JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Parachute riggers assigned to the Aerial Delivery Platoon, Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), delivered more than 500 protective face masks to tenant units stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, from April 2-7, 2020.
To increase the amount of personal protective equipment on post, the parachute riggers used their equipment and facilities to manufacture PPE with sterile, one-time use only cloth provided by the Madigan Army Medical Center.
According to 1st Lt. Sarah Hendricks, a medical-surgical nurse with Madigan’s Emergency Department, the 300 face masks were a godsend in the emergency room.
“We had just run out of surgical masks for the weekend, so when [1st SFG (A)] brought [the face masks] in, it was great timing,” she said. “We use them for patient care and for ourselves, covering N95 [respirators].”
The N95 respirator is a protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and block at least 95 percent of small test particles, hence the “N95” designation.
The emergency department runs 24-7 and goes through face masks quickly, Hendricks said. There are dozens of physicians, medics, residents and interns in one of three shifts per day, all of whom must wear masks.
Currently, Madigan Emergency Department medical staff will switch out a face mask when the mask becomes soiled, after one 12-hour shift or after seeing a patient with a contagious disease, such as COVID-19.
Like the emergency room, the military police of the 42nd Military Police Brigade must wear face masks because their duty requires a social distance of less than six feet.
Although the 42nd MP Bde. has N95s, they are reserved for cases where there is contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, said JBLM Provost Marshal Maj. Thomas Flanagan. The brigade had no face masks until 1st SFG (A) delivered more than 200, April 7.
The face masks will be used by the military police at the access control points, exchanges and commissaries on post where there is a high volume of traffic, he said. Currently, one mask will be worn for one 8-hour shift before being discarded.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when a face mask is worn properly, it’s meant to help block droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter containing viruses and bacteria from reaching your mouth and nose while also reducing exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others.
There is a critical need for PPE on post due to COVID-19.
The Aerial Delivery Platoon is committed to producing as many masks as possible each week for JBLM to protect the force, families and the community, said Master Sgt. Taylor Cathey, senior air drop operations NCO, GSB, 1st SFG (A).