UF graduate spearheads facemask production for crews of Navy aircraft carriers and squadrons

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2020) Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Airman Paula Guanco, from Santos, Brazil, sews medical-grade cloth face masks in the aviation paraloft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2020. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is conducting operations in U.S. 6th Fleet to support maritime security operations in international waters, alongside our allies and partners. Truman has spent at least one day underway for 30 of the last 34 months, in direct support of global security around the world. (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kelsey Trinh/Released)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2020) Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Airman Paula Guanco, from Santos, Brazil, sews medical-grade cloth face masks in the aviation paraloft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2020. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is conducting operations in U.S. 6th Fleet to support maritime security operations in international waters, alongside our allies and partners. Truman has spent at least one day underway for 30 of the last 34 months, in direct support of global security around the world. (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kelsey Trinh/Released)

NORFOLK (NNS) — Sailors assigned aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and squadrons are combining forces to produce fabric face coverings to safeguard their shipmates.  

The idea to produce these fabric face coverings was spearheaded by Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) Force Surgeon Capt. Kimberly Toone.

Toone, a graduate of the University of Florida, College of Medicine, saw media coverage of her alma mater coordinating the voluntary production of face coverings for health care workers to help reduce the backlog of vital resources. The masks are in production aboard aircraft carriers and squadrons as an initial protective measure until other face masks are made available.

The material being used to create the fabric face coverings is made of medical grade material that is used to wrap surgical sets for use in the carrier’s operating room and has the ability to block aerosols and droplets, including water, bacteria and other particles.

“While the masks that the Sailors will be making are not a replacement for, or an equivalent to N95 respirators they do provide that protective barrier for our Sailors,” said Toone.  “I’m excited about this process as it highlights the connection between my medical school family and my Navy family at a time when it is so important for all of us to work together.”

The requirement for fabric face coverings was mandated by the U.S. Navy on April 5 for all military, Navy civilian and contractors as well as family members while on DoD property, installations and facilities when maintaining proper social distancing between people isn’t possible.

Sailors aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), USS George Washington (CVN 73), USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), led by aircrew survival equipmentman, have started to make fabric face coverings for their crews.  

Some of the primary duties associated with a Navy aircrew survival equipmentman include maintaining and repairing parachutes, search and rescue equipment, and flight clothing— duties that often include sewing.

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 2nd Class Bianca Taylor, of Fitzgerald, Georgia, assigned to the John C. Stennis, is one of several Sailors sewing masks for her fellow Sailors aboard her ship.

“It feels great to have an impact on the Sailors during this time, to keep them protected,” said Taylor.

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Airman Devonta Drum, of Raleigh, North Carolina, also assigned to the John C. Stennis said helping his fellow Sailors is exactly why he enlisted into the U.S. Navy.

“This is actually what I signed up for, honestly it’s what I’m here for, and I’m honored to be in this position to do this and help out my fellow brothers in arms,” said Drum. “There’s more to it than us protecting ourselves, it’s for us protecting civilians as well. It’s overall what we are here for. This is what we do as the Navy in general. We protect and serve our country; this is part of our job no matter what.”

The fabric face coverings will initially go to watchstanders in various departments on board the ship and then given to all Sailors assigned. Currently, Stennis is outputting 30 per day, with an expected increase to nearly 50 a day by next week. The Sailors have created an assembly line; while several sew, others are cutting fabric and putting the pieces and parts together to aid in creating the fabric face coverings as quickly as possible.

Capt. Jeff Chown, director, Aviation Materiel Readiness at CNAL coordinated the production of fabric face coverings for all aircraft carriers and squadrons assigned on the East Coast, and provided the guidance for counterparts at Commander, Naval Air Forces and their respective aircraft carriers and squadrons on the West Coast both deployed and in port.   

“I am very proud of the efforts by the maintenance officers and their Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department teams aboard our aircraft carriers here in Norfolk and around the fleet,” said Chown. “Their willingness to lean forward in this effort provides key resources that are needed on aircraft carriers and flight lines and allows our Sailors to focus on mission accomplishment.”

Harry S. Truman Maintenance Officer, Cmdr. Andres Pico, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, discussed the impact his department will have as they continue to produce the fabric face coverings.

“AIMD often works on equipment critical to safety of flight and the lives of aircrew.  It’s a great feeling to extend that service to the crew,” said Pico, who added that applying the skills of his Sailors to contribute to the larger overall mission is important.

“When we’re faced with a common enemy of all humanity, it’s natural and essential that we band together as one and use our unique training and talents to combat this scourge in every way possible. With a dedicated all-hands effort we can stave off this virus and continue to keep us and our ship ready,” said Pico.

Department of Navy guidance for face coverings must meet the following requirements:

Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face and allow breathing without restriction; cover the face only from nose to chin; must secure in place with ties or ear loops; and any cloth mask must have multiple layers of fabric.

The guidance by the U.S. Navy follows voluntary guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 3 that advises people to wear cloth or fabric face coverings over their nose and mouth in public settings such as grocery stores and pharmacies, both to protect themselves and others.

The CDC said these recommended coverings are not surgical masks or N95 respirators, which are in short supply and need to be reserved for health care workers. The level of protection that N95 respirators provide is generally not necessary for the general public.​ The CDC continues to stress the importance of maintaining 6 feet of social distancing.

Directions to make your own face coverings can be found on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

The latest DoD policies can be found at: https://www.defense.gov/explore/spotlight/coronavirus.

CNAL is responsible for six nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 54 aircraft squadrons, 1,200 aircraft and 50,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel based on the East Coast of the United States.  It provides combat ready, sustainable naval air forces with the right personnel, properly trained and equipped, with a focus on readiness, operational excellence, interoperability, safety, and efficient resourcing.

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