BREMERTON, Wash. –
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility leadership and union partners handed out reusable, cloth facemasks to all shipyard employees April 14. PSNS & IMF Commander Capt. Dianna Wolfson, Bremerton Metal Trades Council President Eric Morse and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers President Mary Bacon helped pass out close to 10,000 kits that included two masks, instructions and a pen for labeling.
Shop 64, Sail Loft, has been working hard to increase production of reusable, cloth facemasks as required by Department of Defense guidelines for when individuals are within in six feet of each other.
“People are working around the clock on every shift,” said Dakota King, a nuclear training supervisor with Shop 64, Sail Loft. “We are using an assembly-line production method, and we are finding new ways to streamline the process every day.”
Following Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s April 5 mandate that requires anyone on Department of Defense property to use a protective facemask, the Sail Loft, along with other shops, codes, and Sailors from Naval Base Kitsap, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Olympia (SSN-717) and USS Louisville (SSN-724) have stepped forward to help.
“Shops, codes and Sailors from across our waterfront on the ships we maintain, as well as Naval Base Kitsap, are assisting us,” said Capt. Dianna Wolfson, commander of PSNS & IMF. “Thank you for this. Thinking differently about how to solve a problem and expanding our advantage, so that we can make enough masks for our entire workforce.”
PSNS & IMF began producing cloth face masks March 24, with an average of creating 200 masks a day. That number has grown to nearly 4,000 masks in a single day through manufacturing nearly 100 masks per man hour, explained King.
The masks are constructed of Grade A linen, which is regularly used on projects in the shipyard, and the fabric is cut with a large computer-controlled fabric cutter. In order to ensure the masks securely fit to wearers’ faces, workers from PSNS & IMF’s Shop 17, the Sheet Metal Shop, programmed a laser cutter to produce bendable aluminum nose pieces.
Additionally, pre-cut, patterned materials and instructions are being provided to volunteers who have access to a sewing machine and a pair of scissors in order to produce masks quickly and efficiently in batches of 30. All homemade masks will be laundered prior to distribution.
“We have had more than 100 volunteers from the shipyard offer to help,” said Corinne Beach, PSNS & IMF STEM coordinator and NAVSEA student engagement lead, who is coordinating volunteer activities. “We have even more volunteer requests to go through, and it’s great to be able to contribute to the mission at times like this.”
Teleworking employees have also joined the cause and are assembling masks remotely to increase supply levels.
“I feel encouraged,” said Jerry Orden, a nuclear zone manager, who will be assembling masks while teleworking. “There is a lot of unknown. We don’t know everything, but at least we are doing something to help to keep us working during uncertain times.”
PSNS & IMF is helping more than just its own workforce and Sailors.
In response to an April 9 request from Bremerton’s Harrison Medical Group, 500 cloth face masks and 120 manufactured plastic shields have been provided in support of first responders. Production of masks will continue over the coming weeks to supply the medical center with a total of 1,500 masks and 300 face shields.
“I have a sticky on my computer monitor that says PSNS Cares,” said Grant Bosshardt, Code 1213, Fleet Support Business Office, who is managing external COVID-19 assistance requests.
“It’s a reminder to me that, in addition to our mission of maintaining, modernizing and retiring our Navy’s fleet, PSNS & IMF is committed to the well-being and safety of the people that work here, as well as providing support to the community for which it is so integrated within. Being given the privilege and responsibility of playing a key role in coordinating COVID-19 PPE support to other activities and organizations will be one of the highlights of my career.”
PSNS & IMF has also provided face masks and hand sanitizer to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and is working on an estimate to fabricate PAPR face shields for Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Keyport. Instruction for fabricating face masks has been provided to Trident Training Facility on NBK-Bangor as well as a local source for face shields. Requests from Bremerton, Public Works, Washington State Hospital Association and Kitsap Transit are currently being evaluated.
PSNS & IMF, along with the other commands and numerous volunteers, are of one mind that protecting the shipyard, Sailors and surrounding communities are a top priority. PSNS & IMF stands steadfast and ready to support the safety of all its personnel while completing the essential work required by the U.S. Navy.