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."