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Exploring PMEL

Staff Sgt. Edel Melendez Fred, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, verifies configuration for transponder testing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., March, 13, 2017. The PMEL shop ensures test equipment meets required standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sam Salopek) (This image was blurred for security purposes)

Staff Sgt. Edel Melendez Fred, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, verifies configuration for transponder testing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., March, 13, 2017. The PMEL shop ensures test equipment meets required standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sam Salopek) (This image was blurred for security purposes)

Staff Sgt. Edel Melendez Fred, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, tests an aircraft transponder at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., March, 13, 2017. Melendez Fred works in the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory, which ensures test equipment meets required standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sam Salopek)

Staff Sgt. Edel Melendez Fred, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, tests an aircraft transponder at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., March, 13, 2017. Melendez Fred works in the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory, which ensures test equipment meets required standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sam Salopek)

Staff Sgt. Kevin Amrich, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, measures a cable prior to a test for a cable tensiometer at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., March, 13, 2017. The Travis PMEL shop accomplishes 10,000 maintenance actions per year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sam Salopek)

Staff Sgt. Kevin Amrich, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, measures a cable prior to a test for a cable tensiometer at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., March, 13, 2017. The Travis PMEL shop accomplishes 10,000 maintenance actions per year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sam Salopek)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Nestled behind the large hangars on the flight line at Travis Air Force Base, California, sits a small shop that is home to a quiet maintenance laboratory.

Upon entering the facility, a sign requests individuals clean their boots prior to moving forward. The pristine environment draws strong contrast to the image of a stereotypical maintenance shop.

Moving through the workstations, the technology compares more to a 1980’s science fiction movie then a present-day maintenance lab.           

The 60th Maintenance Squadron’s Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory is tasked with calibrating an array of tools used to accomplish the mission at Travis, as well as other government agencies.   

“We make sure that the test equipment we use is accurate,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Knowlton, 60th MXS PMEL section non-commissioned officer in charge. “Anything from the physician scales and the ones we use for physical fitness tests, all the way to tactical air navigation equipment used on the aircraft, we make sure it’s precise and accurate.”  

PMEL services 255 work centers, including the Air National Guard at Reno, Nevada, Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento and Beale AFB, California, said Master Sgt. Don Svabek, 60th MXS test measurement diagnostic equipment assistant flight chief.        

The shop is hushed as airmen work diligently to calibrate equipment such as aircraft transponders and cable tensiometers within decimals of the prescribed standards.           

It is crucial to the mission that the standards are verified and attained in the PMEL shop, so when the equipment is used on aircraft or in medical facilities technicians can be certain their readings are correct, said Staff Sgt. Edel Melendez Fred, 60th Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician.     

Additional dust and dirt are not welcomed guests within the PMEL shop. When working with extremely specific calculations, test equipment needs to be clean and in impeccable working condition.    

To keep up with their workload, PMEL airmen complete about 50 maintenance actions per day and 10,000 per year, said Knowlton.

Due to the varying duties of the diverse workstations serviced, PMEL handles a large selection of technology.

“We touch more than just maintenance,” said Svabek. “We can help everyone on and off base, and it exposes us to different missions.”

“We’ve had the Air Force Office of Special Investigations come in and bring us scales that they use to measure narcotics for evidence and we calibrate those scales, which is cool because it leads to convictions,” said Knowlton.

Additionally, PMEL calibrates equipment that services the C-130 Hercules that fights wildfires every summer, said Knowlton.

From the scales used to weigh newborns to crucial aircraft technology, PMEL ensures the equipment is working at the highest caliber possible to safeguard mission success. 

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