News: Calibration lab keeping tools in check
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - When Marine Corps Base Hawaii personnel need accuracy for their tools, the calibration lab at Combat Logistics Company 35 is on the job.
All of the base’s torque wrenches, pressure gauges and tools measuring quality or quantity are fine-tuned by a team of just four Marines. Together they inspected more than 837 pieces of equipment this year, a 28 percent increase since 2012.
“As the Marine Corps improves the technology used in the fleet, it needs to keep up with the ways to test it,” said Gunnery Sgt. James Mumaw of Baltimore and the calibration chief at CLC-35. “Failed radio cables and connectors in the ‘90s had to be sent to the manufacturer or to the Marine Corps depots for repair.”
Now the lab can locally test and fix a wider range of gear, saving units time and money. Mumaw said one piece of malfunctioning gear can cost as much as $90 per hour to fix, not including shipping fees to send to repair centers.
Any MCB Hawaii service member relying on tools that take a measurement relies on the accuracy of the Marines in the calibration lab.
“If we’re off in calibrations, it can get very dangerous,” Sgt. Dillon McDonough of Philadelphia and a quality assurance representative for CLC-35. “When you use a tool that is supposed to guarantee you a certain amount of weight or force applied, if it doesn’t do it then a bolt could snap off (or) worse.”
To ensure tools are performing reliably, every piece of MCB Hawaii equipment is regularly checked for accuracy by the calibration lab. Some pieces of gear, like torque wrenches, requires periodic checks every nine months while other bits of equipment are evaluated after longer periods. The Marine Corps also issues calibration standards that give a range of how each tool should operate and how often the calibration lab should test the accuracy of its own equipment. Once equipment is fixed and operates properly, it gets a seal of calibration.
The lab uses a variety of digital equipment and traditional tools, like gauge blocks, to measure accuracy. Their metal gauge blocks are handed with white gloves and kept pristinely clean of oil, dirt and anything else that can attach to the blocks for a faulty calibration. The blocks are used to ensure tools measuring thickness, like calipers, produce the right measurements. Thousandths of an inch can be the difference between whether something will work or fail.
“If the inside of an engine needs a new tube, the measurements taken need to be accurate or the parts won’t fit,” said Lance Cpl. Johnathan Newport of Overbrook, Kan., and a calibration technician with CLC-35.
Some pieces of equipment only need a few hours to be evaluated and fixed, while others are more complex. The process to fix and diagnose the more complex tools takes longer, sometimes up to more than 100 days.
“A radio test set doesn’t just have one item that needs to be calibrated,” McDonough said. “Some require six to seven processes to calibrate it.”
Most items have a scheduled time to return for calibration, and Mumaw said his lab can generally anticipate workflow and work to fix gear efficiently. As long as units turn in their items when they need calibration, the wait time for tools is minimal.
The lab sees a steady stream of varied equipment used by every unit on base and handles measuring tools for every mission.
The wide scope of Marine Ciros technology is intriguing, Newport said.
“I think the best but challenging thing is seeing new gear,” he said. “Learning how to fix it can be frustrating, but really interesting.”