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NEWS | April 14, 2020

Mask mobilization efforts keep pilot training safe during evolving COVID-19 situation

By Phil Jenison Aviation Center Logistics Command

As everyone adapts to the seemingly daily dose of the unknown, the M1Support Services (M1SS) contractor workforce remains steadfast in support of operations to provide safe reliable aircraft while taking care of the workforce as the COVID-19 situation unfolds. As the prime contractor for the Aviation Center Logistics Command (ACLC), M1SS staff ensure safety remains at the forefront of the larger United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) mission.

Within 48 hours of the Secretary of Defense’s memorandum directing the use of personal face coverings, contractors tailored operations to mass-produce personal face masks for the nearly 4,000 combined M1SS and ACLC employees, plus the larger Fort Rucker population.

This initiative grew from producing 350 masks per day to full-scale operations producing 800 masks per day. This is a tremendous testament to the excellent professionalism of the workforce members, including Karen Cummins who, until this production ramped up, was the only seamstress working in the fabric shop. The first day --“pattern and realignment day” - was spent figuring out the process of going from one seamstress to more than 10 employees per shift who volunteered to help make masks. This included relocating five team members from the Aviation Life Support Equipment (ALSE) shops, along with their sewing machines and equipment, to consolidate in one location to streamline the process.

Understanding M1SS did not have the material needed on hand, Steve Short, the Aviation Maintenance Support Service (AMSS) Program Manager, obtained approval to purchase as much fabric as was available from vendors in the local community. The transition from handling helicopter engine covers and blackout curtains to 100% cotton material was not smooth, but skilled hands made fast work of the new face mask mission. Adapting to the limitations of equipment not designed for pleats in thick cotton, Short and his team developed a new pattern for the facemask and adapted their processes accordingly. Within a week they are hoping to produce in excess of 5,000 masks to help support the M1SS and ACLC team of teams as well as other training units in need on the installation. The Commanding General of USAACE, Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, thanked the team for its outstanding leadership and emphasized how the efforts of this team will enable pilot training to continue. This is a testament to many leaders and stakeholders among M1SS, ACLC, and USAACE coming together and rapidly working to find innovative solutions and leading the way to success in combating the COVID-19 Pandemic.