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PMEL: Setting standard for excellence

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Precision Measurement Evaluation Laboratory calibrates equipment on Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., to ensure the validity of readings and results of equipment.

PMEL initiatives started in the late 1950s after numerous failed aircraft launches were traced back to inaccurately calibrated pieces of equipment. After this realization, the PMEL Airman was born.

“Our mission is to calibrate all the support equipment on base to the National Institute of Standards and Technologies requirement,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Key, 19th Maintenance Squadron PMEL electronics supervisor. “The only things on base that we don’t service are the scales at the commissary and the gas pumps.”

The daily work schedule needed to properly support such a large customer base may seem daunting to some, but the PMEL shop accomplishes any tasks set before them without a second thought. Even a job as big as calibrating a C-130 engine.

“The engine test cell calibrations normally take two to three days,” said Senior Airman Cameron Wood, 19th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician. “Even with it taking so long, I still love this job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

This love for the job doesn’t just apply to Little Rock AFB. PMEL shops support each other all over the country if they find they can’t fulfill a certain tasking.

“We help out other bases and services with their calibrations,” Key said. “We set the standard for all calibrations on base. We have to be accurate because everything we touch has a domino effect if we’re wrong.”

Knowing that being a few millionths of an inch off in their measurements can mean failure only works to motivate PMEL team members in their quest for perfection.

“We’re the back shop behind the back shop, but what we do is vital to the base,” Wood said.

Working such precision leads to a desire and need for PMEL Airmen to be as close to perfection as possible.