363rd TRS aids in fight against COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert McIlrath
  • 82nd Training Wing

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas With most cities across the country issuing stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people can only sit at home and wait it out. But others take matters into their own hands to try and make a difference.

Whether it’s paper towels, hand sanitizer, bottled water, face shields and masks, hand soap or the now infamous toilet paper, shortages on some common items has become widespread.

Tech. Sgt. Joel Cruse, 363rd Training Squadron AMMO instructor, took it upon himself to do what he could to contribute to the cause of fighting COVID-19 and help flatten the curve.

"Back around the middle of March, I noticed a company that makes the 3D printer I own started developing files to print face shields, and even got them certified through the Michigan Health Department and some other places," he said. "I’ve got three printers at home and one at work, so I wanted do something with them to help."

Cruse got to work and started printing prototypes, and then it got the attention of his commander.

"So Cruse’s boss came down and was like, ‘Hey, you should come see what he’s doing,’" said Lt. Col. James Olson, 363rd TRS commander. "Out of the gate I was blown away. I just thought of how selfless and amazing it is that an AMMO instructor is using his own time to contribute to a cause that really helps right now."

Olsen used his networking skills to spread the word about Cruse’s idea to use 3D printing to create face shields.

The Trainer Development Flight at the 982nd Maintenance Squadron is also using its 3D printers to support the effort, and is working to expand its capability.

"Word made its way to the people at the bioenvironmental lab and dental," Cruse said. "They were both showing interest in using them."

Face shields are a clear physical barrier for liquid droplets. If someone who is symptomatic coughs near or in the direction of the face of someone where the shield, it prevents those droplets from reaching facial points of entry.

"It’s a first line of defense for your eyes, nose and mouth," Cruse said. "It’s kind of one piece of the puzzle."

Face shields and face masks are essential for medical and law enforcement workers to protect themselves and others from this virus.

With the help of other members of the 363rd TRS, they are able to manufacture up to three-dozen shields daily, Cruse said. He and his coworkers hope to eventually be able to create other products like a 3D printed shell for a face cover that would have an interchangeable filter option.

"If it’s one life saved because of this, that difference is huge," Olson said. "It’s grassroots efforts like this that can make a difference when we need it the most."

As of now, the clinic is requesting 20 shields and the Office of Special Investigation is requesting 100 to test.

"If you think back to World War II and beyond, you see American ingenuity like this. "Olson said." Everyone coming together to beat a common enemy."