Sheet metal Airmen support wing's mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Caleb Pierce
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When one hears the words, sheet metal, one might think of construction work or building. To the Airmen of Incirlik Air Base sheet metal means more than words, it means completing the mission.

The aircraft structural maintenance section at Incirlik commonly referred to as "sheet metal," consists of a two person team which support all 39th Maintenance Squadron equipment, that includes almost 200 pieces of aerospace ground equipment as well as supporting two separate squadrons and three different missions. 

According to Chief Master Sgt. Zachary Capogna, 39th MXS superintendent, the sheet metal shop directly supports the mission by ensuring combat readiness while following the commander's priorities; among the priorities is strengthening the alliance between U.S. and NATO forces and keeping aircraft in the air.

"Incirlik's small two-Airman sheet metal shop can be dispatched anytime and anywhere to patch [aircraft] up and get it back in the air," Capogna said. "The list goes on and on about what they can do, but the bottom line is, 'If it's in the air, maintenance put it there.' That's how our structures section supports the wing."

Some of the responsibilities the section performs during its daily duties are managing structural repair, corrosion control, and composite repairs on metallic, composites such as carbon fibers, fiberglass, plastics, as well as the many types of hardware used on aircraft and support equipment.

"The reason the sheet metal shop is crucial to the wings mission here is because we ensure our aircraft and our NATO allies stay in the air to get the mission done," said Staff Sgt. Travis Weaver, 39th MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. "We provide a unique skillset that facilitates our fellow Hodjas so they can get their job done." 

As part of their effort to provide continued support, the shop uses several programs, one of which is a bench stock program that allows them to readily supply and repair aircraft. Additionally, another program allows the office to maintain large equipment, which also the two-person team uses to support various wing needs.

"We maintain a vehicle program that is crucial to getting us and our equipment out to the aircraft with the tools needed to efficiently facilitate repair of most sheet metal discrepancies on the flight line," Weaver said. "These sheet metal programs enable the wing to complete its mission." 

Being able to accomplish the mission didn't come overnight, explained Weaver.
Training to become an aircraft structural maintenance technician consists of 76 days of technical training which teaches shop mathematics, blue print reading, simple metal fabrication, how to bend tubing, how to install and remove aircraft fasteners, how to paint and learning advanced composites such as fiberglass, graphite and Kevlar.

After completion of training, sheet metal Airmen start upgrade training where they learn additional skills such as flush and non-flush repairs, how to take care of the machinery and how to trouble shoot the machines, painting techniques and how to manufacture stencils and decals for aircraft.

"Training for a sheet metal troop actually starts in basic military training," said Weaver. "This job is all about the details and our core values is crucial while working in the sheet metal career field. In this career we are always continually training to hone and keep our skills sharp for the mission."

From removing stuck screws for crew chiefs to evaluating bird strikes and repairing damage as needed, the sheet metal Airmen are supporting the mission.

"We are a small but proud maintenance shop and have been able to support our wings most forward deployed assets and support multiple missions," said Weaver. "We know our work directly serves our country, our way of life and maintains combat capability."

Apart from their normal mission, the shop supplements the 39th Civil Engineer Squadron structures section by manufacturing parts and performing repairs.

"They are a primary resource for the base gym, security forces, and operations support squadron performing repairs on exercise equipment, working dog transportation kennels, and manufacturing support systems for installation surveillance cameras and a new Doppler Ground Radar," Capogna said. "It's not their primary mission nor in their job description however, our sheet metal shop Airmen are committed to making the mission happen at Incirlik and for our Air Force!"