In a five-part series, feature stories will be based on families of service members and daily life on the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport during the worldwide COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
by Ryan Labadens, NCBC Public Affairs
Throughout cinematic history in the pandemic genre of movies like Contagion or World War Z, a hero scientist typical rises to the occasion through cleverness or methodical hard work.
For The Naval Construction Battalion Center, there have been many heroes across the base from the commissary cashier to the security guard standing tall at the gate. During this evolution of COVID-19, a previously little known household name assigned to NCBC is also burning the midnight oil to keep everyone safe. That selfless performer is Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Paul Groseclose, who serves as the sole preventive medicine technician at Naval Branch Health Clinic (NBHC) Gulfport onboard Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport.
“My job is to advise and recommend to the installation commanding officer all matters pertaining to environmental health and communicable disease,” said Groseclose, who noted the communicable disease that has most recently been front and center in his line of work is COVID-19.
Groseclose, who is from Indianapolis, Ind., enlisted in the Navy in 2001 shorty after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He decided on the Navy because that’s what his grandfather had been in back during World War Two. Originally, Groseclose wanted to join as a master-at-arms, but at the time there were no openings in that rating. So since both of Groseclose’s parents were physical therapists, he figured he’d follow in their footsteps and choose a medical career field as a hospital corpsman. He eventually chose the PMT specialty after his lead petty officer got him interested in it.
According to the U.S. Navy website Navy Cool, preventive medicine technicians assist medical department officers in the performance of preventive medicine and occupational health programs for Navy and Marine Corps forces ashore and afloat. One of the main duties they perform is epidemiological investigations and reporting, such as Disease Alert Reports. These particular investigations and reports deal with the incidence, distribution and control of diseases, like that of COVID-19.
“I found out about [COVID-19] initially like everybody else did, on the news regarding what was going on in China, and I personally saw it as having the potential for a public health threat to the United States,” said Groseclose. “So I paid really close attention to the what the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization were saying from the beginning about travel to and from the country, and I was just staying as up to date as I could on all the guidance given from the CDC and making sure that I communicate that directly with my chain of command and the installation.”
Groseclose talked about what the staff at the Naval Branch Health Clinic (NBHC) Gulfport itself is doing currently onboard NCBC regarding COVID-19.
“At the clinic, our physicians are evaluating patients and, if they meet the criteria for [COVID-19] testing, then we’re taking samples and sending those samples to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base via Keesler Medical Center, and then we are educating the patients who are coming in on quarantine criteria for themselves and those who were in close contact with them,” said Groseclose, who noted that the clinic treats the patients based upon their symptoms, prescribing what they might need to help make them more comfortable while they’re in quarantine and the body is fighting off the virus.
During this time, Groseclose, in coordination with the base’s public health officer, continues to act as an advisor to the director of the clinic and the base’s commanding officer in hopes that the least number of people as possible will contract COVID-19 at the same time.
“I’m trying to help make sure that [our military forces are still] ready by ensuring that the least amount of people get sick,” said Groseclose. “So for example if I get a report from a base tenant command that someone went and got tested outside of our facility, then I’ll reach out to the person who was tested and ask them who they’ve had close contact with, what was their travel history before the travel ban was in place, and just get a history of their last 14 days to see if the patient knows if they’ve been in contact with somebody [who may have been infected]. And taking that information, I make a risk assessment for their close contacts and advise a quarantine for those people as well.”
Groseclose noted that he advises people who are in quarantine in their homes to keep practicing social distancing and to stay preferably in their own bedrooms away from family members as much as possible so as not to potentially expose any other people.
He then continued, “And any time that they feel they need to seek medical attention… and their symptoms get worse to where they don’t feel like they can handle this just staying at home, then they should call their physician immediately and get seen, or if that’s afterhours call the emergency room.”
Since Groseclose is the only PMT onboard NCBC, he said that in addition to the NBHC Gulfport staff he has to work closely with the Public Health team down the road at Keelser AFB in Biloxi, Miss., as well as Navy medical personnel at the facilities in Pascagoula and Stennis Space Center to communicate information so that they can work together in keeping track of patients.
“These are contacts that I’ve made throughout the years that just so happen to be there, and we pass information back and forth since we’re all kind of one big family,” said Groseclose, emphasizing the joint effort in tracking and fighting the spread of COVID-19. “I am happy to have the support of everybody… because we have a large portion of our dependents who go to Keesler for their medical care.”
His advice to people who even possibly suspected they might be sick with COVID-19 echoed that of many other medical professionals regarding going out anywhere or coming in to work – advice that was short and to the point: “Stay home if you’re sick.”
If you’re an eligible patron of NBHC Gulfport and want more information about getting tested for COVID-19 there, call the clinic onboard NCBC Gulfport at 228-871-2810 or 228-871-4033.
(Additional information for this article was gathered from the Navy Cool website https://www.cool.navy.mil/usn/enlisted/hm_pre_m_tec.htm)