MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn --
One of the 934th Maintenance Squadron's main priorities is keeping the wing's C-130s flying to accomplish and maintain the Air Force Reserve mission.
Keeping the C-130's structural integrity and functioning is where aircraft structural maintenance, or ASM, technicians' expertise comes into play.
The role of ASM is to repair any physical damage to an aircraft's structure. These Airmen can fix the aircraft by creating or repairing the damaged part of the aircraft and then reinstalling them.
A recent project for the ASM technicians involved repairing a cracked aileron. An aileron is a hinged surface responsible for forming part of the trailing edge of each wing. Ailerons are used in pairs for the movement around the aircraft's longitudinal axis.
"We had to take off a panel on the aileron and replace it with a new one," said Staff Sgt. Tanner Tschann, a 934th MXS ASM technician. "It was nice that we did not have to fabricate a new panel; we ordered a new one, then put in the rivets and painted it."
Riveting involves joining sheet metal together by drilling and then installing a rivet or fastener. Another common task for ASM is painting various aircraft parts, which is done after a part is fabricated in a metals shop. This process involves mixing paint with a special adhesive so that it will not wear off in flight. After mixing, the paint is sprayed onto the metal parts in a room built for ventilation.
An appealing aspect of this career field is the opportunities to deploy to various exciting locations and work on and with different aircraft types.
"I have traveled to Germany," Tschann said. "And I know some guys from my shop that have been to Poland, Norway. They are cool trips to go on."
One reason the U.S. Air Force can maintain such a high standard for aircraft readiness is the pride that maintainers take in their work.
"We keep these planes up in the air where they want to be," Tschann said. "It's nice to see, especially when we get planes ready for deployment and you watch them all take off on different missions. It makes you feel proud to think of the role you played in getting to that point."
Besides working strictly on aircraft parts, ASM technicians help with different metal parts and fabrications that are needed around the base. Because of this specialty in metal and parts fabrication, ASM technicians holds the nickname "sheet metal," and are more often referred to as such in comparison to the former by other technicians and mechanics in service.
In a recent project, some ASM technicians worked on fabricating metal signs to replace old and damaged ones.
ASM technicians are responsible for various roles and can work at different bases on various aircraft.
It's not just their skill sets that separate them from other careers, it's the pride they take in their craftsmanship, combined with a dedication to ensuring that the Airmen who go on flights daily make it home safely.
Additionally, with all these skills at their disposal, there are a lot of opportunities to work in civilian career positions that are like their job.
"It's a good experience working with sheet metal for civilian life jobs like heating, ventilation and air conditioning," Tschann said. "There are a lot of opportunities where you can leverage your knowledge that you have from getting trained in ASM for civilian careers."