Edwards AFB airmen stitch masks instead of parachutes

Posted at 6:18 AM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 00:32:27-04

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — As we’ve reported, there are many at Edwards Air Force Base whose jobs require them to work in close quarters with other people. Those people need facemasks. But there is a shortage of masks. Airmen at the Makerspace Lab are 3D printing them, and another group is making them another way.

The Aircrew Flight Equipment group at the base would typically be constructing, repairing or inspecting life-saving equipment for the base’s pilots. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, instead of stitching up parachutes, they’re making face-covers.

“We started with maybe 25, and then we doubled that, and then just yesterday we’re making about 133 a day," said Technical Sgt. Roman Contreras.

When we 23ABC met up with the 10-person group, they airmen were filling a 600-mask order for the base’s maintenance group, and were getting ready to fill more orders. The masks mostly being made of salvaged parachute material and other cotton items like clothes donated from the Edwards community.

“The base commander didn’t come down and say you will do this, you will fix this problem. Instead we had airmen with a passion, and a desire to help," said Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, the base's Command Chief.

And it’s not just the airmen helping out. It’s their spouses too. Although not working on the base, many within the Edwards Air Force Base Spouses Network were some of the first to step up.

“They had already started kinda galvanizing together and making masks for the base populous before we started this process," said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Holmes.

The spouses are handling smaller orders while the big team handles the larger ones. Edwards officials saying Secretary of Defense Mark Esper encourages homemade masks for now until more supply becomes available. Until then, the production line at Edwards will continue.

"We’re open to helping out and we’re going to keep going until we’ve met that point of either something changes for the positive, or we no longer need to have masks hopefully," Contreras said.