MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
A vibrant blue light melts steel and copper between two pieces of metal, strengthening the weld and bonding them together creating a new shape.
Another machine whirs, spitting out bits of metal, creating a custom product for the shop that requests it.
“We are modern day blacksmiths,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Crawford, 5th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman. “Metal, plastic or wood we’ve done it all.”
Airmen from the 5th Maintenance Squadron metals technician shop create tools, aircraft parts and support equipment for Minot Air Force Base around the clock.
“As a metals technician we’re good at manipulating metal,” said Airman 1st Class Dontie Custis, 5th Maintenance Squadron metals technician. “We weld, create new parts, make general fixes and upgrade equipment. We specialize in many different areas of our job.”
Custis also said the metals technician shop’s goal is to save time, money and effort for the Air Force.
“We like to think of ourselves as a way to save the Air Force money,” said Custis. “We create tools, frames and parts for older aircraft that aren’t manufactured anymore.”
The metals shop uses seven types of metal for fabricating, to include, steel, aluminum, nickel, cobalt, magnesium, titanium and copper. They also work with different plastics and wood.
Custis said the metal is heat treated during the welding process, which rearranges the molecules inside the metal to give the desired hardness the metal technicians need.
The technicians also go out to the flightline whenever they are needed for repairs.
“When you come through the door on your shift you never know what to expect,” said Custis. “We’re also a back shop so we go out to the flightline to inspect and repair the parts of an aircraft.”
Custis mentioned how lots of shops on base visit them for just about anything.
“Shops on base always come to us to make tools and equipment for them because we’re able to fabricate and fix anything they need,” said Custis.
Custis said he is proud of the work he does.
“I think being a metals technician is one of the most important jobs in the Air Force,” said Custis. “I like the fact that I can go home, wash the grease and grime off my hands and it gives me the satisfaction that I worked hard today and I know I did a good job.”