Heavy Metal

By Staff Sgt. Callie Ware 307th Bomb Wing

The B-52 Stratofortress’ flying out of Barksdale Air Force Base are more than 50 years old, but thanks to Metals Technology Specialists with the 307th Maintenance Squadron, age is just a number.

“The B-52 is the oldest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, so having skilled maintenance personnel is key to keeping it flying for another 50 years,” said Maj. Bernard Conrad, 307th MXS commander. “Metals Technology Specialists are artists, ensuring everything they make meets exacting specifications. Their attention to detail and creativity keeps the Stratofortress one of the most lethal aircraft in the world.”

The Airmen of the 307th MXS, along with their Total Force Integration Partners in the 2nd MXS, play a significant role in keeping the B-52 viable. The list of tasks these Airmen must perform is extensive, making them a hub for several other units throughout the 307th Bomb Wing.

“We design, manufacture and repair aircraft parts, their assemblies, and parts for ground support equipment,” said Master Sgt. Kelly Watkins, 307th MXS Aircraft Metals Technology supervisor. “We also make custom tooling for other specialists such as jet engine mechanics, weapons personnel, hydraulics personnel, and electricians to make their job easier, safer, and faster.”

The 307th MXS metal technology shop employs tools to keep the B-52’s in the air. A quick look around the shop floor reveals an array of welding machines, metal lathes, water jet cutters and a host of other tools, many of which run with the help of Computer Aided Drawing software.

“Our fabrication and repair projects range from small projects, such as remaking specialized brackets, pins and bushings to very large projects, like designing a new cradle used to support and lower the main landing gear out of a B-52,” said Watkins.

Watkins said the variety and complexity of the projects requires seasoned Airmen with the ability to envision repairs and bring them to fulfillment, but that he and his team enjoy the challenge.

“There are not many jobs that allow you to take a project and carry it all the way through to the end,” he said.

Watkins also said the skills used on the military side translate well to the civilian world.

“Airmen in metals technology are certified in structural and specialized welding for alloy metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, cobalt and magnesium, all marketable skills," he said.

From repairing a B-52 tow bar to fabricating an alloy metal knee replacement in the medical industry, metal manipulation is a much needed trade and creates endless possibilities for both military and civilian enhancement.

“This career field affects virtually everything around you,” said Watkins. “A machinist has a role in almost everything that you see.”

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the 307th Bomb Wing website.