Kadena PMEL keeps PACOM's calibrations precise
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- At first glance, the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratories looks like any other building. Once inside the immaculate and sterile interior, its pressure sealed doors and hallways look more appropriate for a hospital than a maintenance shop.
While most PMEL have base support responsibilities, the 18th CMS PMEL here, with its unique specialty labs, is responsible for calibrating and repairing high end test equipment from more than 200 U.S. Pacific Command installations. More than 800 customers drop off equipment daily for calibration and repair.
Most labs are type 2B PMEL labs, which means they are base-level PMEL established to support aircraft, missiles, ground systems and other equipment on base or in the local area.
The 18th CMS PMEL is the only type 2A PMEL lab in the Air Force that is 100 percent military run. The only other type 2A PMEL lab in the Pacific region is Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, which is run by contractors.
This means not only does it do normal type 2B functions; it also has a 68 degree room for dimensional measurements of highly accurate dimensional tests, measurements, and diagnostic equipment that require a meticulously controlled environment. The room has to be kept at 68 degrees Fahrenheit to properly calibrate the sensitive equipment.
Kadena's PMEL Airmen ensure accuracies and tolerances are met in a certain set condition such as temperature, dust, vibration, electromagnetic interference and humidity. This allows them to calibrate the sound equipment for all of the Pacific Air Forces, as well as equipment such as a multiple-target collimator, which is used to calibrate surveillance equipment.
Not only does PMEL maintain all of the test equipment that keeps the fighter jets, heavy aircrafts and bombers in the air, they also maintain communication test equipment for satellite uplink or down-link, test equipment to maintain the power-grid for the base and gauges for fuel trucks and aircrafts.
"We take our job very seriously," said Master Sgt. Kevin Herrera, 18th CMS TMDE laboratory chief. "Since we touch and influence so many different fields, it is important to do the job right and that's where precision comes into play."
Each item is calibrated four times better than what is required and follows the Air Force Primary Standards Laboratory, which is in charge of maintaining the standards of the Air Force's PMELs. In turn, the AFPSL follows the standards of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is in charge of the national standards of all labs.
This creates an unbroken chain, ensuring even at the lowest level, people have accurate equipment.
Approximately 50 authorized PMEL airmen are responsible for the calibration and repair of more than 10,500 test measurement and diagnostic equipment assets and complete 12,800 maintenance actions annually.
"The job is a little surreal," said Staff Sgt. Sean Pentz, 18th CMS PMEL technician. "If you make a mistake in this job, an aircraft could go down or a missile doesn't hit its target. A small deviation makes a big difference; without precision aircrafts can't fly."
While PMEL is part of the maintenance community, they are not confined to it. If there is a maintenance training day, PMEL meets the initiatives that the 18th Maintenance Group is trying to accomplish that day, but they still have obligations they must meet for PACOM.
"We have some unique specialty labs that are specific to us, that no other military lab is doing," Rankin said. "So, when the opportunity presents itself and you get to come to Kadena to work in this laboratory, you know you are getting a special opportunity and we are very proud of that mission."