TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
“When the United States began to be impacted by Coronavirus, we knew there must be something we can do to help,” said Airman 1st Class Stephen Criss, a software tester for the 552nd Air Control Networks Squadron.
In response to COVID-19, the 552nd ACNS took their own initiative to hand sew more than 100 masks and 3-D print more than 48 face shields for the Oklahoma City community.
“Oklahoma gives back to us Airmen in so many ways and is such a welcoming home-away-from-home,” said Airman 1st Class Sarah Talley, a database technician for the 552nd ACNS. “This is our chance to give back.”
Despite the high production numbers, the effort began less than two weeks ago on March 27.
“This is the latest example of the impressive quality of our Airmen and their families today,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Kettles, commander, 552nd ACNS. “They saw the community in crisis, took the initiative to find a creative solution and aggressively worked to help our local community, which has given so much to Tinker.”
Sew and Sews, Inc., donated all of the cloth used for this effort and the face shields are made on an Airman’s personal 3-D printer. While the 3-D printer is running 24 hours a day, the volunteer group has created “take home kits” for those who would like to assist with mask making.
“Each face shield takes about one and a half hours to make,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Goyer, a software test supervisor for the ACNS. “What’s unique about them is we designed the frame so it only needs a three-hole punched overhead transparency sheet. Rather than throwing away the device after every use, the cost-friendly transparency sheet can be thrown away and the frame can be sanitized since the two units disconnect from one another.”
After creating the masks and shields, the team decided to donate the products to a local emergency room and hospice center. One of the centers had zero face shields left, while the other only had three.
“Seeing the doctor’s face when we dropped off the materials was priceless,” said Goyer. “Being able to connect with the community and come together in this time has been a rewarding experience.”
In the upcoming weeks, the group has a goal of creating 200 masks per week and 50 face shields, should the need still be required and the donated materials are still available. The volunteer group may also shift who receives their donations as the Department of Defense recently released a new policy on facemask wear for military members.
“Originally, we didn’t know the need for personal protective equipment around the community,” said Criss. “But now that we do know the need, we aren’t going to stop.”
This volunteer effort is led by Criss, Goyer, Talley and Staff Sgt. Jason Gillo from the 552nd ACNS. The group includes an additional 16 volunteers comprised of Airmen and spouses.
(No endorsement is intended with this article. Donations were not received as a military entity, but as select volunteers wanting to help COVID-19).