On the 21st of January 1975 MSgt. Malcom Smith arrived on Shemya to head up the first operational Metrology Lab (Precision Measurement Equipment Lab, or PMEL) providing calibration, repair, and technical support services for the island’s expanding roles and missions. MSgt. Smith was the first of ten individuals selected to perform in this capacity. The last of the technicians arrived on the 15th of July, 1975, thus completing manning requirements established for the lab, including nine PMEL technicians and one scheduler.The lab was responsible for supporting and imparting our nation’s measurement standards to any and all of the island’s major electronic systems, scales, meters, gauges, or simply put…to ensure the accuracy of any device used to measure anything.The lab originally opened up in an old, small, wooden structure having survived WWII. The equipment was set up on workbenches built from saw horses and planks. The heart of the lab, the actual equipment used to impart measurement standards to customer’s equipment, came to the island in the form of a Metrology Package referred to as the Transportable Field Calibration Unit, or simply, the “TFCU.”Examples of TFCU setups at diverse locations…Korea and Italy.We made do under these somewhat primitive conditions for several months…that is…until the REAL lab opened as a side building attached to the Cobra Dane facility. Coinciding with the move to the new Lab, crates of Lab equipment arrived from another lab (I believe Thailand) that had just closed down.As we opened the crates, we discovered that our standard Aerosmith A1 Barometer, having a mercury-filled container attached, had broken en route and leaked the mercury inside the crate. Not a good way to start the day! Within a day or two we had all the standards set up and ready to go…and we had REAL workbenches to work on! George L. Smith, Shemya PMEL, 1975We made the rounds across the island…from the post office scales to the Air Terminal’s scales…dragging a very heavy box of calibrated standard weights with us. Many of the scales were no longer accurate, with some having to be scrapped and replaced. Other than for these events, all of our work took place in the Lab…with one or two excursions to the Cobra Dane facility to help them with their test equipment (an S-Parameter Test Set in one case as I recall).Each workday morning, after listening to the latest episode of “Chicken Man” (more) on Shemya’s AFRT Radio, we would all assemble in the chow hall as a group to discuss how Chicken Man would escape his latest dilema (“Weeeellll!”), and to ponder over the day’s events to come. We would be well-nourished; a breakfast consisting of two slices of toast smothered with an abundance of SOS sauce, a half-dozen or so slices of bacon, potatoes if available lavished across any empty spot on the plate, and a 3-egg omelet covering all the above. Somehow…at the end of the tour…we hadn’t (thankfully) gained much, if any, weight!MSgt. Malcom Smith, to commemorate the occasion of having established a new PMEL, bought and paid for a plaque having inscribed all the names of those lucky folks who participated in this auspicious occasion, and hung it on one of the walls in the lab. The plaque’s inscription is as follows:
THE PMEL WAS ORGANIZED ANDPUT INTOOPERATION BY THE FOLLOWINGPERSONNEL:___________________________ SMITH, MALCOM A. MSGT 21 JANUARY 1975 TYLER, JAMES C. TSGT 15 FEBRUARY 1975 AHNER, DENNIS E. SSGT 28 FEBRUARY 1975 SEGEBARTH, MICHAEL P. SSGT 10 MARCH 1975 WADE, DOUGLAS L. SGT 10 MARCH 1975 ALVIS, DAVID L. SGT 8 APRIL 1975 RIEGEL, GEORGE W. MSGT 11 APRIL 1975 SMITH, GEORGE L. TSGT 15 APR 1975 RICHARDSON, EDDIE W. SSGT 3 JUNE 1975 GRASSO, ROBERT A. SGT 15 JULY 19752 SEPTEMBER 1975
Scott Miller provided information regarding the PMEL closure on Shemya. Shemya as an Air Force Base was officially closed in 1995 as a result of BRAC Commission's recommendations. The PMEL was shut down sometime before base closure. It took Scott and the rest of the PMEL crew two months to shut down the lab, packing equipment and sorting out boxes of standards and tools to be shipped back to CONUS returning them to the supply chain. Civilian Cobra Dane contractors took a good portion of the PMEL's bench stock for their maintenance efforts. Scott was one of the last few USAF personnel to leave the Island, with some still working the 'Dane. When Scott left the island the SPs still had a presence, however the Composite Building, Bldg. 600, was empty.