21st Century Rosie and Robbie the Riveters – how the home front continues to support the war efforts

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Gross
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

In an update to the fight against Coronavirus, the Defense Department directed all individuals on DoD property, to the extent practical, wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distancing in public areas or work centers. In many facets around a flying training wing, six feet of physical distance isn’t practical, so cloth face coverings are a needed tool to fight the virus and flatten the curve.

Wing leaders researched how to purchase dust masks online in order to provide the base populace the necessary coverings. As is to be expected, masks are in short supply.

Spouses and community members around Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, were already engaged in making cloth masks to aid in protection against the virus. Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, wanted to “tap into their efforts to ensure the flying training wing mission could continue while we ensured the safety of the force and family.”

Patricia Wilson, whose husband is retired Air Force and a T-1 simulator instructor at Columbus AFB, was already making face coverings for several organizations downtown and for employees at the base commissary.

Wilson, who is known in the community for her sewing efforts in support of the annual Columbus Spring Pilgrimage, was one of the first volunteers to come forward. “I used remnants from the fabrics that I had left over from our pilgrimage dresses,” Wilson said. “It really didn’t cost me anything, other than time.”

Weeks said, “I reached out to Ms. Wilson to discuss the ability for her and her team of spouses to make face masks for our base populace, who could not maintain six feet of physical distancing in their professional spaces. Without hesitation, she jumped in and I could even hear her excitement over the phone.”

Using the wing’s appropriated funds, Wilson along with Air Force spouses, Brittani Metzger and Kelly Marshall, got started. More than 200 yards of fabric were purchased, along with other sewing necessities to make about 6,000 coverings.

Their initiative, dedication and support made Weeks reflect on Air Force heritage. She commented about how the situation was much like the iconic “Rosie the Riverters,” only these volunteers were “21st Century Rosie the Riveters.” When Weeks discovered that some of the sewers were men, she commented about “how Rosie has evolved into today’s Robbie the Riveter.”

“In World War II, spouses of Soldiers did what they could do to support the war effort,” Weeks continued. “Victory gardens sprang up across the country in order to prevent a food shortage and feed our soldiers and families. The iconic Rosie the Riveter was born as women took to the factories to produce war supplies and munitions. They stepped up where their military and nation needed them to. No different than what we are seeing across our nation today in the fight against COVID-19.”

Now with materials in hand, the team said they knew they would need help to achieve this huge feat in a timely manner. So the trio, Wilson, Metzgar, and Marshall posted on a Columbus AFB community page asking if anyone would be interested in cutting fabric or sewing coverings. In no time, they were receiving messages with people wanting to help and were able to distribute materials to those volunteers.

“This is something people can do while social distancing,” Metzger said. “We can leave fabric on the front porch and they can take it home. I’m also posting videos on how to cut this and how to sew that, and they can drop it back off so everybody can help and still follow those guidelines.”

With many people working to ensure the 14th FTW’s mission isn’t interrupted any further, Wilson said she’s glad to see “everyone working toward a common goal.”

”I couldn’t be more proud of the cumulative efforts of our Airmen, civilians, contractors, spouses and families as we all work together to protect our community and fight the virus,” Weeks said.