We’re calling them the ‘A-Team’ of the Air Force. The men and women who can make just about anything.
"This plane has been around the 1960's and it's still flown all throughout the world," said Air Force Master Sergeant Elias Carlon.
We've talked about the longevity and ability of the C-130, based at Little Rock Air Force Base.
"Those aircrafts out there, there are 14 of them in this wing, they're $75 million a copy," said Lt. Colonel Jared Paslay. And when something on the plane breaks or needs to be replaced, they’ve got you covered.
"If you think about anything working at its max limit all the time it's just not going to last as long," said Tech Sergeant Lee Deaver. And you can imagine it's not going to be cheap to fix.
"This particular bracket right here is about $4,500," Staff Sergeant Andrew Herrick explained as he held a small part. "My job is to local manufacture parts and fix support equipment in support of the mission here at LRAFB." In a building filled with every tool and machine you can imagine, these airmen use their imagination to get the C-130's back in the air.
"They come to us and ask if we have the capabilities to make it. And if we do, and they can't get it through supply, then we manufacture it for them," said Herrick.
In this case, a bracket came into the shop from a C-130. It's a mount for a hand pump for one of the plane's doors. And it's a delivery Sergeant Herrick looks forward to. "I get excited when they come in here with a part like this," he exclaimed. "I get to showcase my skill set that the air force has taught me."
The bracket is made of aluminum. It is military grade, hardened and made to withstand flight and vibration. It comes in a big block, cut to size on one machine, and a few feet away, put into a CNC machine. "Basically, the top of the line in machining and manufacturing. It's all drawn up on a computer. You enter a USB into the hard drive and it runs itself," said Herrick.
The bracket that would have been $4,500 to order spent four and a half hours in this CNC, and cost the Air Force a couple hundred bucks. In the next room, Staff Sergeant Herrick isn't fixing something, he's creating something brand new.
"Basically, they came down with a blueprint and asked us if we were capable of making these life support racks for the C-130 and we have the capabilities, so we're making them from start to finish," he said while wielding a piece of equipment.
"I think outside the gate, people don't understand, we play a huge role in the United States Air Force, and right here in Little Rock."