SOEMS : Fabricating a Future

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nigel Sandridge
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Ever wondered how the Air Force manages to keep such expensive planes in the sky? What happens when pieces are damaged? Are they replaced or does the plane just get trashed?

Airmen at the aircraft structural maintenance shop of 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron are part of keeping planes in flight on a daily basis. Repairs to cracked aircraft skins, damaged components and fixing bird strikes on a variety planes are some of their daily work at the Eason Hangar on Hurlburt Field, Fla.

"They're highly skilled at the art of reproducing and servicing damaged aircraft components," said Senior Master Sgt. Craig Miller, superintendent of 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron. "These guys go in and repair things that would cost the Air Force a lot of money; they're artist in a sense."

One example that Airmen are tasked to repair is damage to a MC- 130P leading edge component. The leading edge is the front of the wing and is the first part to make contact with airflow during flight.

"We're basically a one stop shop," said Staff Sgt. James B. Smith, aircraft structural maintenance craftsman day shift supervisor of 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron. "We repair components to original integrity."

Using metalworking equipment and tools to form, cut, bend and fasten replacement or repair parts to damaged structures; craftsmen give aircraft pieces new life.

Wing leading edges cost $50,000 to replace but the Airmen at 1 SOEMS use skills learned during a three-and-a-half-month technical school to give aircraft component a second wind. As one of the Air Force Special Operations Commands premier repair facilities, the Hurlburt Field sheet metal shop has returned more than $18,000,000 in serviceable aircraft parts back into the Air Force supply system.

''I love my job," said Smith. "The repairs we make help our planes fly that next mission to wherever they're needed."