KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. —

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes inroads in the United States military officials at the highest levels adopted new Centers for Disease Control guidance to require military members to wear masks when required to work inside a six-foot radius of others.

The Department of Defense sent this requirement to bases including, Kingsley Field, April 6, with the expectation that it would be fully adopted within eight days.


Thanks to some quick thinking on the part of senior leadership Airmen at Kingsley Field all have masks available to them one day later. An unconventional approach coupled with a willingness to pitch in and help saw more than 615 masks created from whole cloth—not to mention old ABUs, flight suits and a few worn out OCPs as well.

“It’s extremely impressive how Team Kingsley came together to get this done,” said Col. Brad Orgeron, the 173rd Fighter Wing vice commander. He went on to describe the process of finding a design that met CDC requirements, namely controlling spray through the fabric, which was also feasible for Airmen to construct quickly with material on-hand.

“Everybody pitched in to help,” said Lt. Col. Micah Lambert, the 173rd Maintenance Group commander. “We did an all-call on the app and Col. Edwards sent out an email saying ‘we’re gonna produce these tomorrow,’ and we went after it, and every shop you walked around folks were doing these “arts and crafts” projects—making these 10×6 squares of ABU material or felt.”

The maintenance conference room table was stacked with old ABUs as Airmen worked to break them down into cloth squares suitable for sewing into a mask. Downstairs the same thing was happening as a number of crew chiefs worked with razor blades to cut fabric squares.

Across the tarmac in the Aircrew Flight Equipment office the sound of sewing machines marked the next phase of construction where the squares were sewn together to form the protective mouth and nose cover.

“I’ve done about 100 so far,” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Howard, an AFE technician, shortly after 11 a.m. between setting down a sewn piece and grabbing two more pieces of cloth.

Several reasons made is necessary for the base to undertake this project, the supply system is overwhelmed with mask requests as is the civilian supply chain, making that a dead-end.

Although the base has some mask reserves, these need to be preserved for medical staff as well as community support as the Oregon Air National Guard remains ready to respond to the state’s call should the crisis worsen.

Finally, the wing’s mission is to provide trained air superiority pilots to the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard and the sooner these masks are ready the sooner the base returns  that core mission.

“It’s going to be great tomorrow to hear the sound of jets flying in the Klamath Basin tomorrow as we get back to flying—our day-to-day business,” said Oregon.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anita Hysell, of the 173rd Medical Group at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore., stands with security forces Airmen at the front gate to administer screening questions to any individual seeking entrance to the base, April 8, 2020. She is wearing her mask created by Kingsley Field members following a DoD directive requiring masks for people required to work more closely than social distancing requires—inside a six-foot radius. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson

 

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenny Shearer, the 173rd Aircrew Flight Equipment superintendent, sews masks together as part of a local solution to supply masks to Airmen who are required to work in close proximity to others, April 7, 2020. The 173rd Fighter Wing senior leadership convened on Monday, April 8 to determine how to comply with a DoD directive requiring the masks, 24-hours later volunteers like Shearer created more than 615 masks for wing personnel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

 

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Ingerson, a 173rd Fighter Wing Crew Chief, uses a razor blade to cut cloth from old uniforms in order to create masks for Airmen required to work in close proximity to one another, April 6, 2020. The 173rd Fighter Wing senior leadership convened on Monday, April 8 to determine how to comply with a DoD directive requiring the masks, 24-hours later volunteers like Shearer created more than 615 masks for wing personnel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

 

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles Fleek, a 173rd Fighter Wing crew chief, cuts pieces of cloth from old uniforms in order to create masks for Airmen required to work in close proximity to one another, April 6, 2020. The 173rd Fighter Wing senior leadership convened on Monday, April 8 to determine how to comply with a DoD directive requiring the masks, 24-hours later volunteers like Shearer created more than 615 masks for wing personnel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

 

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenny Shearer, the 173rd Aircrew Flight Equipment superintendent, sews masks together as part of a local solution to supply masks to Airmen who are required to work in close proximity to others, April 7, 2020. The 173rd Fighter Wing senior leadership convened on Monday, April 8 to determine how to comply with a DoD directive requiring the masks, 24-hours later volunteers like Shearer created more than 615 masks for wing personnel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

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