By Mrs. Rachel C Selby (AMC)June 19, 2018
Pine Bluff Arsenal's Directorate of Chemical and Biological Defense Operations is continuing to increase the variety of products manufactured on the installation's textile productions lines. In addition to the neck dam and the Chemical Patient Protective Wrap, the Arsenal began training in mid-May on the production of the Integrated Footwear System or IFS.
"This item is a Gore-certified item with 100 percent test requirements. A representative from W.L. Gore will train the Arsenal operators on the new equipment required to manufacture the footwear," said Caitlin Belknap, project engineer, Directorate of Engineering and Technology. "Thirty socks (15 pairs) will be made for the First Article Test, a relatively small test quantity. When we do go into production, approximately 10,000 a year will be produced."
Belknap, who has been a part of textile production since it started, said Gore has lots of proprietary equipment and products, and required a separate room and equipment away from the other textile areas. "Gore doesn't even sell fabric to the government," she said.
FAT is expected to take place the end of June, according to Belknap. "The items will have to go through chemical testing but there shouldn't be any surprises because Gore tests all their materials," she said. "July is the projected time when production will begin on the IFS."
Working towards production of additional textile items has been the plan since textile manufacturing began at the Arsenal. "With the expertise of Carlos Custodio and Nancy Southwick with the U.S. Navy, Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Mass., the Arsenal has been able to progress forward into the various textile areas," said Belknap. "Since we are now working with Gore, this could lead us to more Gore items."
The Arsenal started exploring textile manufacturing in 2015, when the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense was investigating the organic industrial base capability in the production of CBRNE personnel protective items. There was no capability within the government at that time for textiles in that area. Since that time, the Arsenal has had a unique capability to showcase to visitors, as well as a place for local college students to increase their knowledge and skills in the textile industry. A partnership with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was created in 2017 for student contract workers on the textile manufacturing lines.
Neck dam production has ended for now; however, orders for more may be coming soon, said Belknap. Neck dams are carbon impregnated material used by Soldiers to increase the protection of face-seal type masks at the mask-garment interface. "Currently, we are in full production with the patient wraps," said Belknap. "They have told us to produce as many as we can."
The patient wraps are used when a Soldier is injured in the field, and cannot put on their personal protective equipment. The individual is placed in the wrap and transported through a contaminated area to a nearby field hospital. "The patient wrap was our first Gore item. Seam sealing has been the gateway for the Arsenal to get into the Gore-certified textile arena," said Belknap.