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Combating COVID-19: Academy tailors make masks for cadets


Dinia Clemons of the cadet tailor shop at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Story by Ray Bowden, photo by Trevor Cokely, April 7, 2020

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — If all goes as planned, senior cadets who stayed at the Air Force Academy to complete their bachelor’s degree during the COVID-19 outbreak will get face masks before the weekend.

“Our goal is to distribute these masks to every cadet by close-of-business, Friday,” said Steven Norman, flight chief for cadet logistics.

Tailors are making the 10-inch by 6-inch cotton masks at the cadet tailor shop in Sijan Hall. Norman said the Academy purchased the cloth “similar to surgical material” from a business in Colorado Springs.

On average, five people are making the masks, said project manager Aurora Mendoza.

“We’re here to take care of cadets,” she said. “That’s our job.

Norman plans to give the new masks to “about 1,200 cadets” by Friday afternoon, he said. Almost 30 masks will go to security forces Airmen, the base police, who check drivers’ identification at the South Gate.

Also in the works are plans to give masks to service members, Norman said.

“We’re trying to be proactive, stay ahead of the curve and keep the community safe,” he said.

Academy Follows CDC, DOD Guidelines

Col. Brian Hartless, commander of the 10th Air Base Wing – the Academy’s host unit – sent a memo to everyone at the base April 6 requiring them to cover their faces in public. His instructions follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Cloth masks are useful for stopping droplets that are sprayed from the mouth or the nose of the individual wearing the mask,” reads the memo. “It is not nearly as useful in preventing the wearer from inhaling droplets from other people, so it is important that even with a mask, that you continue to follow current physical distancing and hand hygiene protocols.”

Hartless instructed everyone at the Academy to wear masks if they can’t keep at least six feet from other people when working.

His memo comes a day after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper ordered everyone in the Defense Department to cover their face in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus

“Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work areas,” Esper wrote in his April 5 memo.

Just like the secretary of defense’s order, Hartless’ memo applies to service members, civilian employees, family members and Defense Department contractors, but not at a service member’s home if they live on base.

Security forces Airmen will require drivers and in some cases, passengers, to lower their face coverings for proper identification.

In an April 6 briefing, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis extended his statewide stay-at-home order to April 26. Earlier this month, he asked everyone in the state to wear face coverings when they leave their homes.

Visit www.usafa.af.mil/Coronavirus and www.usafa.edu/news/coronavirus for more information.

[Editor’s note: Norman and Mendoza are assigned to the 10th Logistics Readiness Squadron at the Academy, providing logistical support to 4,000 cadets, including issuing uniforms, training equipment and alteration and tailoring services. Norman is responsible for the overall direction and funding for cadet issue, equipment and uniforms]