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The body shop of the Air Force: Corrosion control

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt Kristin Nielsen
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

If you ask the service members stationed at MacDill Air Force Base what they love about the location, many of them might say the warm weather and proximity to the ocean. However, the maintainers who service 60-year-plus old aircraft might have a different opinion.

The corrosion caused by saltwater in the air begins to wear away at MacDill’s jets after every flight. The first step in stopping corrosion is through a wash in the “Bird Bath,” a plate-activated bath that rinses the jets. However, this is only the first line of defense against corrosion. What happens when the paint starts to crack?

The 6th Maintenance Squadron corrosion control unit is essential for keeping our aircraft mission-ready. This specialty shop is made up of only five airmen who are responsible for all of the stencils and paint seen on the KC-135 Stratotankers.

Tech. Sgt. Kurtis Geiger, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 6th Maintenance Squadron corrosion control unit, is responsible for ensuring that important aircraft components are preserved and protected from the elements. 

“It’s like if you accidentally sand your car and the paint wears away,” said Geiger. “You’d have to send your car off to a body shop to get repaired and repainted; that’s what we do.”

Without corrosion control, various parts of the aircraft would begin to wear away in as little as 10 years. With aircraft built in the 1950s and 60s, the importance of corrosion control can’t be understated.

“Corrosion control is so important because of the salt. It destroys metal, breaking it down. This happens much more frequently at MacDill as opposed to other bases that are located in the central United States,” Geiger said.

As one part of the fabrication flight, the corrosion control section works every day to paint and refurbish landing gear, renovators, as well as air and ground equipment.

Senior Airman Cole Miller, 6th MXS aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, enjoys the work he gets to do every day.

“I get to come down here to paint,” said Miller. “It’s so rewarding to see a rusty, chipped aircraft part come in and a couple of hours later, it comes out looking brand new.”

“We repair the structural integrity of the aircraft,” Miller con. “That goes for all aircraft, Air Force-wide.”

Even though corrosion control is one small section of an even larger flight and squadron, the maintenance airmen work hard to contribute to the 6th Air Refueling Wing’s mission of providing rapid global mobility.