KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Wolf Pack Airmen assigned to the 8th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) aircrew flight equipment (AFE) section are taking the fight to the coronavirus, as they embrace innovation and their technical training to manufacture cloth masks for the more than 2,500 service members assigned to Kunsan Air Base.
During the last few weeks, the 8th OSS AFE section has utilized their sewing skills to produce numerous machine-washable cloth mask prototypes; including a generic cloth mask and a more robust, form-fitting mask.
“One of the wing’s lines of effort is Operation BOLO, Be on the Lookout for Opportunity,” said Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Armbruster, 8th OSS AFE NCO in charge. “We wanted to take this opportunity to be good wingmen and make sure the force as a whole stays healthy in order to do their jobs and accomplish the mission.”
Unlike Air Force installations located in the U.S., the mask materials available to the 8th OSS AFE flight are limited to what the base exchange provides, which is limited to bedding, including bedsheets and fleece and wool blankets.
“We created numerous designs using different materials, including a simple cloth mask,” said Master Sgt. Hansen Wilson, 8th OSS AFE superintendent. “With a team of four personnel, we can make 100 masks within four hours. From a readiness perspective, we now have an internal source if there is a shortage of masks and we are no longer dependent on any outside sources.”
The AFE section is made up 18 personnel, nine of which are embedded into the 80th and 35th Fighter Squadrons. Currently, four personnel make up the AFE back shop, where the mask prototypes were created.
“We are using our expertise to show the wing we are ready and prepared to make masks,” said Wilson. “Even though we have a small team, we know we can provide a quality product to the wing and can execute our plan whenever we’re needed.”
AFE Airmen are traditionally responsible for inspecting, maintaining and servicing all equipment aircrew members require while performing their duties. From packing emergency items, like parachutes and survival kits, to maintaining regularly used items, like helmets and oxygen masks, attention to detail is of the utmost importance for AFE technicians.
“We provide the emergency equipment that gives aircrew members the means to survive in emergency situations,” said Armbruster. “Essentially, we’re holding someone else’s life in our hands.”
While the AFE back shop inspects survival kits, repairs parachutes and services drogue parachutes, AFE technicians are also embedded within Kunsan’s two fighter squadrons. These Airmen focus on maintaining daily-use gear, such as the anti-gravity suit, or G-suit.
“We are here to protect and sustain human life,” said Wilson. “Our Airmen within the fighter squadrons play an important role in ensuring our pilots’ gear is fitted properly and in working order. Due to our size here at Kunsan, we are able to connect with our customers, the pilots, and work one-on-one with them, to ensure they are safe and protected.”