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104th FW Metals Technology Airmen Fabricate Tools for Air National Guard F-15 Units--What Goes Fast Must Slow Down

Barnes Air National Guard Base -- What goes up must come down. The same is true especially when it is a fast flying F-15 Eagle. What goes fast must slow down. We don't often think about the brakes first when admiring the fast flying F-15 although a key component of the aircraft. The 104th Fighter Wing Metals Technology Fabrications Branch is currently in charge of fabricating tools to install new brakes for all F-15s throughout the Air National Guard.

"It is something important and I'm proud to work on this project," said Airman 1st Class Jeremy Ethier of the 104th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group, Metals Technology.  "Everyone else that has F-15 Eagles will see our work, so not just our base will know we are doing this work. Once everyone else receives the tools they will know the 104th Fighter Wing did this. It's putting our mark on there and our Fighter Wing on the map for being a great Maintenance Group." 

The Airmen of the 104th FW Metals Technology shop are producing tools to be used by all Air National Guard units for installation, removal, and rebuilding of F-15 brakes and wheels. This will allow maintenance to rebuild instead of replacing the brakes each time.

"This is all a part of the modernization process project for the F-15s," said Master Sgt. T.J. Dorman, 104th Maintenance Group, Metals Technology Supervisor. "To keep them relevant and current they must keep improving systems. If you have all F-15s using the same parts than it is less money for each part."

Col. Alexander Haldopoulos the Maintenance Commander shared "In typical Barnstormer fashion these technical experts are able to go above and beyond in helping build out special tooling that will be used at every Air National Guard F15 base to handle the new wheels and brakes in development for the F15. They are building the tooling that allows them to install and remove the future wheels and brakes. These new wheels and brakes will essentially make the aircraft safer."

"This has also been an awesome opportunity for our young talent within the metals tech shop to grow from this experience and learn from the instructors in the organization that took this job to not only  help the other units in the Air National Guard but to use it as a teaching opportunity for the Airmen in our Squadron. I couldn't be more proud of them stepping up and tackling this task."

Two of the tool sets will stay at the 104th FW. When complete they will have built 8 sets of 16 tools a piece. 

"We received the blue prints from the engineers at Edwards Air Force Base and from there we are building the tool sets," explained Dorman. "When we are done with these sets we'll be shipping them to the individual bases and our quality assurance will assure the tools are ready to be distributed to the field."

The 104th FW will supply the first set of the tools for each unit across the Air National Guard. Each unit will continue to make multiple sets for their aircraft after receiving the first initial set.

Haldopoulos said "We are standardizing the process and this is a huge benefit right off the bat so the other units can continue the process."

Additional sets will be needed for a home station capability, deploying, and possibly an alert set.

 "The first thing we did was look through all the drawings and find out the materials we needed," said Dorman. "We made the list of the different materials and sizes we needed and then ordered the stock."

Dorman explained how they are working closely with the engineers at Edwards Air Force Base "We are supplying what information we are gathering such as what materials we are ordering. If we run into any problems along the way we provide the information to the engineers and they tell all the other units. A couple of the materials in particular we weren't able to get and so we contacted the engineers and let them know we could not get this one but here is a suitable material and asked if we could substitute and they said yes."

Five Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing are working on the project. Two of the Airmen are on seasoning days after recently returning from technical school.

"They are already providing to the Air National Guard mission," said Dorman. "It's nice especially with the two people on training time having real impactful work they can do rather than just making up projects to learn skills. They can put their training to good use." 

Dorman explained "They are learning because we are creating eight of each piece. I am able to go over and show them how to make the first one, they do the second and then were running good from there. So we do a little bit of training and they can finish the parts."

The Aircraft Metals Technology Specialist Airmen are able to make almost any kind of metal part an aircraft may need. It is their job to design, weld, heat treat, fabricate, and use precision tools, components, and assemblies for aerospace system designs.

"I really like it out here at the unit," said Airman 1st Class Matias Templeman. "We always have new parts to make and always something new to do. This is the coolest summer job I've ever had."

Templeman is a recent graduate of the four month Air Force metals technology technical school. He is from East Long Meadow and received a job at American Saw making Lenox sawblades in his hometown upon returning from technical school.

"It beats a civilian job or a job with repetition," said Ethier. "I have learned a little bit of everything every single day I come out here even if I'm maybe working the same part production for a few days I'm still learning something new. There isn't any dull moments.

Ethier explained "Maybe it teaches you to accomplish the work a different way or setting the tools up in the machine another way that maybe improves the process."

"Attention to detail is definitely needed. This isn't some kind of a job working in within .001 or .0001 of an inch," said Ethier. "There's a few times I've had to go back and I say oh I missed this and I've got to take it down some more to make it to the specs."

Ethier has been in the Air Guard for two years and accomplished the Air Force technical school last year. He is from Williamstown Massachusetts and is currently going to school for metals technology using his GI Bill.  

"It is microscopic," explained Ethier. "You can put a part right next to another part that's thousands of an inch smaller than it's supposed to be and you couldn't even tell the difference by eye and you put down the measuring tool and look at it and that parts junk." 

"Typically a piece of paper is .003 and we could work down to cutting it into twenty parts," said Ethier. "Seeing isn't definitely believing in this shop as far as measuring goes."

Ethier explained the importance of the details "The tolerances are really high on any aircraft parts we work on. Whether it's the landing gear or in this case building parts for the braking system. That's someone else's life you are dealing with. So if it's not perfect you have to scrap the part and start all over to ensure the safety of the person operating that equipment."