NEWS | April 9, 2020

Team effort gets face masks to Joint Base Charleston

By Michael Dukes 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Angie Gibbs, sales director, and Diane Wagner, meeting director - both at the Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport – Convention Center, are long-time supporters of the military and the 315th Airlift Wing, but when times are tough, their dedication doesn’t falter.

When the Department of Defense directed military members to wear face coverings on base whenever they were unable to abide by the prescribed 6-foot rule during the COVID-19 pandemic and military members began scrambling to find masks, Gibbs and Wagner, reached out to their hotel and hospitality associates to collect donated sheets to be used to make face masks for Joint Base Charleston.

Besides helping Charleston Reservists find hotel rooms as part of her day job, Gibbs is also an area manager for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, as well as an active member of the 315 AW honorary commander program. 

As honorary 315th Mission Support Group commander, Gibbs is taking the “support” to heart.

She said the response is going well so far. “We’ve set up a dropbox at the front entrance of the Crown Plaza at Tanger Outlet, and we have been driving around picking up 100 percent cotton sheets from other area hotels.”

“We need about 70 cotton sheets to make 1,000 masks for the military needs right now. Right now, we are at 14,” Gibbs added.

The mask operation is a big team effort

Joint Base Charleston’s 437th Operation Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment is making masks from these and other donated sheets. Citizen Airmen from the 81st Aerial Port Squadron, OSS and other 315 AW units are pitching in for the fabrication operation.

The Aircrew Flight Equipment  Flight is always willing to assist when called upon for help according to Lt. Col. Justin Warnaar, 437 OSS commander. 

"Making masks is not in their normal repertoire, however, they do possess the skillset and capabilities," Warnaar said. 

Within AFE there is a fabrication shop that usually is responsible for maintaining/repairing the fabric items on  C-17 Globemaster IIIs here at JBC, this includes such items as the seats, curtains, and the crew rest bunks among other things. "This is a full-time job for several of our skilled members to support our entire fleet here at JBCHS," Warnaar said. "When asked by the wing commander if they could make masks, the immediate answer is of course…yes."

"Right now this is a joint effort with Airmen from both the 437th and 315th helping make cloth face masks that meet the CDC recommended guidelines," Warnaar added.  "This is a great interim solution for members."

As military bases across the country work to provide face masks for their members, Col. Bobby Degregorio, 315 MSG commander said Joint Base Charleston is very fortunate to have such great support from the community to help make this happen.

“We are very fortunate to have support from our community like that from honorary commanders like Angie Gibbs and Diane Wagner who have stepped forward to provide assistance,” Degregorio said. “This is a true embodiment of the current sentiment of ‘We are all in this together.’”

“As an Honorary Commander, I am very thankful for all that the military and the 315th Airlift Wing does for us, and feel that it is my duty to contribute the best I can,” Gibbs said.

The 315 MSG supports the over 2,000 members of the 315 AW by providing programs, policies, services, and facilities in support of the 315 AW mission: To provide and deliver global combat-ready C-17 airlift, expeditionary combat support and aeromedical evacuation anytime, anywhere.

Currently, that mission is very involved in airlifting cargo in the fight against COVID-19 and in providing medical personnel to the front lines of the battle in New York.

The honorary commander program is a community relations initiative to incorporate leaders in the business community into the wing and to build lasting relationships. Throughout the year, the honorary commanders will be invited to events, including C-17 flights, simulator rides, tours, dinners, observation of military exercises, events during reserve training assembly weekends and more.