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PMEL unites for certification

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
For a squadron that requires pinpoint accuracy, it was a grievous spring day in May 2018 when the Air Force Metrology and Calibration evaluation team performed a rigorous week-long on-site inspection and determined the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron Base Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory was not up to standard.

Heads were hanging as 37 Airmen realized there would be an uphill climb to get where they needed to be.

It is a requirement for every base to have a certified PMEL assigned to them.

“When we first got here, our main priority was just to work; we didn’t really have much time for the other things,” said Staff Sgt. Nakeisha Mitchell, 20th CMS PMEL physical dimension technician. “The morale was steady, but not at a high like we have it now. You could tell we were in a bad place.”

PMEL calibrates and certifies test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment for weapons systems across the Air Force. From testing scales and weights to F-16 Viper ejection seats, all Air Force equipment has to be calibrated.

If a PMEL goes long enough without their certification, they risk being shut down, which means all the equipment needing testing will be sent to other bases, maximizing efficiency.

“A piece of equipment would come in and we would have to send it off for calibration,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason DeGrasse, 20th CMS PMEL flight chief. “We wouldn’t have that equipment back for 60 to 80 days. Normally it would take us one to two weeks.”

DeGrasse said a lot of circumstances caused the certificate to be withheld. The equipment was old and rusted, there was not enough working space in the temporary facility and the environment had to be in tolerance for 90% of the calendar year. A single point of failure was also found – only a few Airmen were subject matter experts in critical measurement areas.

Mitchell said soon after the failure there was a shift in the morale and. The squadron’s solution to change the situation moved from focusing on the macro scale down to the micro. The squadron found if they encouraged and pointed out what all the Airmen were doing right while setting achievable goals they were able to see positive results.

“We couldn’t fix these things overnight, but we all came together and were able to get a lot of positive data and motivation from our Airmen to do what we needed to,” said DeGrasse. “The real goal is to implement processes that last when you’re gone, so the next crew has a solid foundation to build on.”

All the standards were met by the end of 2019, so Chief Master Sgt. Jason Perry, Air Combat Command functional manager, personally came out to present the certificate to Airmen who were still present since 2018.

“I have seen you guys grow and struggle through the trials and tribulations to get this certification,” said Perry. “You guys did a fantastic job, so I wanted to personally certify this PMEL. Seeing you grow was very special to me and I wanted to be here for it.”