JOINT BASE, MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, NJ -- Staff Sgt. Keith Lee, an aircraft metals technology craftsman recently used his skills for the 108th Wing to save thousands of dollars to install a Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal (Global ASNT) in its command post, Jan. 17, 2023.
The talented Air National Guardsmen assigned to the 108th Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J, took on this task with years of experience behind him.
While his aircraft fabrication skills were honed in the Guard, Lee’s construction talents were developed during his teenage years. In high school Lee designed his own 3-axis computerized numerical control milling machine which sparked his interest in fabrication, and ultimately led him to join the Air National Guard and to the 108th machine shop.
Upon joining the 108th machine shop, he quickly learned the art of tungsten inert gas welding and gained certification in four different alloys. Early into his career, he established himself as a master craftsman according to his shop leadership.
Then the recent challenging situation of moving a high value asset unfolded and Lee's talents were put to the test.
The 108th Wing Command Post staff were in the process of remodeling their work area when they ran into a dilemma. They needed to move the Global ASNT system weighing over a thousand pounds several yards into a controlled area.
Initially, the 108th Civil Engineering Squadron was assigned to the task, but after further deliberation, it was determined that the cost to purchase the ramp and other factors were too much to execute. CE recommended reaching out to the fabrication section to see if they could help in any way.
Without hesitation, shop supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. Dave Fortin assigned his aces to the task to include Lee and Master Sgt. Leon Jackson, the aircraft structural repair shop supervisor. Fortin instituted cross-cut training within the fabrication section which afforded Jackson the opportunity to learn the art of aircraft metals technology.
Typically, the members of the fabrication section deal with making precise measurements, inspecting different components, drilling, and reaming holes, and performing repairs to the KC-135 Stratotanker. These skills used to perform their daily job allow them to be some of the most capable fabricators.
For this special project, Lee and Jackson surveyed the area where the ramp needed to go, making meticulous measurements. Using the information, Lee developed the base of the ramp with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to ensure the blueprints were in order. He and other members of the 108th Fabrication Section then made several accurate cuts using bandsaws, miter saws, and other grinders.
Last, Lee assembled all the parts and TIG welded them together.
The task took a week-and-a-half from start to finish. Lee's innovation and determination saved the wing thousands of dollars and helped the command post to install its messaging system, keeping the Air Guard’s mission moving forward.