ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
No job is too small for the carpenters and painters employed at Arnold Air Force Base.
“If the Commander wants a picture hung, we go hang it,” said Ronald Bandy, supervisor for the Carpenter and Paint shops on base. “That’s what we do. If a door won’t shut somewhere, we go fix it.”
But the craftspeople based out of Building 1478, otherwise known as the Base Civil Engineering Building, are also charged with carrying out much larger tasks around Arnold. From the Arnold Lakeside Center to the von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility and everything in between, every building and worker contained within the 40,000 acres making up Arnold AFB is impacted by the myriad of duties those in the Carpenter and Paint shops accomplish daily.
“I couldn’t describe everything we do,” Bandy said.
Whereas more specialized shops may see only a single work order per day, week or month, Bandy said the Carpenter and Paint shops typically receive around a dozen work orders daily. The assignments given to the more than two dozen carpenters, painters, locksmiths and masons comprising the two shops affect the aesthetics, comfort and test operations at Arnold AFB.
Bandy said perhaps the largest contribution the Carpenters Shop makes to testing at the base is the construction of scaffolding.
“Probably 70 to 75 percent of what we do is scaffolding,” he said. “Any craft out here, we scaffold for all the crafts.”
When structures of varying heights are needed at test cells for the completion of maintenance or repairs, test operators contact the Carpenter Shop.
“If it’s something hard to get to or they can’t reach, they’ve got to have us,” said Carpenter Shop Lead Phillip Hice.
Bandy said the carpenters often must erect scaffolds quickly to ensure that testing continues with minimal delay.
“We don’t have much of a schedule,” Bandy said of the carpenters. “We have a reaction-type deal. We just react to what’s hot. Usually, by the time I give them their work orders at 6:30 a.m., by 7 I’m changing them because we’ve got something that’s happened somewhere that’s hot.
“And what’s hot is usually scaffolding.”
Hice commended his crew, which is made up of 14 staffers, for their ability to respond and put figurative fires out when work orders change on the fly.
“I’ve got a great group right now,” he said. “They know what they’re doing.”
Despite the frequent need for speedy completion of the apparatuses, Bandy said safety of the scaffolding is prioritized during its construction process.
“We haven’t had an E-1 accident since 2011, and we’re very proud of that,” he said.
Before a scaffold is provided to a test area, it is checked out to ensure it is worthy of a “green tag,” which Bandy said indicates the structure is safe for engineers and repair crews.
“That’s a big responsibility, signing your name to a scaffold saying it’s erected correctly,” Bandy said.
The carpenters are also responsible for all flooring around Arnold AFB, including the placement of tiling and the installation of raised floors.
Bandy said the group is also responsible for the installation of drop-in ceilings and the repair of leaky roofs around base. Carpenters hang doors around the base when needed. The group also sews tarps and sometimes builds specialty boxes to house test models. They take partitions down and put them up whenever employees across Arnold move from one office to another and build everything from picture frames to office furniture when the latter arrives disassembled at the Arnold AFB warehouse.
“Usually whenever something happens, we’re the first ones out,” Hice said.
Paint Shop Lead Mark Boaz described the shop crew as “souped-up” painters. Like the carpenters, the workload is diverse for those in the Paint Shop.
“In the paint world, you name it, we do it,” Boaz said.
Of course, the primary responsibility of the team, which is currently made up of nine permanent and temporary staffers, is the painting of offices and other facilities around base.
The Paint Shop also supports testing carried out at Arnold and other AEDC facilities. The shop is responsible for sandblasting, grinding and painting materials, such as piping, used in test cells. More often than not, the Paint Shops gets its hands on such materials before they find their way into test cells.
“If you see them working around here doing jobs, we probably blasted it and painted, and then when they get done, we have to go and touch everything up,” Bandy said.
The group also paints all the test cells around Arnold with the cosmetic and protective coatings needed to both catch a customer’s eye and hold up under harsh test conditions.
Paint Shop workers at Arnold AFB aid other bases, such as Edwards Air Force Base, AEDC Hypervelocity Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland, and the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex located at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, by completing paint, sandblasting and printing projects.
“We have some capabilities that none of the other places have,” Bandy said.
The Paint Shop is also tasked with completing signage and printing safety labels found around Arnold. These include labels advising entrants at some facilities of the need for Personal Protect Equipment and all the signs found on confined spaces.
“I’d say over 95 percent of all the signs here are made in the sign shop,” Boaz said.
This group stripes the roads and parking lots found throughout Arnold AFB.
The Paint Shop is also involved in the paint removal process from heavy metals that allows these materials to be more easily welded. The team also does pressure washing, finishes sheetrock, completes some woodwork, and does sodablasting on a limited basis.
Another significant responsibility of the Paint Shop is the cutting and replacement of glass in doors and windows around Arnold. The shop contains a glass cutter that allows the team to complete small glass replacement when called upon.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Boaz said.
The trio of locksmiths employed at Arnold play a role in ensuring safety and security at the base. This group, which is part of the Carpenter Shop, is responsible for setting the combinations of base safes and vaults and managing other locks around Arnold. They also change locks around the base, cut keys for all of the workforce at Arnold, and provide toolbox locks and padlocks, including those used in Lockout/Tagout procedures.
“It’s an enormous job the locksmiths do,” Bandy said.
The mason is charged with laying block and brick throughout Arnold, as well as completing all plaster work and pouring concrete where needed.
Bandy said without the efforts of those in the Carpenter and Paint shops, the everyday operations at Arnold AFB would not be possible.
“Everything would grind to a halt,” he said.