FORT BENNING, Ga. – After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Esper authorized the wear of cloth face coverings for Department of Defense personnel April 5.
The next day, about 20 Soldiers and six Department of the Army civilians assigned to E Company, 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, started sewing, said Capt. Kwame Addo, commander of a company of riggers, the Soldiers responsible for packing, maintaining and repairing parachutes.
“We started (sewing) because we wanted to contribute to the effort to slow the spread of the virus,” Addo said.
After modifying a pattern found on the CDC website, Addo said his people have sewn more than 3,600 cloth face coverings using three layers of cotton muslin. Sgt. Kara Agnew has made nearly 1,500.
The riggers have distributed the masks to not only Airborne students and cadre but also to Ranger instructors and students and other training organizations on post.
COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the Training and Doctrine Command mission, said Lt. Gen. Ted Martin deputy commanding general and chief of staff, when he visited the installation April 23. The Army resumed shipping recruits April 20 after taking a two-week pause and here to see the measures in place to protect the health of the force.
Which is when the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning received its first shipment of cloth face coverings for the Soldiers going through one-station unit training on Sand Hill.
Fred DuPont, with Combat Capabilities Development Command – Soldier Center, here, has been working with U.S. Army Natick Soldiers Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts, to distribute 10,000 cloth face coverings to Soldiers here.
Engineers at U.S. Army Natick Soldiers Systems Center saw the need for face coverings after the Defense secretary directed military personnel to wear of cloth face coverings when social distancing protocols can’t be met, said Molly Richards, a research chemical engineer with Combat Capabilities Development Command – Soldier Center at Natick.
“The entire process of designing prototypes, material selection and down selection to final face covering to ramping up our in-house production team was completed in about 10 days,” Richards said. “Currently the production team is making several hundred Army face coverings a day.”
She said employees from across three directorates are busy fabricating face covers to outfit Soldiers in training at Fort Benning. An instructional video for donning and doffing and care of the Army face coverings is on YouTube. CCDC SC is working with PEO Soldier on a larger scale production of face coverings for the force.