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Exercising Precision: 18th CMS TMDE sets the standard

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Williams, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment technician, calibrates a micrometer May 10, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Micrometers are used to measure small linear distances with great precision and are used by TMDE technicians to calibrate equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Williams, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment technician, calibrates a micrometer May 10, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Micrometers are used to measure small linear distances with great precision and are used by TMDE technicians to calibrate equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Harvey, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment element supervisor, inspects the insides of equipment used to align the guns of the F-15 Eagle at May 10, 2016, at Kadena, Japan. The time it takes to inspect and calibrate equipment can range from minutes to weeks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hardy, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment element supervisor, inspects the insides of equipment used to align the guns of the F-15 Eagle at May 10, 2016, at Kadena, Japan. The time it takes to inspect and calibrate equipment can range from minutes to weeks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Harvey, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment element supervisor, calibrates equipment used to align the guns of the F-15 Eagle May 10, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th CMS ensures the tools used by maintainers are calibrated so they can do their jobs and keep pilots safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hardy, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment element supervisor, calibrates equipment used to align the guns of the F-15 Eagle May 10, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th CMS ensures the tools used by maintainers are calibrated so they can do their jobs and keep pilots safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

The 18th Component Maintenance Squadron’s test, measurement and diagnostic equipment troops support more than 10,000 different types of equipment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. Equipment such as spectrum analyzers, torque wrenches and pressure gauges are thoroughly fine-tuned to meet TMDE’s four criteria: safety, accuracy, reliability and traceability. Each piece of equipment used to calibrate something has to be four times more accurate that what it is calibrating to ensure traceability. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

The 18th Component Maintenance Squadron’s test, measurement and diagnostic equipment troops support more than 10,000 different types of equipment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. Equipment such as spectrum analyzers, torque wrenches and pressure gauges are thoroughly fine-tuned to meet TMDE’s four criteria: safety, accuracy, reliability and traceability. Each piece of equipment used to calibrate something has to be four times more accurate that what it is calibrating to ensure traceability. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Does it matter if a wrench is used at 69 or 89 degrees Fahrenheit?

To the Airmen of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory, it does; it's the difference between mission success and mission failure. By calibrating and repairing measurement and diagnostic equipment, the shop's mission is to provide customers with reliable, safe and accurate equipment that meets or exceeds expectations.

"The test, measurement and diagnostic equipment troops support more than 10,000 different types of equipment such as spectrum analyzers, torque wrenches and pressure gauges by thoroughly fine-tuning them to meet the four criteria of safety, accuracy, reliability and traceability," said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hardy, 18th CMS TMDE element supervisor.

The 18th CMS's TMDE calibrates the equipment used on base, for other PMEL shops and agencies throughout the entire Pacific, and is one of only two shops of its kind in the Pacific Air Forces' area of responsibility.

"Calibration is very important to the mission," Hardy said. "If none of this equipment gets looked at, to see how it actually is, then we have no idea of what our aircraft can actually do. For example with weapon alignment, the pilot could be ready for a kill shot and they would miss, putting our guys in harm's way."

The laboratory has a high standard for calibration, explained Hardy. Each piece of equipment used to calibrate something has to be four times more accurate than what it's calibrating to ensure traceability. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to one week to calibrate an object.

"When it comes to PMEL we have a standard humidity and a standard temperature for all the equipment," said Senior Master Sgt. Brandon Kirkham, 18th CMS TMDE flight chief. "We know every time it comes in we have eliminated the variable of temperature effects on the operation."

According to Kirkham, when a piece of equipment is operating outside, say at 69 degrees Fahrenheit, it may operate differently than if it's at 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The issue is, when we are calibrating equipment we have to put it in ideal conditions so we can verify its accuracy in the best conditions," Kirkham said. "The user equipment conditions may vary; however, once it comes into a laboratory we want to eliminate as many variables as possible." 

Kirkham said standards are not only set for the tools calibrated but also for the technicians using them.

"The challenge for being in a flight like this is maintaining all of the qualifications to support the wide variety of operations," said Kirkham. "There are approximately 600 items that need to be signed off on our training records to be considered proficient at our jobs."

Once upgrade training for each skill level is completed, technicians then have qualification training that has to be almost micromanaged to ensure there is more than one person who is able to perform the task.

"If they want to go on leave or there's an emergency, we have someone else who is able to step in and perform the operation," stressed Kirkham. "We can't have a single point of failure throughout the more than 3,000 types of equipment we operate."

Everything calibrated by the 18th CMS's TMDE flight is vital to Kadena's mission; from gauges used to measure the water pressure of a fire hydrant to wrenches used on an F-15 Eagle.

"When it comes to any test or measurement we are the center point for that," said Kirkham. "Our job is important for equipment safety, weapons accuracy, reliability of equipment and traceability. We set the standard."