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Fabricate it ‘til you make it

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U.S. Air Force Airman Daniel Arellano, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance technician, marks sheet metal for cutting Feb. 21, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th EMS helps to maintain more than 50 F-15C Eagles assigned to Kadena AB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jahmal Camp, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance technician, sands paint from an adapter Feb. 21, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The aircraft structural maintenance shop processes large metal sheets into parts or panels for Kadena-assigned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jahmal Camp, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance technician, sands a piece of sheet metal using a belt sander Feb. 21, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Structural maintenance technicians work directly from their technical orders to create, repair or maintain required aircraft parts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

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U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron discuss the afternoon workload Feb. 21, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th EMS provides maintenance services for Kadena-assigned F-15C Eagles, KC-135 Stratotankers, HH-60G Pavehawks and many others. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

Imagine, for a moment, an F-15C Eagle. In the mind, it’s likely flying or looking neat and proper in a hangar, showing the kind of image airshows are made of. Now picture that same aircraft with missing or broken panels. The view is different and probably nowhere near as pleasant. Without members of the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, there would be a whole lot more than just one F-15 looking rough.

Aircraft structural maintenance technicians are responsible for providing parts and panels to many of Team Kadena’s assigned and tenant aircraft, to include the F-15, HH-60G Pavehawk and KC-135 Stratotanker, among others. While they definitely provide those parts, they stand apart by going a step further and fabricating them in their own shop.

“If we weren’t here to do what we do, the current fleet would not be where they are now,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Hodges, 18th EMS aircraft structural maintenance technician. “We have the capability to repair and manufacture certain parts, so the current aircraft wouldn’t be around without our expertise.”

With the multiple aircraft and airframes that are on Kadena Air Base, the technical requirements for fabricating specific and individual parts make the job very specialized.

“The most challenging part of our job, in my experience, is becoming acquainted with the aircraft at your installation,” Hodges said. “For this base, we have our aircraft and others from different bases. There are a lot of basics, but there are also nuances that each airframe has we have to be familiar with.”

In addition to the highly technical nature of measuring, cutting and altogether creating parts for mission-essential aircraft, members of the 18th EMS maintain a sense of pride in their skills and the affects it has on Kadena AB’s resources.

“I get to see my job from start to finish,” said Airman 1st Class Gilbert Martinez, 18th EMS structural maintenance technician. “I get to create the patch I put on the aircraft and I can be creative with it. The most rewarding part, for me, is when I can see the patch fully on [the aircraft] and it’s signed off. It boosts my confidence and compliments my work.”

Providing their services to more than 50 F-15s and the dozens of other individual aircraft on Kadena AB helps to highlight the value of the mission performed by the Airmen from the 18th EMS structural maintenance shop.

“This shop helps promote the commanders intent for maintaining stability in the region through our absolutely pivotal role of keeping these airframes up and readily available,” Hodges said. “We keep our aircraft mission-capable through the repairs we do and inspections we complete to make sure the jets are ready to launch and complete their mission.”