ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – Earlier this year, a group of ironworkers with the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Model and Machine Shop at Arnold Air Force Base were tasked with building a complex aluminum platform system for the C-2 Engine Test Cell.
While on paper the task seemed easy enough, the ironworker crew was sent home before they got a chance to begin the project. On April 6, Arnold Air Force Base went into an Operationally Urgent status, or Tier 2 operations, which allowed base entry only for those employees required to complete critical test missions and support functions.
“The request came in right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and many of our Model Shop guys, the ironworkers included, were not working at the time due to the stand down,” said Warner Holt, group manager of Manufacturing Services for National Aerospace Solutions, LLC (NAS), the AEDC Test Operations and Sustainment contractor at Arnold. “These guys were out for nine weeks.”
Once the ironworkers – a team made up of NAS employees Brandon O’Neal, Bobby Bolton and Casey Griffith – returned to work, they first had to receive their certification to weld aluminum; they typically work with carbon steel.
They were also on a tight deadline to complete the project.
“The job was due by Sept. 30, but with the men losing nine weeks due to the stand down and needing to get certified in a whole other skillset, it was a stretch to complete the work by then,” Holt said.
Chris Broadrick, a work planner/scheduler for the ironworkers and sheet metal workers at Arnold, added that the budget for the project was estimated last year, so in addition to the short timeframe, it had to be completed within budget.
“These guys started working 58 hours a week, and it ended up being completed three weeks ahead of schedule,” he said.
O’Neal, lead ironworker for the project, commented that at the end of the day the crew will do whatever is needed to get the job done.
“No matter what the job is, they will always go out and attack a job, whether big or small, and get it done as fast as they can while providing excellent craftsmanship,” O’Neal said. “Their welding is spectacular and their attitude is excellent.”
Ironworker Casey Griffith agreed, stating, “It’s just what ironworkers do. We take pride in our work. As they say, ‘there’s no hill for a climber.’”
Holt thanked the crew for their hard work and for doing a great job completing the task on time despite the challenges.
“Our ironworkers work all over the base every day, and when doing this job, they also had to continue to do work at the other test cells,” he said. “I really appreciate the work that they do.”