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Connecticut civil engineers train to perfect skills

Senior Airman Eric Burton, a structural craftsman assigned to the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron, slices through a piece of metal using an acetylene oxygen cutter on Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn., April 2, 2016. The metal being cut will be used to practice welding when the Flying Yankee craftsmen travel to Barnes Air National Guard base, Westfield, Mass., to sharpen their skills. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago)

Senior Airman Eric Burton, a structural craftsman assigned to the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron, slices through a piece of metal using an acetylene oxygen cutter on Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn., April 2, 2016. The metal being cut will be used to practice welding when the Flying Yankee craftsmen travel to Barnes Air National Guard base, Westfield, Mass., to sharpen their skills. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago)

Airman 1st Class Katie Puza, a structural craftsmen assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing, cleans a piece of metal with a grinder on Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield Mass., April 3, 2016. The Flying Yankees had the opportunity to use the facilities at Barnes to undergo a refresher course in welding. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago)

Airman 1st Class Katie Puza, a structural craftsmen assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing, cleans a piece of metal with a grinder on Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield Mass., April 3, 2016. The Flying Yankees had the opportunity to use the facilities at Barnes to undergo a refresher course in welding. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- Members of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron took advantage of a unique opportunity to hone their welding skills during the April drill at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut. The Flying Yankee structural craftsmen spent the majority of time working with metal and the equipment necessary with doing so.
     They began Saturday using an acetylene oxygen cutter to slice through thick pieces of metal. They trained on how to properly set up the cutter, and to use it safely. The torch is a long metal rod that is bent forward at its end and produces a high-pressured flame that sounds like a mini jet engine. The chemical acetylene is what essentially lights the flame, and the oxygen is what increases its temperature and feeds the flame, allowing it to cut through metal almost effortlessly. A number of metal pieces were cut to be used for more training the next day at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts. Once the metal is cut, it needs to be cleaned. No, not with soap and water. The metal needs to be rid of any rust, paint or air pockets that it may have at the point in which it will be fused together by the weld. To do this, the Guardsmen use equipment such as different types of grinders and wire brushes to ensure the metal is in shape to receive a strong weld.
     On Sunday, the Flying Yankee civil engineers traveled to Barnes along with the 12-inch long pieces of metal where they would freshen their skills on different welding techniques.
     "Training like this allows us to use what we learned in tech school and apply it to the operational Air Force--keeping up with these skills and getting our hands dirty is extremely beneficial to Airmen like me who just recently came back from tech school," said Airman 1st Class Katie Puza, a structural engineer assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing.
     One of the welding techniques the Airmen used is called shielded metal arch welding, or better known as stick welding. The welder begins by readying his or her work area and assessing it for any safety issues. While doing so the welder looks over his or her safety gear. Since the light from the weld is incredibly bright, the welder needs to wear extreme eye protection. They also have to wear a thick leather jacket and gloves that shield them from small fragments of metal shooting from the weld called "slag".
     To weld, the member clamps the metal they use to a metal table that is electrically grounded. Then they use what's called a stinger that is clamped to an electrode. The stinger runs a current of electricity to the electrode that creates an arc. The electrode is what's used to melt in between two pieces of metal and creates the weld. The electrode is coated with a material that, when burned off, creates a gas that smothers the weld and protects it. The Airmen practiced various types of welds such as the butt joint, lap joint and t-joint.
     According to Tech. Sgt. Jim Diederich, situations on the battlefield arise requiring that their skills remain sharp. One of the more important scenarios he outlined was when he himself was deployed and a security fence needed repairing.
     "Any kind of welding experience is extremely beneficial down range. Any time you get deployed, you never know what can happen," said Diederich. "So as much training as you can get before you go is always better."
     Training opportunities such as these help Guardsmen maintain their skills and inch closer to becoming and all-around combat-ready platform. The members of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron continue to do their part and contribute to the overall mission.