MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – Fleet Readiness Center East is taking every precaution to ensure the health and well-being of its employees during the coronavirus pandemic by manufacturing cloth face coverings for employees who cannot effectively maintain social distancing because of their work environments.
The Department of Defense has made wearing cloth face coverings mandatory in areas on military installations where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
The cloth face coverings manufactured by FRCE conform to CDC guidelines and have made it to production spaces. An all-volunteer team was able to make about 200 coverings per day, and turned out nearly 1,800 in a little over a week’s time.
“It’s incredible – and inspirational – to see what our team can accomplish when they put their minds to it,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “We have a number of volunteers who have come together to make this happen and I couldn’t be more proud of the effort.”
The Fabric Shop team consists of seven volunteers, many who had no sewing experience but raised their hands to learn and help out.
“We received the cloth face covering blueprint from the CDC’s recommendation, so it was just a matter of getting the materials and setting up the production line,” said David Rose, the depot’s
Engines and Dynamic Components Division director. “We had to research what materials were recommended by the CDC and from there were able to buy in bulk, so we had enough to outfit our present workforce.
“These volunteers worked overtime to meet a production goal of 200 face coverings per day based on our available resources,” said Rose. “Thanks to their hard work, we now have enough for our employees.”
The production process consisted of laying out the rolls of material, measuring the templates against the fabric, cutting out the shapes and bungee cords for the ear loops, then transferring the pieces to be assembled, packaged and delivered to the workforce.
“There was most definitely a learning curve in the beginning,” said Karen Christensen, who led the team and is an upholsterer by trade. “However, we had a fantastic team and we helped each other out as much as possible. Once you get the hang of it, it’s just a matter of repetition.”
For others on the team, knowing how important these cloth face coverings are to the mission helped drive a sense of urgency in the project.
“I know we needed to get these in the hands of the people who work here,” said Cpl. Dylin S. Contrabasso, a flight equipment technician at FRCE who made face coverings for the depot’s Marines after watching a video online. “We fix components and aircraft every day, and if someone has the virus, they could pass it to someone else and shut down the whole production line.”
While a sense of urgency may be the driving force for some, for others making the cloth face coverings is a step toward getting back to normal.
“These cloth face coverings are supposed to help slow the spread of the virus,” said Christensen. “It’s only a matter of time before we beat this virus and every precautionary measure we take now will make a difference later. I’m proud to be part of this team and effort.”
FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $835 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.