Science and Technology News

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Excellence in estimating: JB Charleston PMEL shop strives for perfection

by Staff Sgt. Rasheen Douglas
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs


10/25/2012 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- From calibrating torque wrenches to bomb diagnostic equipment, one shop lives up to its name as the "back shop of all back shops." The Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory on Joint Base Charleston - Air Base makes sure Airmen can accurately and precisely take care of their equipment to perform their jobs.

This shop consists of 20 Airmen with a mission that seems to never stop.

PMEL supports all the units at JB Charleston. However, PMEL's support far extends beyond the borders of the base. They provide regional support for Air Mobility Command as well as multiple Coast Guard vessels.

PMEL calibrates and repairs test measurement and diagnostic equipment. Their job requires expert knowledge of many mathematical formulas.

"The slightest measurement, even a micro-inch off, can mean the difference between life and death," said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Howells, TMDE assistant flight chief. "An error in calibrating even the smallest piece of equipment could lead to catastrophic consequences down the line."

"PMEL is responsible for calibrating nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment at any given time,"said Howells. "Fifty-five percent of the workload comes from JB Charleston, 15 percent is their own equipment used to help the shop maintain standards, and 30 percent supports off-base customers ... one of which is Boeing. "

They work with Boeing in testing the test cell used to access their engines. They help certify that the test cell is accurately calibrating vibration, oil pressures and the engine's thrust of power.

Across the Air Force, PMEL houses their own Quality Assurance team, and JB Charleston is no exception. Highly-trained members are selected from within the lab and are responsible for ensuring the items certified by PMEL technicians are safe, accurate, reliable and traceable. The PMEL QA team also monitors the laboratory environment to include lighting, cleanliness, positive airflow, humidity and temperature.

The PMEL shop must also maintain a 73-degree temperature. It is imperative that the PMEL facility stays at this temperature and doesn't lose power because certain PMEL equipment needs about 45 days to warm up. It would stop equipment from being calibrated and returned to use, affecting mission effectiveness, according to Howells.

Recently, the PMEL upgraded to a $90,000 facility to help keep their equipment at the right temperature. The facility remains at 73 degrees 98 percent of the time, which allows the unit to remain a certified PMEL shop.

PMEL's last inspection was completed in October, 2011 and the lab received an on-the-spot certification.

Inspections are conducted every two years, and the top enlisted experts in the career field inspect the shop for a full week. The inspection is similar to a Unit-Compliance Inspection and evaluates the PMEL's technicians, practices and procedures.

"JB Charleston has received three consecutive on-the-spot certifications," said Howells. "I've been in the career field for 15 years now and never have I seen any PMEL shop have three consecutive on-the-spot certifications."

As PMEL continually strives for perfection, in the background they help JB Charleston perform its successful mission.

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