Soldiers use parachute mending skills to make face masks in fight against coronavirus 

Soldiers use parachute mending skills to create face masks in fight against coronavirus

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Soldiers are repurposing their equipment and training to help against the coronavirus.

Special Forces members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are using sewing machines and their skills repairing parachutes to make face masks. They are also using the base’s 3D printers to manufacture face shields.

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“Every parachute rigger that comes into the Army in our advanced individual training does receive training on sewing and maintenance procedures,” Master Sgt. Taylor Cathey, a senior airdrop operations non-commissioned officer, told McClatchy. “So it’s kind of like riding a bike. Once you get back behind it, it’s a little wobbly at first, but once you get into it, it’s pretty simple.”

Cathey leads a team of 15 people producing masks from material typically used for aircraft seats and cords used for parachutes. They use a pattern from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and expect to be able to make about 1,500 masks a week.

“It’s still the basic stitch, straight-line stitch that we use,” Cathey told McClatchy. “Most of the techniques we’ve developed from sewing on parachutes definitely transfers to sewing the masks. It actually makes sewing the masks a little bit easier.”

Soldiers are also using other equipment and items on the base to make personal protective equipment.

Using military-issued acetate and the 3D printers on the base, members of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade maintenance unit have developed a process to make face shields that can be replicated at other bases.

The crew usually makes spare parts with its 3D printers. Bases also have a roll of acetate that is used to lay over maps for planning and then wiped clean. The team took these items, found plans from the National Institute of Health and developed some additional guidelines approved by the FDA that can be used at bases around the world, McClatchy reported.

Special Forces members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are using sewing machines and their skills repairing parachutes to make face masks. They are also using the base’s 3D printers to manufacture face shields.
Special Forces members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are using sewing machines and their skills repairing parachutes to make face masks. They are also using the base’s 3D printers to manufacture face shields. (Department of Defense/Department of Defense)