Local High School Students tour Ellsworth’s Fabrication Flight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dylan Maher
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Sparks were flying – literally – when more than 40 Douglas High School students spent the day touring the 28th Maintenance Squadron's Fabrication Flight at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, Dec. 12, 2023.

Once a year the Fabrication Flight organizes an interactive tour allowing students interested in metal fabrication the opportunity to meet Airmen who perform these trades daily, as well as auxiliary shops they work with and do some hands-on activities.

“The initiative behind these tours is to give students a glimpse of what our job entails in the Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Craig, 28th MXS noncommissioned officer in charge of aircraft structural maintenance. “It provides insight into our job specialties and trades which students may not have even known existed in the military.”

After meeting with the Fabrication Flight team, the students – all of whom are all currently enrolled in a multidisciplinary workshop class teaching basic principles of welding, woodworking and carpentry skills – were divided into smaller groups and rotated through various stations. These stations highlighted the fabrication, egress, electrical and environmental engineering, aircraft metals technology and additive manufacturing and cold spray shops.

“Imagine the opportunity to live a day-in-the-life of a career field before you even apply,” said Senior Airmen Stepheon Stewart, 28th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance journeyman. “That is the beauty of this opportunity: a hands-on experience to see what the job entails before ever committing to it.”

Stewart was one of many Airmen who demonstrated aircraft metal fabrication techniques, showing the students how to remove blind fasteners with a punch set and hammer, and using a rivet gun to fasten sheets of metal together.

“It’s the excitement of getting out of the classroom that makes field trips special,” said Stewart. “They also provide a good environment to shake things up and learn something new.”

One of the lesser-known careers in the Air Force is aircraft metals technology, an essential role in manufacturing complex parts directly supporting the B-1B Lancer’s shape and function. The shop also indirectly produces parts for peripherals such as airfield ground equipment and snow removal vehicles.

“Most people don’t associate machinists with the Air Force,” said Senior Airman Stevie Wright, 28th MXS aircraft metals technology journeyman. “This tour really helps curious minds be able to peek behind the wall and see how we operate.”

Wright and his Airmen showed a variety of machines that metals technology shop uses to manufacture parts, including a computer numerical control machine (CNC), welding stations and a waterjet cutting machine.

Many students attending the tour are only a few months away from graduation. This experience granted them the opportunity to build a rapport with Airmen and gain insight into what careers the Air Force has to offer.

“I loved how it was hands on,” said Zoey, a Douglas High School student. “They showed us broad career paths to choose from and it was very educational.”

Students also got the chance to ask Airmen about career and travel opportunities, what you can expect during the enlistment process, as well as building mentorship relationships with Airmen.

“Having guidance prior to joining the military is something I’ve always valued,” said Stewart. “It feels great to do the same for these students.”