An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

AFE, USO make masks for Team March

  • Published
  • By Linda Welz
  • 452nd Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. — Members of the 452nd Operations Support Squadron’s Aircrew Flight Equipment team and the USO answered the call to make masks for the base populace in support of COVID-19 local and Defense Department directives requiring face coverings to be worn on all federal installations when the six-foot social distancing rule cannot be followed.

The team began by purchasing 100 percent cotton sheets from a local retailer so they could begin mass production right away. They also disassembled portions of 550-parachute cords they had in stock and used the insides for mask ties.

They are currently producing 50 masks per day with minimum staffing, while continuing their mission of supporting nine KC-135s and 12 C-17s at March Air Reserve Base, including the alert missions. They hope to increase to 75 per day soon.

“We are truly appreciative of the AFE shop taking the time and effort to help out our Airmen,” said Capt. Liliane Elawar, 452nd Maintenance Group’s executive officer. “With the shortage of supplies, they’re making it possible for our Airmen to feel safe and protected at work during these unprecedented times.”

The AFE team has completed and delivered more than 300 masks to more than 10 different locations on base. Additional masks are being made available to all Team March units and mission partners as fast as the AFE is able to make them.

“There are times when we cannot maintain the six-foot plus distance requirement and have to come together for a task, (or)…when we go to a customer service-based office/building we are wearing our masks to ensure compliance and sensitivity to the staff there,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Villa, Fourth Air Force command chief. “Members love the masks because they are soft, can be washed, and can be fitted accordingly.”

Villa said she greatly appreciates the creativity and dedication of the AFE Airmen who made these masks happen. 

“It's important we are mindful of the seriousness of COVID-19 and the importance of protecting each other from this virus,” Villa said. “We owe it to each other, our Air Force to remain healthy (and) our nation is counting on each and every one of us!”

After the initial delivery, word started spreading throughout the base that masks are being produced, so the demand is increasing quickly.

“Lt. Col. (David) Sarmiento, a chaplain from the 163rd Attack Wing, heard about it and stopped by this week to pick up 25 masks for his staff who are supporting a state mission to provide food to California residents,” said Master Sgt. Adam Perez-Morin, 452nd OSS.

As the word gets out, the demand rises. Working around the clock, AFE staff learned that quick adaptation is key during mass production.

“Maintainers cannot have any ties on their masks, so we are focusing on making gator-style masks for them,” Perez-Morin said. “One of our guys is in the process of procuring material for those this week to make the 350 masks requested.”

The AFE team weren’t the only members of Team March stepping up to provide assistance. Members of the Bob Hope USO at March ARB volunteered to make masks.

“I already had folks making them so I asked how many she needed,” said DJ Stanhope, director for the Bob Hope chapter of the USO. “We have dozens making masks, including other community groups working alongside us, and are hoping by early next week to deliver our goal of the first 4,000 to General Coburn.”

Having their volunteers stand down from the traditional method of providing for service members and their families has been discouraging for some of them, Stanhope said, which is why making masks is a welcomed change to the norm.

For the most part the mask fabric is being donated while other items, like elastic (which is often sold out or limited), is being ordered online. They even found some USO bandanas that are being turned into masks.

“If you want to donate to the USO in their efforts to support March ARB, visit www.bobhopeuso.org and click the red donate button,” Stanhope said. “All donations are tax deductible and greatly appreciated.”

In addition to mask-making, some volunteers have been very enthusiastic about providing virtual content through their USO Facebook page, www.facebook.com/bobhopeuso.

“Volunteers are using Facebook to read books to kids, teach crafts, and stay connected with members and their families,” Stanhope said. “They are hoping that through this they are able to impact the military community and impact them in a positive way, which is our mission.”