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The art behind the aircraft

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Boutte
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
In today's fast-paced Air Force, one might think an artistic point of view and sense of creativity are not necessary to accomplishing the mission. Tech. Sgt. Jim Gargano would disagree.

Gargano, a metals technology assistant section chief in the 509th Maintenance Squadron, has worked on a metallic canvas for 19 years in the Air Force, and the 509th Bomb Wing has been the home to him, his wife, Ady and their son, Frankie, for five of those years.

In joining the Air Force, Gargano followed in the footsteps of his uncle, who enlisted as a meteorologist before being drafted as an infantryman.

"With all the stories from my uncle's travels and many experiences the military took him on, he inspired me to join the Air Force," Gargano said.

Gargano knew he wanted to enlist, and he had his eyes set on a career field that would allow him to leverage his artistic passion and ability.

"I am a very creative individual," he said. "I wanted to do something with my skillset. I love art, sculpting, welding and painting."

Though he wanted to come in as a graphic designer, he found himself working in metals instead - a blessing in disguise, as this career field allowed him to develop his talent through a medium that requires innovation and creativity, though perhaps not at first glance.

"I love my job," Gargano said. "I can use my artistic abilities and create a part for the aircraft. As long as the end result is the same, I can recreate how the process of the work is done. This is what I love the most--putting my own spins on things."

Gargano describes his job as a spin-off of the Orange County Choppers television show, which showcases custom and production motorcycle manufacturing.

"Our job is a combination of aircraft and support fabrication," Gargano said. "The fabrication work is a mixture of machining and welding."

Technical orders contain the blueprints which metals personnel must follow in completing projects, but these dedicated professionals achieve greater efficiency by finding a different way to produce the same result.

"He doesn't like doing things the black-and-white way," said Master Sgt. Jason Wade, 509th MXS metals technology shop NCOIC. "If the project allows him to challenge his talent as an artist, he will go the long way around things to finish the task at hand."

Working on everything from aircraft to ground support equipment, the aircraft metals technology shop accomplishes a variety of metal work for the base.

Aircraft part production primarily incorporates jobs that will accompany fabrication work, such as precision measurements, as well as jobs such as bushing, installation and more minor aircraft maintenance, Gargano explains.

Some of the equipment used by the technicians includes welders, grinders, mills and lathes.

"Our equipment allows us to measure down to less than a third of the width of a piece of paper," Gargano said. "We can measure pretty accurately."

Gargano describes himself as "somewhat of a perfectionist," and most of his co-workers agree.

"I have a few tricks up my sleeve," he said. "Loving art helps me find different ways to do things and make my product amazing. I want my product to leave the shop in perfect condition."

This aspiration is essential, not only to ensure full operational capability and security, but also because it helps metals personnel build a solid reputation, as every project is viewed by a supervisor before leaving the floor and being provided to the customer.

"I am pretty stoked that he is working in our shop," Wade said. "I have always been impressed with his work."