May 8, 2020 | BY Timothy Sandland
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the various missions of the Air Force continue. One mission that often goes unnoticed is that of the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory, or PMEL.
As one of only seven labs with the equipment and personnel to perform air data calibration, the 102nd PMEL Laboratory at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, provides precision calibration and measurement for 16 Air Force, Air National Guard and foreign military support flying missions, as well as local support for Coast Guard District 1.
"The service our PMEL team provides to the Air Force is critical," said Air Force Col. Timothy Gordon, the commander of the 102nd Mission Support Group. "We are extremely fortunate to have such a talented, reliable and committed team of metrologists here at Otis serving within the 102nd Mission Support Group with a mission that extends across the Air Force."
With this heavy responsibility, the Otis PMELteam steps up to these challenges and continues to support the mission during the pandemic. PMEL calibrates the tools that calibrate the equipment that executes the mission. From medical scale, to tools that fine-tune avionics equipment and jet engines, PMEL ensures every device meets and is certified to a precise and uniform standard.
"We continue to be responsible for the repair, calibration, alignment, installation and overall maintenance of a multitude of test, measurement and diagnostic equipment," said Todd Morey, the PMEL director. "We support more than 16 flying missions across 33 units spanning eight major commands."
The Otis PMEL is the largest and only Type II-C lab in the Air National Guard — of the 65 PMELs in the Air Force, it shares that distinction with only seven other labs.
Only Type II-C labs have a cold room — a temperature-controlled lab that is kept at a precise 68 degrees Fahrenheit — the international standard for calibration because it is the optimum temperature to measure metals.
The Otis PMEL has seen an increase of 25% for cold room work, due in part to the pandemic.
"The challenge is to maintain our pre-COVID capability and capacity while mitigating the risk to our most valuable assets: our personnel," Morey said. "Our ops tempo has remained steady throughout the crisis."
The pandemic has necessitated creative solutions for maintaining a safe working environment.
"I divided the workforce into two shifts with a half-hour separation between to allow for disinfecting measures to be accomplished," Morey said. "We have instituted enhanced end-of-shift cleaning procedures using a bleach and water solution that is verified with test strips to ensure proper ratio for sanitizing."
As part of the disinfection and sanitization routine, each shift wipes down tables, chair arms, break room appliances, water coolers and vending machines. Doors, light switches, faucets and soap dispensers get similar treatments, as do all hand tools and surfaces within the laboratory itself.
The team's efforts have enabled PMEL to maintain a high level of efficiency, contributing to the readiness of many flying and non-flying missions across the Air Force. Production numbers throughout this period represent hundreds of items and mission essential priority maintenance actions completed in support of the Air Force Repair Network.
"I am thankful that I have an excellent crew," Morey said, reflecting on his team. "Their ability to accept and adapt to the constantly changing circumstances of the pandemic have truly contributed to the success of the laboratory."
(Timothy Sandland is assigned to the 102nd Intelligence Wing.)