by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
2/26/2014 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The
refueling mission of the 100th Air Refueling Wing is absolutely vital
to aircraft of other nations around the world, who rely on it to carry
out their own missions.
However, there's no getting away from the fact that the KC-135
Stratotankers are a little older than many other aircraft and, because
of that, are more susceptible to having parts crack or break
Thankfully, there are several workcenters on RAF Mildenhall involved in
the process of repairing the cracks and replacing vital parts which, in
turn, keep the aircraft flying and ensuring the mission doesn't stop.
One of those key shops is 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Metals Technology.
"We support all aircraft operations by repairing broken airframe
components," said Master Sgt. Robert Madsen, 100th MXS Aircraft Metals
Technology section chief from Norwalk, Calif. "We can also manufacture
aircraft parts per engineering drawings; pretty much anything that's
machined or is a non-procurable component, we can make."
The Airmen provide non-scheduled maintenance on an as-needed basis, around the clock.
"There's very little we do as a routine, aside from welding aircraft
support equipment," said Tech. Sgt. Israel Caballero, 100th MXS Aircraft
Metals Technician craftsman from Palmdale, Calif. "We deal with
high-accuracy machine parts. In order to have many components of an
aircraft working together, they have to fit correctly. We provide that
level of accuracy."
The technicians use specialist equipment which enables them to weld with the precision of a surgeon.
"We use state-of-the-art machines to fabricate high-tolerance aircraft
components," said Staff Sgt. Keith Holland, 100th MXS Aircraft Metals
Technology journeyman from Altona, Ill. "Basically, if we can't do it
then it probably can't be done. We're a last line in the repair process
before the Air Force needs to order parts from supply."
Jobs range from a small welding task to making large items such as a
bulkhead gusset the Airmen recently made for an MC-130H, which basically
ties the entire tail end of the aircraft together.
"The bulkhead is a critical component in linking the tail sections
together," Caballero said. "The original component was cracked and there
was zero stock in supply for that unit; the contract to manufacture
that part had lapsed and it was no longer procurable. We coordinated
with engineering staff to manufacture the item and used a
computer-numeric-controlled mill to build the item from scratch."
The AMT technicians used a computer software-drafted program and
manufactured the part, cutting a 3-D shape from an approximately 12 inch
by 18 inch section of metal. Once AMT has made the part, Airmen from
the 100th MXS Aircraft Structural Maintenance section then install the
critical component on the aircraft.
Training for AMT technicians is approximately six months long at
Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and consists of learning basic
machining, welding and metal cutting, in addition to taking a
"To be proficient in most of the equipment, it takes close to two
years," Caballero said. "But we always have continuous on-the-job
Because of that training, the Airmen are skilled and knowledgeable in
their trade, and when an aircraft part needs fixing or replacing -
whether welding is required or a round "peg" needs to be created from a
square block of metal - they will keep the aircraft flying, ensuring the
Team Mildenhall mission doesn't stop.