The following story is by the Public Affairs Office at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport.
When Tammy Ruggeri retired from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport in August 2019, after 32 years of service, she thought she would have more time for one of her hobbies, quilting.
She never imagined, though, that pastime activity could help so many people.
Since March 22, Ruggeri has sewn more than 600 cloth masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and has more requests coming into her Facebook page each day. She has mailed masks to people locally in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and as far away as California, Washington, Alabama, Connecticut, New York, Maine and Guam.
“There was a need, and I had the supplies, ability and time,” Ruggeri said. “It really didn’t hit me until a lady left a thank you note about helping a stranger in need. I’ve had so many people thank me and I hope I made some kind of difference in this crazy situation.”
Ruggeri, who worked in Division Newport’s Information Management Customer Services Branch, posted on her Facebook page that if anyone was in need of a mask to contact her through messenger. Her first batch went to the Fall River, Massachusetts, EMS Honor Guard, and soon after she had requests from the Somerset Fire Department, Swansea ambulatory staff members and postal workers. She has made her face coverings for former co-workers at Division Newport, as well as a few employees at Naval Station Newport.
“As it is with all quilters, you slowly get a stash of fabric. In my case, my stash has been growing for 10 years so I have way more than I could use,” Ruggeri said. “It takes about 15 minutes to sew one up. I precut everything for the next day the night before.”
Ruggeri said the most difficult part in the process has been locating elastic, but she was fortunate enough to locate some at Ryco Inc., a quilting supply company in Lincoln, Rhode Island. She also said some people have made monetary donations, which have been used for postage for the masks that have been shipped.
Like Ruggeri, the Navy also is looking for ways to join the fight against COVID-19. Rear Adm. Lorin Selby at Naval Systems Engineering (NAVSEA 05) is leading the Navy COVID-19 Rapid Response Team (NCR2T) to provide a single focal point for managing technologies, methods and systems to fight the pandemic. In support of this effort, a website was created to crowdsource and collect warfare center ideas.
“Across the globe, people are finding and sharing innovative ways to win the war against COVID-19,” Naval Surface and Undersea Warfare Centers Executive Director Don McCormack said in a recent all-hands message.
He urged employees to submit their ideas.
“We know that you’re up to the task,” McCormack said.
The need for masks specifically increased on April 3 when the Center for Disease Control recommended that everyone wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission to help slow the spread of the virus.
The Department of Defense and Division Newport quickly adopted this guidance, making it mandatory that masks be worn on military installations.
“We remain engaged in an unprecedented, in our lifetime, battle with COVID-19. Our primary objective continues to be the health and safety of our workforce,” Division Newport Technical Director Ron Vien said in his all-hands message on April 5. “We have implemented numerous protocols and procedures to minimize the spread of COVID-19. By each doing our part, we stand the best chance to turn the COVID-19 curves and keep our teammates safe.
“As we minimize the spread and keep our team healthy and our workspaces absent of COVID-19, we are able to maximize mission readiness and support the fleet. Our national, state, Navy and medical leaders are aligned that the next several weeks are critical to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in order to flatten the exposure curve.”
A number of other measures have been implemented at Division Newport to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including the adoption of a maximum telework posture, limiting travel to only trips that are mission essential and alternating shift work schedules to maximize social distancing.
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.