Special Forces Parachute Riggers and Face Mask Production

Parachute riggers of 19th Special Forces Group make face masks to combat coronavirus.

The parachute riggers from across the Special Forces community are busy manufacturing face masks for the counter coronavirus effort. Part of a parachute riggers job is the maintenance and repair of parachutes using sewing machines. So the skills of the rigger and the sewing machines are being put to good use.

The COVID-19 has brought most airborne operations to a halt. So the SF group’s riggers have a bit of spare time on their hands. It did not take long for the sewing training they received at rigger school during Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to be put to use.

The riggers from the 5th Special Forces Group developed a plan to begin face mask production. They were assisted by members of Chapter 38 of the Special Forces Association who purchased materials and volunteered time. The 5th SFG riggers are working two shifts a day to make masks for unit personnel, family members, and other Fort Campbell personnel.

Members of the 19th Special Forces Group (Utah Army National Guard) have been called to active duty to assist in the COVID-19 crisis. Many have been working in conjunction with the Utah Department of Health on the ‘traceback mission’ – contacting civilians who have tested positive for coronavirus or who have shown symptoms. Others have been busy in the rigger shed making face masks according to recent Department of Defense guidance on the use of face coverings. The riggers are sewing up face masks for members of the Utah National Guard.

The riggers at Camp Simmons are supplying masks for personnel across Eglin Air Force Base where 7th SFG is headquartered. The group’s parachute rigging platoon are working around the clock providing PPE for personnel at Hurlburt Field as well – the home of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). They are using material from surgical draping obtained from the Eglin AFB hospital. The masks, made from medical-grade materials, can be washed or steamed – making them reusable. The 7th SFG riggers can produce up to 400 masks daily.

1st Special Forces Group riggers are also in the face mask business. Personnel assigned to the Aerial Delivery Platoon, Group Support Battalion have delivered face masks to tenant units stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord during the month of April. The riggers are manufacturing PPE with sterile, one-time use only cloth provided by Madigan Army Medical Center.

“We had just run out of surgical masks for the weekend, so when 1st SFG brought the face masks in, it was great timing. We use them for patient care and ourselves, covering N95 respirators.”

1Lt. Sarah Hendricks, Medical-Surgical Nurse, Madigan’s Emergency Department

It isn’t just the riggers of 1st SFG making face masks. Some spouses of 1st Battalion, 1st SFG based at Tori Station, Okinawa, Japan are also assisting. The F.I.R.S.T. Mentorship Program for 1/1 SFG has assembled and sewed thousands of protective masks. These have been made available to medical personnel on Kadena Air Base and at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Foster. It is estimated that the spouses group will produce at least 3,000 face masks during the month of April.

When a face mask is worn properly it will help block droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter containing viruses and bacteria from leaving your mouth and nose. It also reduces exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others. Face masks will be essential for flattening the curve of the coronavirus pandemic and Special Forces parachute riggers are certainly doing their part to help!


Photo: Parachute riggers at Camp Williams, Utah are making face masks for the Utah National Guard. Photo Utah National Guard, April 7, 2020.

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