PMEL: only the most precise will suffice

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- In a building kept at 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 35 percent humidity where even the intensity of the lights is closely monitored, Airmen calibrate tools to restore readiness and ensure reliability.

The 437th Maintenance Squadron Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory calibrates tools and equipment used throughout Joint Base Charleston. Technicians calibrate, align and troubleshoot equipment; this practice is known as metrology, which is the science of weights and measures.

“My favorite part of the job is working with the vast amount of equipment,” said Senior Airman William Matlock, 437th Maintenance Squadron Precision Measurement Laboratory calibration technician. “We may be a back-shop but we are definitely part of a much bigger picture.”

The lab calibrates everything from torque wrenches to aerial communication systems. They analyze and measure just about anything that can be quantified such as, sound, weight, and distance. Without these precise measurements, Airmen could not consistently do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

“Without PMEL people all over the world would be using unreliable equipment and aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Christian Hubbard, 437th Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of PMEL. “This would have a drastically negative affect on the mission locally and internationally.”

Charleston PMEL supports over 90 work centers across 11 Department of Defense installations. There are 11 technicians assigned to Charleston who support and certify more than 4,000 items annually. 

“The equipment we calibrate here supports Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard units around the globe,” said Hubbard.

With PMEL being scientifically demanding, the equipment, process and atmosphere are constantly changing. The career field has around 800 Airmen.

“Our labs are always changing with upgrades to our equipment," said Hubbard. "This allows us to better support our customers, weapon systems and the mission.  Our inventories continue to increase, so training becomes even more important. PMEL is a relatively small career field so we are like one big family. Plus, it is hard to complain when you work in an environmentally-controlled laboratory that is 73 degrees.”