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62nd OSS produces masks to reduce spread of COVID-19

Lt. Col. Chris Thackaberry, 62nd Operations Support Squadron commander, packages completed cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The masks were distributed first to Airmen who come in contact with aircrews most frequently such as maintainers and AFE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Lt. Col. Chris Thackaberry, 62nd Operations Support Squadron commander, packages completed cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment (AFE) fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The masks were distributed first to Airmen who come in contact with aircrews most frequently such as maintainers and AFE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Senior Master Sgt. Samuel Cole, 62nd Operations Support Squadron superintendent, reaches for a pile of metal strips taken from folders to produce cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The metal strips were sewn into the part of the mask that goes over the nose to make it more form-fitting and create more of a seal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Senior Master Sgt. Samuel Cole, 62nd Operations Support Squadron superintendent, reaches for a pile of metal strips taken from folders to produce cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The metal strips were sewn into the part of the mask that goes over the nose to make it more form-fitting and create more of a seal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Cotton fabric, normally used for aircraft seats, sits on a sewing machine before being sewn into a completed face mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The masks were distributed first to Airmen who come in contact with aircrews most frequently such as maintainers and AFE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Cotton fabric, normally used for aircraft seats, sits on a sewing machine before being sewn into a completed face mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The masks were distributed first to Airmen who come in contact with aircrews most frequently such as maintainers and AFE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Chief Master Sgt. Skip Hurley, 62nd Operations Group chief enlisted manager, poses with a completed cloth face mask in the 62nd Operations Support squadron aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. Mask production is not what the 62nd OSS AFE fabrication shop normally produces, but the unit innovatively adjusted to the mission requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Chief Master Sgt. Skip Hurley, 62nd Operations Group chief enlisted manager, poses with a completed cloth face mask in the 62nd Operations Support squadron aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. Mask production is not what the 62nd OSS AFE fabrication shop normally produces, but the unit innovatively adjusted to the mission requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Cedrick del Castillo, second from left, and Gerald Eystad, right, 62nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop technicians, work on making cloth face masks on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The masks were distributed first to Airmen who come in contact with aircrews most frequently such as maintainers and AFE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Cedrick del Castillo, second from left, and Gerald Eystad, right, 62nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment (AFE) fabrication shop technicians, work on making cloth face masks on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The masks were distributed first to Airmen who come in contact with aircrews most frequently such as maintainers and AFE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Members of the 62nd Operations Squadron aircrew flight equipment section, along with leaders from other Team McChord units, work to produce cloth face masks for mission-essential personnel at the AFE fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Members of the 62nd Operations Squadron aircrew flight equipment (AFE) section, along with leaders from other Team McChord units, work to produce cloth face masks for mission-essential personnel at the AFE fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Master Sgt. Yosuel Muniz, 62nd Operations Support Squadron first sergeant, marks where to cut a sheet of fabric to aid in the production of cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication (AFE) shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The 62nd OSS AFE fabrication shop normally produces the fabric for aircraft seats and parachutes, but adjusted their mission to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Master Sgt. Yosuel Muniz, 62nd Operations Support Squadron first sergeant, marks where to cut a sheet of fabric to aid in the production of cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication (AFE) shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The 62nd OSS AFE fabrication shop normally produces the fabric for aircraft seats and parachutes, but adjusted their mission to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Senior Master Sgt. Samuel Cole, 62nd Operations Support Squadron superintendent, uses a razor to carefully remove the metal strip from a folder to produce cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The metal strips were sewn into the part of the mask that goes over the nose to make it more form-fitting and create more of a seal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

Senior Master Sgt. Samuel Cole, 62nd Operations Support Squadron superintendent, uses a razor to carefully remove the metal strip from a folder to produce cloth face masks at the 62nd OSS aircrew flight equipment fabrication shop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 6, 2020. The metal strips were sewn into the part of the mask that goes over the nose to make it more form-fitting and create more of a seal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

With Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s recent guidance regarding the wear of face masks, the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, needed to a find a way to quickly produce masks for mission-essential personnel who are continuously working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airmen from the 62nd Operations Support Squadron’s aircrew flight equipment (AFE) section quickly stepped up and began producing cloth face masks beginning April 6.

The masks will be distributed first to those who regularly come into contact with aircrew such as AFE and maintenance Airmen who are on aircraft before and after landing.

Cedrick del Castillo, 62nd OSS AFE technician and fabrication shop foreman, along with other members of his shop designed and began producing masks from cotton material typically used on aircraft seats and cords used in parachutes.

“It’s a team effort, we want to get them to the people who need them,” del Castillo said. “I think we’ll knock out about 200 a day as long as there’s material available.”

They have an initial goal of making 1000 masks by April 10 and will continue production until there’s enough for all mission-essential Airmen at McChord Field.

“We made about 60 masks in the first three hours, and we’ll get more efficient as we keep working at it,” said Lt. Col. Chris Thackaberry, 62nd OSS commander.

Mask production is not what the fabrication shop is used to producing, but the unit has innovatively adjusted to the current mission requirements.

The defense secretary’s order states that anyone on Department of Defense property must wear a cloth face mask when social distancing is not possible or practical.

"Putting masks on the Airmen who are regularly around aircrew helps prevent the aircrew from possibly being exposed to COVID-19," Thackaberry said. "We are taking a lot of extra precautions to ensure the mission still gets done."