LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Ray Rodriguez, 47th Maintenance Directorate aircraft structural repair journeyman, was chosen by wing leadership to be the “XLer” of the week, for the week of Dec. 3, 2018, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
The “XLer” award, presented by Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, is given to those who consistently make outstanding contributions to their unit and the Laughlin mission.
Rodriguez, with over 20 years experience working on sheet metal, is one of only 13 personnel on base who work on the outer shell or “skin” of Laughlin’s three airframes. His responsibilities also involve repairing the structure of the aircraft’s wings.
“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “We do a lot of repairs on the aircraft, like canopies, wing spars and wing skins. There’s a lot we do across all aircraft.”
Through his experience, he managed to prevent possible structural failure of an aircraft that needed more work. This major corrosion was later identified, and during repairs, he helped the U.S. Air Force save more than $87,000 in repair costs.
“We had exfoliation on the rear cockpit of the aircraft,” he said. “So, we had to remove all the corrosion and get the structure back to its original form. It’s a major repair—a complete gut job, but it’s necessary and we can do it.”
Rodriguez, as a member of a much larger team at Laughlin’s fabrication shop, recognizes that much of his work is rarely done alone. Even with more than two decades in sheet metal proficiency, he continually relies on his team to help him finish the job to get Laughlin’s aircraft airborne.
“On [sheet metal] repairs, I don’t ever do them by myself,” he said. “It takes every one of these guys’ help. They’ll fabricate the parts as I make a repair, and I’ll use those parts when they’re ready. It’s never a one-man job.”
Rodriguez’ expertise, timeliness in aircraft maintenance and unique skillset born from decades of sheet metal working, directly helps Laughlin train the next generation of multi-domain combat aviators. For all his hard work in aircraft maintenance, Rodriguez earned this week’s “XLer.”