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Donations of masks help Arnold AFB battle coronavirus

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett

Donated masks are helping keep members of the Arnold Air Force Base community as safe as possible in the face of the coronavirus threat.

Both N95 masks and reusable cloths masks have been donated to the base.

Fifty N95 masks were donated to Arnold AFB Fire and Emergency Services, by a retired member of the Air Force and former base employee. FES operations include an ambulance service. Crews respond to emergencies on base and provide mutual aid off base.

“We greatly appreciate the donation,” said Gary Horn, an FES assistant chief. “I don’t know how many times I thanked him that day when I picked the masks up.”

FES has also been contacted by a local distillery to arrange a donation of a case of disinfectant.

Master Sgt. Joshua Suggs, Arnold AFB Medical Aid Station branch chief, said the cloth masks will be placed at the entrance to the Commissary to permit beneficiaries that do not have their own mask to enter the facility.

Arnold Engineering Development Complex Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty, in line with the Defense Commissary Agency’s guidance, issued a directive that effective April 10 all Base Exchange and Commissary patrons must wear face coverings while in the facilities.

“I love it anytime someone offers to step up and volunteer or donate something. More so during a time of crisis,” Suggs said. “It’s heartwarming to see people are thinking of others, even during these scary times.

“I would like to point out that there wasn’t even a request for the masks. People heard about the requirement to wear face coverings on base and they started offering assistance. To me, that is awesome.”

A donation of 50 cloth masks came from a retired member of the military.

Twenty-eight cloth masks were made and donated April 10 for commissary patrons by a pair of the Air Force’s very own youth. All 28 masks were used by patrons within the first hour of business. Hearing this, the youth sewed 19 more and donated them to the Commissary and Base Exchange on April 11.

AEDC Test Operations Division Chief Col. Keith Roessig’s daughters, Karina and Kolleen, learned about an effort called the Million Mask Challenge from one of their former Girl Scout leaders.

“We were looking at the Million Mask Challenge and Med Threads Facebook pages and thought it was a really great way to help our community,” said eighth-grader Karina.

They started with making masks for a nursing home in Tullahoma. They then made them for children living in Arnold Village, the on-base housing. After that, they learned of Geraghty’s directive that all military members wear a cloth mask “when on base in spaces where even transient incursion of the 6-foot bubble is likely.” So they added making masks, in the permitted colors, for the military members to their list.

Base Exchange and the Commissary patrons were added to their list, after hearing of the directive for wearing masks while in those facilities.

“It feels good to know that I’m doing something productive and helping people stay safe,” said sixth-grader Kolleen.

The pair began sewing the masks April 2 and had made 101 masks as of April 10. They have been making 15-20 a day with plans to make 200 total.

Their next recipients will be overseas military communities in Qatar and Japan that reached out through the Million Mask Challenge to request masks for their communities. The girls have pledged 30 masks to each community.

The effort is also their Girl Scout Silver Award project. If you would like to join their effort, the pattern they are using is posted on the AEDC/ Arnold Spouse Facebook page.

“I love the fact that they see a need in their community and are helping to address it; and actually getting to see the impact in the community in real time,” said Kristeen Roessig, their mother.

It is important to note that using a cloth mask is not intended to prevent the wearer from getting sick, but may help prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others. The need for primary mitigation efforts, including social distancing, is not eliminated by wearing a mask.