HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

feature

Engineering a career: Engineers perform myriad duties

Phu Tran, a system engineer with the 38th Cyberspace Engineering and Installation Group, practices network configurations in a lab setting. Engineers can test different scenarios and systems here at Tinker before they’re even installed in other locations. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

Phu Tran, a system engineer with the 38th Cyberspace Engineering and Installation Group, practices network configurations in a lab setting. Engineers can test different scenarios and systems here at Tinker before they’re even installed in other locations. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Approximately 1,600 engineers work at Tinker, performing myriad tasks.

The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex employs engineers in the Aircraft Maintenance Group, the Commodities Maintenance Group, the Maintenance Support Group, the Propulsion Maintenance Group, and the Software Maintenance Group.

San Tran, a process engineer in the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group, said, "We provide process and infrastructure support to the production shops," such as the paint-stripping booths in Bldg. 9001. "If something malfunctions, we work with production and maintenance to find the most optimum solution to get the process back up ASAP. We also work with production on a daily basis to apply the industrial process control concepts to create a more efficient and accurate process."

Process improvement is "the basis of engineering," said Mr. Tran, who has a master's degree in chemical engineering.

The workload in the OC-ALC is "very production and efficiency focused," said Shannon Custard, Chief of the Workforce Development Branch in the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate of the Air Force Sustainment Center. "They literally have a product to sell, and as an engineer in the Complex your work focuses on accomplishing that goal."

In the AFSC's Engineering and Technical Management Directorate, "We are about 'engineering the possible'," Director Angie Tymofichuk said. "Through AFSC's engineering workforce, we evaluate what needs to be done and then we engineer a solution."

Engineering duties in the Complex "can vary from actual aircraft/engine/accessories building (mechanical engineers) and production flow (industrial engineers) issues to industrial processes like heat treat, plasma, and physical testing," Ms. Custard said.

The majority of the electrical engineers at Tinker "reside in the SMXG side of the complex and they are focused on all things software. The software work ranges from actually writing code for electronic accessories to developing electronic test plans. They also have a group specifically dedicated to facilities - and there are hundreds of buildings and other facilities across Tinker that support Complex workload."

Engineers also are employed in Tinker's program offices (B-1, B-2, B-52, AWACS, KC-135, Propulsion, Contractor Logistics Support).

"These engineers are responsible for operational safety, suitability and effectiveness and airworthiness of their systems," Ms. Custard related. "They have the ultimate and final engineering authority for their systems. They provide technical support to the Complex, the warfighter and the supply chain. They are very hands-on and cover every possible aspect of sustainment: parts procurement (source selection, first article approval), technical issues (field waivers and 202s for the Complex), repair development, modifications, safety mishaps, structural integrity, parts lifing, etc."

The 38th Cyberspace Engineer-ing and Installation Group employs 213 engineers who perform myriad tasks in communication, networking, Voice Over Internet Protocol, conducting classes on how to configure and design security systems, and virtualization. The group even operates a lab where mock-ups of electronic systems can be tested before they're installed, to get the "bugs" worked out beforehand.

Engineers in the 38th CEIG assemble and dismantle microwave dishes, erect communication towers, and replace old copper wire for modern fiber optics, said Col. Eric DeLange, commander of the 38th CEIG.

The Group's Industrial Control Systems unit advises the Air Force Civil Engineering Center and base Civil Engineering Directorates across the Air Force on how to protect Air Force utility systems (electricity, water and wastewater) from potential cybersaboteurs.

"Our teams surveyed for, engineered and installed CE Security Stacks at 15 Air Force bases last year, and plan to do more," said Derek Molle, Systems Engineer, 38th Engineering Squadron.

The group has an Air Force-wide mission, so many of the engineers frequently travel to other Air Force bases, CONUS and overseas, to solve problems that arise, or to examine the base cybersystems to anticipate problems before they arise, Colonel DeLange said. Another 9 or 10 engineers rotate in and out of deployed locations to support ongoing U.S. Air Forces Central Command and joint operations downrange in a similar capacity.

For instance, Joe Sanders, a deployable engineer, said that he and some colleagues have been working at a base in Southwest Asia where they have installed at least 300 cables in recent weeks. He described the job as "long hours and a lot of heat."

"We work on everything from cables, networks, radios, antennas and telephones -- almost any type of communication equipment," Mr. Sanders added.

Tinker also has approximately a dozen engineers in the 72nd Air Base Wing's Civil Engineering Directorate who are responsible for maintenance of all facilities on Tinker AFB, said Bede Ley, Project Management Branch chief, 72nd ABW/CE.

"At Tinker Air Force Base, we need engineers, mathematicians and scientists to keep our weapons systems operational," Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, said during a 2012 event in the State Capitol.

Similarly, at a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics event a couple of years ago, retired Brig. Gen. Ben Robinson, former commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker, said, "America needs great scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians" because they "build our cars, explore space, invent 'smart' phones, grow our food, find cures for disease, and design new airplanes."