Aircrew Flight Equipment/USO sew masks for Team March

  • Published
  • By Ms. Linda Welz
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs

Aircrew Flight Equipment team

AFE team members stepped up by purchasing 100 percent cotton sheets from a local retailer so they could begin mass production right away. They disassembled some 550-parachute cord they had in stock and used the insides for mask ties. Members made masks on equipment primarily meant for life support activities. Each mask is created with three layers of sheet material sewn together.

Initially they used two different templates, however, the one with a higher section at the nose took more time to produce than they wanted, so they opted to continue with a
rectangular version, which allows them to produce quantity without compromising quality. They are currently producing 50 masks per day with minimum staffing, while
continuing their mission of supporting nine KC-135s and 12 C-17s at March Field, including the alert missions. They hope to increase to 75 per day soon.

“We are truly appreciative of the AFE shop taking the time and effort to help out our Airmen,” said Capt. Liliane Elawar, executive officer, 452nd Maintenance Group, who
was a mask recipient. “With the shortage of supplies, they’re making it possible for our Airmen to feel safe and protected at work during these unprecedented times.”

They have completed and delivered more than 300 masks so far to more than 10 different locations on base. Additional masks are being made available to all Team March units and mission partners as they are able to provide with material on hand.

“There are times when we cannot maintain the six-foot plus distance requirement and have to come together for a task, (or)…when we go to a customer service-based
office/building we are wearing our masks to ensure compliance and sensitivity to the staff there,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Villa, command chief, Headquarters, Fourth Air Force, and a mask recipient. “Members love the masks because they are soft, can be washed, and can be fitted accordingly.”

Villa said she greatly appreciates the creativity and dedication of the AFE Airmen who made these masks happen. 

“It's important we are mindful of the seriousness of COVID-19 and the importance of protecting each other from this virus,” Villa said. “We owe it to each other, our Air Force to remain healthy (and) our nation is counting on each and every one of us!”

After the initial delivery, word started spreading throughout the base that masks are being produced, so the demand is increasing quickly.

“Lt. Col. (David) Sarmiento, a chaplain from the 163rd Attack Wing, heard about it and stopped by this week to pick up 25 masks for his staff who are supporting a state mission to provide food to California residents,” said Master Sgt. Adam Perez-Morin, 452 OSS.

As the word gets out, the demand rises. Working around the clock, AFE staff learned that quick adaptation is key during mass production.

“Maintainers cannot have any ties on their masks, so we are focusing on making gator-style masks for them,” Perez-Morin said. “One of our guys is in the process of procuring material for those this week to make the 350 masks requested.”

Traditional reservists, Air Reserve Technicians, as well as Active Guard Reserve and active duty Airmen, led by flight chief, Master Sgt. Jorge “Carlos” Rosado, are making and delivering masks as quickly as they can. Participating AFE members include Perez-Morin, and Staff Sgts. Jose Guerrero, Toft Breidenbaugh and Michael Spoden.

Team USO

DJ Stanhope, director for the Bob Hope chapter of the USO, said she received a call recently from Brig. Gen. Melissa Coburn, commander, 452nd Air Mobility Command,
inquiring about masks.

“I already had folks making them so I asked how many she needed,” Stanhope said. “We have dozens making masks, including other community groups working alongside us, and are hoping by early next week to deliver our goal of the first 4,000 to General Coburn.”

Having their volunteers stand down from the traditional method of providing for service members and their families has been discouraging for some of them, Stanhope said, which is why making masks is a welcomed change to the norm.

For the most part the mask fabric is being donated while other items, like elastic (which is often sold out or limited), is being ordered online. They even found some USO
bandanas that are being turned into masks.

“If you want to donate to the USO in their efforts to support March ARB, please visit and click the red donate button,” Stanhope said. “All donations are tax deductible and greatly appreciated.”

In addition to mask-making, some volunteers have been very enthusiastic about providing virtual content through their USO Facebook page,

“Volunteers are using Facebook to read books to kids, teach crafts, and stay connected with members and their families,” Stanhope said. “They are hoping that through this they are able to impact the military community and impact them in a positive way, which is our mission.”

If your unit needs masks, which are currently being produced with whatever material is available, please have your leadership reach out to the 452 AMW Public Affairs office via email at so your request may be forwarded to our leadership staff for response.