This Robins shop keeps airmen from bursting at the seams

The Air Force Blues and the Army greens: you recognize our military by what they wear.

They don the uniform with pride and in the battle field, they wear it for safety.

Somebody keeps those clothes at their best, and at Robins, it's the folks in the Fabric Shop.

13WMAZ went Behind the Lines with the group that supports the war fighter with needles instead of nails.

For nine years, Rhodenia Talton couldn't prove it.

She said, "Lots of time, when I tell people I sew on Robins Air Force Base, they say sew what?"

Robins needs sewing machines and thread, like it needs drill bits and pliers.

Mountains of flight suits and tubs of patches are piled high in Talton's shop.

She said, "We use knives, scissors, needles, everything you think a home ec. teacher would be proud of."

The fabrics fly to war fronts. That includes the parachutes packed there with precision, in case of in-flight emergency ejections.

Jan Derico said, "I feel funny about telling people I'm a parachute packer. It just feels weird telling people that."

Derico, a veteran of the fabric shop, knows inspecting for tiny holes and broken lines saves lives.

Derico and her team do the work alongside members of the 339th.

Forty foot tables allow them to stretch, twist and corral 10 pounds of stuff into five pounds of bag. That includes a locator beacon. Sara Glass of the 339th called the beacon the "black box" of parachutes.

Glass said, "If the user jumps out of the airplane with this, the beacon will locate where the person is."

The signals last 12 hours, long enough to find a missing airmen, possibly floating on a life raft.

For Talton, personalization is the best part. She stitches last minute fixes before airmen deploy, and takes pride in each thread.

She said, "You find yourself looking at soldiers on TV and you're like, his ranks on crooked."

She's dressed two-star generals and repaired the mistakes of newly enlisted airmen. They sometimes attempt to sew for themselves.

Talton said, "It hurts your heart sometimes. You're like poor baby. We'll get it. Don't worry. They try so hard, some of these little airmen."

They usually work on about 40 flight suits a day in the shop. It gets extra busy when a large group of Robins airmen are about to deploy.

Packing the parachutes is no easy task. It takes months to learn how do it properly, and packing just one, can take 12 hours of work.


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