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Wolf Pack “metal heads” forge mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to extending the longevity of the Air Force’s air fleet, it takes units like the 8th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology flight to meet that need with their fabrication skills.

“Our career field is the Air Force’s last line of defense to keep assets in use,” said Staff Sgt. Dante Custis, 8th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman. “If we weren’t able to fabricate or repair critical parts, then essentially that asset can no longer be used. It’s no longer safe and it doesn’t serve its intended purpose anymore.”

On one hand, working as a machinist, welder and 3-D model programmer falls within the realm of their duties. They’re qualified on various machines and the different equipment parts that can be used with it. On the other hand, they’re able to fabricate parts for aircraft and support equipment used by the 35th and 80th Fighter Generation Squadron Airmen.

“Our job is pretty wide-ranging,” Custis said. “Anything from small spacers, brackets or bushings to large stands and intricate parts—you name it. As long as there is a blueprint, we’re able to create it.”

Custis elaborated that their shop’s helpful hand extends beyond the flightline as they can even help service more than the F-16 flying mission.

“Whoever has access on the base, our job is to keep [their equipment] running,” Custis said. “Sometimes they’re not able to procure what they need through a parts store or ordering systems. We’re able to make the part to keep their asset in rotation.”

As a new Airman to the operational side of the Air Force, Airman Samuel Arnold, 8th MXS metals technology apprentice, said the job doesn’t come without practice and guidance.

“There’s so much information to learn, especially with welding,” Arnold said “I’m thankful for Staff Sgt. Custis and my leaders to help guide me. If I was just thrown into it alone, I would feel so lost.”

With the section’s ability to provide all three services to base customers, they help expedite their customer’s ability to resume their own missions.

“We try to be like a package deal,” Custis said. “With our flight’s ability to fabricate in-house, we’re able to negate months of waiting for a company to make and ship a part, get it repaired and then wait for it to ship back. We turn that asset back to mission-capable status in a much timelier fashion than out-sourcing.”

With multiple capabilities in their pockets to provide fabrication services, Custis said it’s integral they continue to provide their services and not source through a third-party.

“We’re in a remote location where it’s harder to get parts and closer to adversaries where we don’t have the luxury of waiting around for items,” Custis said.

As Kunsan continues to operate with its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet, the need for the metals technology flight will continue to exist to help Kunsan and the Pacific Air Forces uphold their responsibility to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific theater.