ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Col. Matthew Nafus, a Marine Reservist in Brighton, was called into the New York City area shortly after COVID-19 began its attack to help coordinate FEMA’s response.
He brought to the effort years of experience and tested leadership.
Nafus, a lawyer by day, returned home recently and sat down with Adam Chodak to talk about his most recent mission and why keeps going on them.
Adam Chodak: What was the atmosphere like among your men and women when you got there?
Matthew Nafus: When I first got there it was a little tense honestly because there’s a rush to get help there, to get assistance, primarily medical assistance into NYC and also an apprehension about what is this going to be like, nobody knows how this is going to turn out and frankly we haven’t had a pandemic in like 100 years so there was a good amount of apprehension.
AC: What is your overall takeaway from what you saw in NYC and NJ to the response there in general?
MN: In general I thought the response was very good. We were able to get about 3,000 DOD personnel, active duty and reservists, primarily medical personnel, doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists, corpsmen and medics and put them in right away into the area, into the point where there was the greatest need.
AC: Stepping back way back, why did you get into the military in the first place?
MN: I always wanted to serve, it was always something that interested me, I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to see the world, travel experience something different.
AC: But you also saw a lot of things that a lot of us don’t even want to think about…
MN: You see some things that can be very troubling and you do your best to put that aside and concentrate on the mission and get the job done
AC: How have you dealt with that over the years?
MN: Honestly, one of the ways I’ve found to deal with the stress in Iraq or being in this situation where you’re trying to get assistance in the middle of the pandemic is just doing some things that you enjoy, exercise, get out and enjoy it for a certain period of time, that really helps quite a bit.
AC: And how have you been able to do that with a family? This is a different type of career.
MN: It is a strain on my family. My wife and daughter, they’ve really been very good about it. You have to balance these things, I have to balance 2 jobs and a family and you just do the best you can.
AC: I always like to ask people this in positions like yours. What specific qualities in a leader are you looking for?
MN: In my mind a good leader has integrity and honesty and is forthright, leads by example. It’s important to me that you lead from the front. You don’t ask anything of those that you lead that you wouldn’t do yourself. For example, we’re down in the NYC area providing this assistance, you don’t do that from Rochester, NY, you go to the area. If you’re going to ask those doctors and nurses to go into NYC to Newark, you go in there with him.