Romanian, Georgian, U.S. and Ukrainian flags are lowered signaling the end of Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine, July 10, 2021.

Romanian, Georgian, U.S. and Ukrainian flags are lowered signaling the end of Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine, July 10, 2021. U.S. Navy / Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Richard Hoffner

The Navy is Updating its Contact List of Sailors, Employees and Families, in Eastern Europe

As tension grows over Russia’s threats to Ukraine, the roster could help mount an evacuation.

The U.S. Navy is asking personnel, employees, and their families in 11 European countries to update a master contact list with their information—a precaution that could help the service evacuate its people should Russia invade Ukraine.

An administrative message published Feb. 4 orders Navy people and dependents in Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine to ensure their contact information and location is accurate. These countries border Ukraine or Russia, except for Bulgaria, which borders the Black Sea where Russia has a naval fleet.

Active and Reserve sailors, Navy civilians, non-appropriated fund and Navy Exchange employees, and their families are being asked to check in no later than Feb. 16 and input their current information in the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System or NFAAS, which allows the Navy to account for sailors and their families “affected and/or scattered by a wide-spread catastrophic event.”

In a Tuesday statement, U.S. Naval Forces Europe said the administrative message is just about verifying contact information and not a signal of something else happening in the region.

“NFAAS provides valuable information to all levels of the Navy chain of command, allowing commanders to make strategic decisions ensuring the health and safety of our personnel. This is not an indication or prediction of future events, but rather a prudent measure to ensure the systems accurately account for our personnel across Eastern Europe,” the statement said.

But this step by the Navy appears to be an effort to take necessary precautions in case an evacuation order is given. The administrative message tells U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central to be prepared to “transition accountability reporting to the National Tracking System (NTS) in the event U.S. European Command (EUCOM) activates the system for theater personnel accountability.” The tracking system is used to establish a database for non-combatant evacuation operations.

U.S. officials are concerned that time is running out for diplomatic efforts to deter another Russian invasion of Ukraine. Over the weekend, White House officials said the Russian military has about 70 percent of the forces it would need to fully invade the country. President Joe Biden said Monday that it would be wise for American civilians in Ukraine to leave.

“I’d hate to see them get caught in a crossfire if in fact they did invade,” he said. 

During last summer’s hectic withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. officials struggled to understand how many Americans wanted to leave as troops withdrew. U.S. citizens abroad may, but most need not, register their whereabouts and contact information with the State Department.