PRANG Airman helps ensure proper PPE for security forces during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Caycee Watson
  • 156th Wing/Public Affairs

A Puerto Rico Air National Guard Airman brought innovation to the fight against the continued spread of COVID-19, to provide personal protective equipment in the midst of a nationwide shortage.

After reading about 3D printing enthusiasts in Europe making plastic face shields, 1st Lt. Jose Arroyo, a cyberspace operations officer with the156th Communications Flight, here, knew he had the opportunity to help his community.

“As I was trying to stay up-to-date with COVID information, I saw how makers in Europe were coming out with many innovative ways to help in the PPE shortage,” said Arroyo.

Along with his business partner, they searched online and found files containing the template to create plastic face shields with 3D printer technology. They also discovered a way to create filtered masks, from a European doctor, to make the best possible alternative to medical-grade PPE.

Knowing about the shortage of PPE supplies, Arroyo contacted the 156th Wing’s emergency operations center and offered to make plastic face shields for Airmen supporting the pandemic response.

“They asked me to make some for security forces. I told him I was super happy to help,” said Arroyo.

Arroyo then contacted some of his teammates and together they produced 15 face shields the next day for the 156th Security Forces Squadron defenders. Each shield takes an hour to create with the 3D printer.

“In unity there is power, so I called in a favor from all my maker friends and we printed 15, next day, with a team of three,” said Arroyo. “During the day I just get one print every hour and just reset the printer to start a new print. Since this started a little over a month ago, I have had little sleep as I wake up every hour, on the hour, to start the printer every time it finishes a new print.”

Processes and PPE needs have evolved at Muñiz as the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved. The 156th SFS Defenders have continued their mission, around the clock, while the risk of spreading the virus continues around the island.

“We are very cognizant of the risk of cross contamination of the novel coronavirus. I believe the only way we will overcome this challenge is helping each other out,” said Capt. Daniel Rolon, the 156th SFS commander. “This past week a member of our PRANG family designed a face shield with the mindset of helping protect each other from the virus. The face shield was a perfect fit for our defenders and added another layer to our personal protective equipment.”

Arroyo has worked with 3D printers for two years. Along with his team, they are providing plastic face masks to 156th Wing Airmen, hospitals, fire departments and police stations. The face shields are made with plastic, so with proper care and cleaning they last longer than disposable face masks.

“The PPE movement was not my original idea, it was already a movement in Europe and I decided to join and promote it in Puerto Rico as I consider myself a maker also,” said Arroyo. “And now [National Institute of Health] has approved many models to include the one we printed out for security forces.”

Arroyo has served in the Puerto Rico Air National Guard for 21 years. He wanted to serve as a way to say thank you to his grandfather, who served in Vietnam and his father, who was in the Gulf War. Arroyo is a father of two and wants his children to feel proud of his service the way he is proud of his father and grandfather for their contribution.