Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan - Spouses participating in the F.I.R.S.T. Mentorship Program for 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa, Japan assembled more than 1,000 protective masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic on April 10, 2020.
As the demand for personal protective equipment increased from the spread of the disease, spouses from the F.I.R.S.T. Mentorship program responded to this need by assembling, sewing, and donating hand-made facemasks to medical personnel on Kadena Air Base and at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Foster.
Spouses in the group are encouraged to engage in public service and leadership roles. A desire to provide for others during times of need is rooted in the program’s foundational principles - Friendship, Information, Resiliency, Support and Trust.
“We always try to empower the spouses to do outreach so we felt like this was the perfect opportunity to give back,” said Schuyler Crowder, 1st Battalion F.I.R.S.T. Spouse Mentorship program event coordinator.
Due to developing precautionary policies along with information about COVID-19 and its effects, the spouses agreed it was vital to provide an added measure of protection for families and the force.
The volunteers washed, cut, and then properly assembled mask kits for the Emergency Response Center and the Emergency Department of U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
The funding for the masks came through personal contributions from spouses within the F.I.R.S.T. Mentorship Program with no external assistance.
“There was no fundraising for this project; volunteers within our mentorship program were called upon to donate their time and any materials they were willing,” said Kati Poston, the F.I.R.S.T. Mentorship program chair for 1st Battalion, 1st SFG (A). “The response was so great, we were able to complete our initial 1,000 masks.”
This delivery of masks to medical facilities has been welcomed by those working on Kadena Air Base. Hospital employees say they will benefit from using the masks and they are now better postured to fight the virus while protecting service members through these times.
“The entire staff of the emergency room knows and appreciates the time, care, and concern for others these masks represent in fighting the spread of this deadly COVID-19 virus,” said Laurie McDaniel, a registered nurse with the Naval Hospital Okinawa. “The entire staff of the emergency department and I cannot thank [the] volunteers enough in helping to keep everyone safe during these trying times.”
Since distribution of the first 1,000 masks, the mentorship group has set a new goal to complete and deliver an additional 2,000 masks throughout April. These new masks will specifically support the needs of service members and families of 1st Battalion, 1st SFG (A).
“Even though we are only physically getting together with a small number of spouses”, said Poston. “We all understand we are coming together for a larger effort and we will continue to do what we can in support of one another.”