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By Capt. Colette Muller
Western Air Defense Sector
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – A Washington Air National Guard member from the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) sewed 150 protective cloth masks and sent them to a hospital in Alabama.
Staff Sgt. Rachel Yandon, a radio frequency transmission systems apprentice working in the 225th Support Squadron’s Communications Focal Point, first thought of helping with the pandemic when she saw a call for help from the Providence hospital system in Washington. The hospital was asking for volunteers to pick up kits and each sew 100 masks for their million-mask challenge.
“A business stepped in to help make the masks for Providence,” said Yandon. “But I still wanted to help so I reached out to a friend who works at the Regional Medical Center in Anniston, Alabama, and asked if they had a need for masks and if they would be able to use homemade cloth masks.”
Yandon’s friend said the hospital did not need masks. But within the week, she called back and said personal protective equipment including masks had been stolen and asked Yandon if she would still be willing to donate.
“I started quilting in 2011, and I was compelled to help because I already had a stash of resources and the ability to make masks. It feels good to give someone a mask who wants or needs one, and I like being able to use my non-military skills to help the team,” Yandon said.
With a sewing machine at home, Yandon set out to exceed her previous goal and worked to complete 150 masks for her friend’s hospital. Within a few weeks, all the masks were completed and sent off to their new home in Alabama.
With that task complete, Yandon set her sights on helping her fellow Guard members. After hearing of the skill she had, some WADS members asked for masks to match their uniform and masks for their family members.
“Rachel made me a mask for free,” said Capt. Angela Chesley, 225th Air Defense Squadron air picture management flight commander. “It is a high-quality mask made to match OCP print. I absolutely love it and now feel confident wearing a mask. She really impressed me with her craftsmanship. She is willing to help out any of our folks in need of a mask.”
Yandon has made about 30 additional masks for WADS members and a few other members of the Washington National Guard. In addition to her volunteer work and position in the communications flight, Yandon is also an active member of the WADS Honor Guard.
The WADS is staffed by active-duty Washington Air National Guard members, Royal Canadian Air Force, U.S. Navy liaison officers, and federal civilians. The unit supports the NORAD integrated warning and attack assessment missions and the USNORTHCOM homeland defense mission. WADS is responsible for air sovereignty and counter-air operations over the Western United States and directs a variety of assets to defend 2.2 million square miles of land and sea west of the Mississippi River.