Ramstein lab measures up

Nate Cairney
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***When the summer heat is at its worst, the Ramstein Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory doesn’t miss a beat. That’s because the clean, cavernous PMEL interior is one of the few air-conditioned buildings on base.

Staying cool is critical for the Airmen at PMEL. In a world where million-dollar pieces of equipment depend on something as simple as a mounted cannon or a rubber tire, there is little room for error when calibrating complex weapons systems or tire pressure gauges.

“We take care of diagnostic equipment – and most anything that delivers critical measurements – across USAFE,” said Master Sgt. Danny Vessells, 86th Maintenance Squadron Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment flight chief. “We take care of all the Air Force units in northern Europe, some Army, some Navy and downrange needs.”

There are plenty of things to work on in the PMEL, which supports approximately 15,000 pieces of equipment per year with a team that generally numbers around 60 to 70 persons.

In two primary laboratories, Airmen work studiously to calibrate frequency, radar, navigation and tactical air management equipment. Calibration is a big part of their job, but it’s not the only one.

“We also do repairs and alignment,” said Sergeant Vessells.  “If all of the parameters are met during calibration, though, we don’t mess with it (the equipment).”

Much work is also done in the physical realm. The PMEL team tests pressure gauges, optics, micrometers and torque wrenches, among other things. They also have the distinction of working on fighter jet systems. For example, they align boresight fixtures, which basically means they make sure the mounted cannon shoots straight.

Lodged in a small corner near cage-covered hydraulic force presses is a third part of the PMEL – the standards area. This area ensures that the Ramstein PMEL, which was recently recertified by the Air Force Metrology and Calibration Program to perform measurements for the ninth consecutive time, maintains measurements that jive with the Air Force Primary Standards Laboratory. The standards area also contains an infrared target simulator, which is one of two in the Air Force and the only one in Europe.