PMEL: The back shop of back shops

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily Kenney
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Hidden away in the back shops of Holloman Air Force Base is a shop, unknown to many, but crucial to almost everyone. Known as the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory, Airmen in this back shop are well-equipped to calibrate any tool, down to the nano-inch.

This job, which requires precision and great attention to detail, is crucial to many of the missions here.

"Whether it's the flying mission, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, or the Army, the bottom line is we have to get equipment out the door so our customers can accomplish their mission," said Tech. Sgt. Alfonso Gonzalez, 49th Maintenance Squadron PMEL chief. "At Holloman, we have a multitude of customers we support. Specifically we work with the F-16s and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft equipment. We calibrate the test equipment that goes to service the aircraft, which makes them then able to go fly training sorties."

Gonzalez laughed as he explained how the tools they calibrate and measure are frequently used by the maintenance back shops. He said PMEL Airmen like to joke in their shop and they often call their shop the "back shop of all back shops."

Gonzalez, who has been part of PMEL for 15 years, said in all his years he has never had two days the same.

"My favorite part of my job is the multitude of the equipment we have within our inventory," said Gonzalez. "We support almost 10 thousand items annually and there's never a day that is the exact same. Every day is a little different. Whether it's a different problem, or learning a new piece of equipment, every day comes with a little challenge."

Not only does the PMEL at Holloman work with the aircraft, but they also calibrate equipment used by the 49th Communications Squadron and in many different construction projects on base.

"We calibrate almost everything the Air Force uses to take any kind of measurements," Said Staff Sgt. Jason Warren, 49th Maintenance Squadron PMEL technician. "In the electronics section, I work with anything that uses frequency, or micro-waves. I work a lot with radios and aircraft radio communications."

Not only is PMEL essential to Holloman's mission, but these Airmen also have a huge impact on the mission of Air Combat Command as a whole.

"We have the only laboratory in ACC that have a 68 degree room," said Warren. "68 degrees is the temperature where metal can neither contract nor expand. Since we have a room that is set at 68 degrees every day, we have the capability to calibrate specific metals and metal equipment for bases throughout ACC."

Besides keeping American aircraft flying and Holloman calibrated correctly, the PMEL Airmen also assist in keeping the German Air Force's flying mission operational at Holloman.

"The Germans have a much smaller lab than us and they often use some of our equipment," said Gonzalez. "We enjoy working with the Germans to make sure their equipment is properly calibrated and ready for their missions."

Whether these Airmen are calibrating radio test sets for F-16 ejection seats or creating angles for construction projects; measurements from nano-inches to 20 tons, the Airmen from PMEL make a huge impact.