AFE face-off with COVID by making masks

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman
  • 2nd Bomb Wing
As Barksdale’s health protection measures increased in response to COVID-19, face masks are now required to be worn inside the base exchange, commissary and other base facilities. With Airmen being restricted to shop only on base, the need for face masks has increased.

Stepping in to fulfill that need are the Airmen of the 2nd Operations Support Squadron’s aircrew flight equipment shop, who have rallied together to produce and collect nearly 1,000 masks for Barksdale personnel.

“A need was identified by leadership, and thankfully we have the most skilled and capable Airmen in the 2nd OSS for this project,” said Capt. Julian Gluck, 2nd OSS AFE flight commander and B-52H Stratofortress aircraft commander.

Dealing with everything from helmets to parachutes, Airmen of the AFE career field are taught how to sew as a part of their technical training. That skill is used to repair parachute harnesses, drag chute assemblies and aircrew equipment and is now also being used to keep fellow Airmen healthy.

“We were asked if we could help out and said, ‘sure, let’s do it,’” said Staff Sgt. Justina West, 2nd OSS AFE apprentice. “Sewing seems like a small skill, but it can make a big difference as we’re seeing now.”

The need for masks led to an increased need in mask making material. To work through that issue, donation bins were set up where base residents can donate unessential materials, such as t-shirts and fabric, to be used for masks.

“Alongside the donated materials from around the base, we are also receiving donations from a newly established network of community partners who are helping make masks and donate fabric,” Gluck said. “Together, the community and Barksdale are being brought closer together to help our Air Force during this pandemic.”

While the fight against COVID-19 continues, Barksdale’s B-52 mission doesn’t stop and neither does the role AFE plays in getting the mission done.

“While we are making masks, we still have AFE Airmen working regular operations every day,” said Airman 1st Class Jack Tisdale, 2nd OSS AFE journeyman.

“It doesn’t take away from the mission; we just pile it on top,” West added.

The distribution of masks is available by request for Barksdale personnel. Donation bins for masks and materials have also been placed at the entrance of the Barksdale base exchange and in The Sewing Shop in Shreveport.

“I'm very proud of our AFE members and everyone in the 2nd Bomb Wing and local community for rallying to help in this cause,” Gluck said. “It is a great feeling knowing that our AFE flight is continuing operations for our nation's most important missions with the B-52, and still helping Airmen throughout the base be healthy and safe throughout this crisis.”