May 23, 2019

Naval unit prepares for overseas duty

“The biggest fear is the unknown,” said naval Cmdr. Ralph B. Richardson. Armed conflict is hard to understand and grasp for all people — especially families, he added.

Richardson is the commanding officer of Naval Reserve Military Sealift Command Unit 201. Twenty-three of the unit’s 24 members were placed on active duty and reported Sunday to the Naval Reserve Center in Bangor.

The unit is scheduled to depart Boston for Naples, Italy, on Friday.

Though the unit’s members have been to Naples before, the transition from active reserve to active duty is a disruption of the men and women’s daily lives, Richardson told reporters during a press conference at the reserve center Sunday.

“I found myself just last week doing all the things that you normally do before the snow flies, getting everything picked up and put away so you can find it next spring,” he said.

“The Navy does a very good job with the legal aspects but what became apparent to me was, `Who gets to mow the lawn?”‘ Richardson continued. “You have to get your life in order at home.”

Military Sealift Command Unit 201’s primary mission is port services and cargo handling; the unit comprises 24 reservists. Sealift Command units provide sealift support for strategic mobilization of deployed military forces wherever needed, according to Richardson.

There are more than 7,000 selected reservists located at Navy Reserve Centers in Bangor, Augusta and Portland. Total Naval Reserve strength is more than 235,000 persons with 153,000 in selected reserve units. The remaining reservists are assigned to individual, non-drilling units.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Moskevich Jr., commanding officer of the reserve center, said the center will act as a family support anchor, trying to minimize Navy-related disruptions, such as dependent medical care.

“We’re going to try to provide as much support as possible for the families of the service members,” he said.

Members of Unit 201 received the telephone call early Sunday morning. The first reservist to be placed on active duty arrived at the naval center at 6 a.m.

The processing procedure, which included medical exams and legal consultation, was termed a “paperwork show” by one man headed to Naples.

Lt. Alan Whittemore arrived at the center shortly before 11 a.m. He said he expects that “being a part of it” will be challenging and exciting.

Whittemore, 32, of Brewer, will leave behind his wife and 9-month-old daughter. He said his wife was apprehensive, but he hopes family and neighbors will help see his family through while he is away.

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