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PMEL continues calibration for total force during COVID-19

PMEL technician looks at a yellow calibration tool while wearing a face mask

Keith Custer, 102nd Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory technician, checks parallelism boresight at Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass., May 1, 2020. The 102nd PMEL provides precision calibration and measurement for nine different Air Force and Air National Guard flying missions, as well as support for District 1 of the U.S. Coast Guard. The Otis PMEL has seen an increase of 25% for cold room work in part due to the pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kerri Spero)

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. (AFNS) -- Through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the various missions of the Air Force continue. One such area that often goes unnoticed is that of the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory.

As one of only seven labs that has the necessary equipment and personnel to perform air data calibration, the Otis PMEL provides precision calibration and measurement for 16 different Air Force, Air National Guard and foreign military support flying missions, as well as local support for District 1 of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The service our PMEL team provides to the Air Force is critical,” said Col. Timothy Gordon, 102nd Mission Support Group commander. “We are extremely fortunate to have such a talented, reliable and committed team of metrologists here at Otis (ANGB) serving within the 102nd Mission Support Group with a mission that extends across the Air Force.”

A weighty responsibility, the Otis PMEL measures up to these challenges and continues to step up throughout the pandemic. PMEL calibrates the tools that calibrate the equipment that executes the mission. From medical scales, to the tools that fine-tune avionics equipment and jet engines, PMEL ensures any device or piece of equipment that is used to make a quantitative measurement, meets and is certified to a precise and uniformed standard.

“We continue to be responsible for the repair, calibration, alignment, installation, and overall maintenance of a multitude of test, measurement and diagnostic equipment,” said Mr. Todd Morey, PMEL director. “We support more than 16 flying missions across 33 units spanning eight major commands.”

Otis ANGB’s PMEL is the largest and only ‘Type II-C’ lab in the Air National Guard – of the 65 PMELs in the Air Force, it shares that distinction with only seven other labs.

Only Type II-C labs have a “cold room.” Cold rooms are temperature-controlled labs that are kept at a precise 68 degrees Fahrenheit – the international standard for calibration because it is the optimum temperature to measure metals.

The Otis PMEL has seen an increase of 25% for cold room work in part due to the pandemic.

“The challenge is to maintain our pre-COVID capability and capacity while mitigating the risk to our most valuable assets: our personnel,” Morey said. “Our ops-tempo has remained steady throughout the crisis.”

The pandemic has necessitated creative solutions for maintaining a safe working environment in the lab.

“I divided the workforce into two shifts with a half-hour separation between to allow for disinfecting measures to be accomplished,” Morey said. “We have instituted enhanced end-of-shift cleaning procedures using a bleach-and-water solution that is verified with test strips to ensure proper ratio for sanitizing.”

As part of the disinfection and sanitization routine, each shift wipes down tables, arms on chairs, break room appliances, water coolers, and vending machines. Doors, light switches, faucets and soap dispensers get similar treatments, as do all hand tools and surfaces within the laboratory itself.

The team’s efforts have enabled PMEL to maintain a high level of efficiency, contributing to the readiness of many flying and non-flying missions across the Air Force. Production numbers throughout this period represent hundreds of items and mission essential priority maintenance actions completed in support of the Air Force Repair Network.

Reflecting on his team, Morey said, “I am thankful that I have an excellent crew. Their ability to accept and adapt to the constantly changing circumstances of the pandemic have truly contributed to the success of the laboratory.”


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