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Flawless PMEL ensures weapons, equipment

Jamaica Neussendorfer, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron contractor, and Staff Sgt. Len Carter, 366th CMS Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment quality assurance evaluator, work together to make adjustments on a standard alignment fixture, March 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.  If the TMDE flight fails an inspection and loses certification, all the equipment would then have to be shipped to another location to be calibrated. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

Jamaica Neussendorfer, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron contractor, and Staff Sgt. Len Carter, 366th CMS Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment quality assurance evaluator, work together to make adjustments on a standard alignment fixture, March 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. If the TMDE flight fails an inspection and loses certification, all the equipment would then have to be shipped to another location to be calibrated. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erek Cummings, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment technician, adjusts an antenna alignment fixture, March 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The TMDE flight calibrates anything that takes a measurement or anything that acts as a standard form of measurement for their lab such as the antenna alignment fixture. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erek Cummings, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment technician, adjusts an antenna alignment fixture, March 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The TMDE flight calibrates anything that takes a measurement or anything that acts as a standard form of measurement for their lab such as the antenna alignment fixture. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Imagine being on the battlefield taking cover in a ditch while the enemy hammers you with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. You make the call to get close-air support from the F-15E Strike Eagles you are deployed with. A missile is launched and directly hits the target. The Airmen in the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory flight paid attention to detail and possibly just saved your life.

With any career field, compliance with all systems and programs is essential. The Air Force Metrology and Calibration (AFMETCAL) Program ensures every PMEL flight meets the standards outlined in technical order 00-20-14. The order is in place to establish consistency when calibrating equipment throughout different Air Force bases.

Two members of the AFMETCAL inspection team visited MHAFB Feb. 29 through March 1 to assess the base's Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment laboratory's compliance and capability to perform measurements that are accurate, reliable, uniform, and traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or AFMETCAL approved sources.

"The entire intent of them coming down to inspect us is we have traceability," said Master Sgt. Cory Perkins, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron TMDE assistant flight chief. "For PMEL, traceability is being able to tie something to the highest possible standard."

The TMDE flight calibrates anything that takes a measurement or anything that acts as a standard form of measurement for their lab.

"We make sure that every piece of measurement equipment that's taken on the flightline is traceable to NIST," said Airman 1st Class Colton Eledge, 366th CMS TMDE technician. "We use a 4-to-1 testing ratio which basically ensures that all our standards are four times better than what we are calibrating."

Training is on-going throughout the year with audits held by supervisors to ensure technicians are comfortable completing processes.

"Our pre-audit consisted of 100 percent of our lab standards," Eledge continued. "They reviewed my process over a sensor module, but I was ready for it because I usually get audited during process reviews, and had so many up to the time the audit got here that I was used to someone looking over my shoulder."

The Airmen in the TMDE flight require a lot of-on-the-job training, and are encouraged to ask questions if there are tasks they don't quite understand or aren't comfortable performing.

"I was asking a bunch of questions the entire audit prep just to be sure I was confident and I felt prepared," said Eledge. "We were encouraged to ask whatever question, even if we think it's dumb and we should already know it by now."

In the end, the flight proved successful as they achieved a perfect score for the second time in a row.

"There are four things that make up a traceable measurement--having trained technicians, the environment has to be good, you have to have a current and correct calibration procedure, and accurate, reliable standards," said Perkins. "For us to go two years in a row and do as well as we did is unheard of."

If the TMDE flight fails an inspection and loses certification, all the equipment would then have to be shipped to another location to be calibrated. In this fiscal environment, that could be a catastrophe.

"Airman Eledge did so well and the auditors noticed that," said Master Sgt. Daniel Shaw, 366th CMS TMDE flight chief. "He was the only one to get coined by the auditor for his knowledge of the area and technical expertise."

Reeling back to the battlefield and the need for precise equipment and weapon systems, it's nice to know warfighters are in good hands when PMEL has their back.