tester staff writer
At Naval Air Station Patxuent River, eligible clients of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society have emergency assistance 24/7, thanks to the volunteer efforts of the installation’s Chief Petty Officer community.
“The Chief volunteers provide a caring and efficient way for service members to receive emergency financial assistance whenever the NMCRS office is closed and the emergency can’t wait until the next office day,” said Maureen Farrell, director of the Pax River NMCRS.
Normal hours for NMCRS are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday but, any time after that — including evenings, weekends and holidays — there’s a Chief on call to help.
“There are about 35 active-duty Chiefs and one retired Chief, Mike Barbour, who volunteer in the program,” explained Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Fitzpatrick, acting After Hours Chiefs chairman with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21. “We work on a rotational basis with each Chief remaining on-call for one week.”
When a Sailor or Marine with an after-hours emergency calls in to the installation’s quarterdeck at 301-342-1096, the service member manning the desk will check the watchbill to see which Chief is on rotation, then contact the Chief, regardless of the day or time. That Chief will then call back the individual in need, assess the situation, and begin to assist in whatever way necessary.
“Most of our calls usually involve funds for some sort of family emergency, such as illness or death,” Fitzpatrick explained. “We’ll assist by obtaining an airline ticket and helping to get their leave processed so they can leave as quickly as possible.”
The Chiefs undergo NMCRS training and provide not only a vital service but a caring voice as well.
“Many times, in case of emergency travel, the service members are on an emotional roller coaster and the Chiefs do more than write out a check,” Farrell said. “They can help an individual think through all the ins and outs of the emergency situation and make it just that much easier on them.”
Fitzpatrick said the Chiefs don’t mind being awakened in the middle of the night, or being called away from time with their families.
“What better way is there to help someone in need,” he asked. “We feel like we’re contributing on a more personal level.”