Crafting precision for mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariette M. Adams
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
For Air Force metals technology technicians, the width of half a human hair, about three thousandths of an inch, is their measurement constraint.  That precision is tested every day, as they know it might be the difference between mission failure and mission success.

Metals technology technicians meticulously train and practice in order to achieve strict expectations.

"Our work is not something someone can do and get just close enough; there is no close enough in our career field," said Airman 1st Class Brandon Gentry, an aircraft metals technology technician with the 6th Maintenance Squadron.

Metals technology technicians are responsible for fixing and fabricating parts using welding and machinery for both aircraft and equipment.

Most aircraft assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing are decades old and the parts are no longer created. Without the technicians, aircraft would not be able to run. The Air Force relies on the skilled technicians to fabricate the parts thus keeping the iron in the sky.

As a result, this enables MacDill's aircraft to fuel the fight and  provide the nine combatant commands with fuel for their aircraft.

The precision metals technology technicians' knowledge comes from about four months of intensive training where they become proficient in welding and machinery, as well as, trigonometry, which is needed to when they are working with measurements and angles. In the end, they must be proficient in reproducing and reading blueprints and fabricating parts.

However, precision is not something that happens overnight; it's a skill that takes time and practice to master.

"With welding, it isn't something you can just pick up and learn. It's not like math, it's more of an art form than a technical form," explained Senior Airman Andrew Flanagan, an aircraft metals technology technician with the 6th MXS.

The technicians at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, take those skills and apply them to maintaining multiple KC-135 Stratotankers, C-37As, as well as, aerospace ground equipment.

In order to be able maintain readiness and sustainment, the technicians must practice constantly.

"If you stop welding for a while, it's something you can forget," said Gentry. "You have to keep practicing to be proficient at it."

Flanagan's skills were put to the test when he was tasked to fabricate a critical part for the aircraft. After close to 24 hours, Flanagan had created a part crucial to the mechanism that holds an aircraft door closed.

"If we manufacture a bad part, such as the part needed to hold the doors closed on the aircraft, that part could then fail causing the doors to blow off and rapidly decompress the cabin," explained Flanagan. "It could cause the aircraft to crash and cost people their lives. That is something we have to remember when reading our technical orders and manufacturing parts. Lives are on the line."

These technicians practice deliberate excellence, knowing full well that if they fail, lives could be at risk.

Their ability to be ready, precise and capable is essential to executing today's rapid global mobility. Without these Airmen, the Air Force wouldn't be able to fuel the fight and the nine combatant commands mission would be unsuccessful.