35 years at Lowry AFB, Colorado
In 1958 after returning from a friendly inspection of
Russian military training facilities, General Doolittle recommended that a calibration
course similar to one he saw in Russia would be of great benefit to the U.S.. The
Pentagon, thru ATC HQ, asked for bids from ATC bases where a similar school could be
established. Henry May, then assigned to the Photo school, drafted a course outline,
syllabus and other documents that were submitted by Lowry. Lowry was awarded the course.
Ten specialists in several technical specialties were selected from ATC to initiate the course. MSgt. Manweiler was the NCOIC. These ten men were sent to Gentile Air Depot in Dayton, Ohio where, during six weeks of training, they were introduced to the theory and practical application of basic standards of precision measurement, primarily of electronic instrumentation.
Upon their return to Lowry their assignment was to write the training material as none was available. Additional instructors reported and were trained. Suggested starting dates for the course had to be changed for lack of equipment and anticipated space needs. Finally on April 1, 1959 the first class started. The students had to be first three graders and they must have had at least three years left on the current enlistment. For several months the top floor of the Photo school (Bldg. 380) was the home of the PMEL course until building 375A became available.
As the need for training in other technical phases was recognized by the AF they were added and so were additional weeks and more instructors. Eventually the course expanded to thirty five weeks.
Originally the PMEL course was set up for the AF only. But soon the other military branches recognized the importance of having men trained in this specialty. The Navy was the first to send men to Lowry. And then came selected military members of allied nations. One shift and building 375A weren't enough. Building 1433 and several others became the next homes for the PMEL branch and the school added one shift after another until the course was in session for four six hour shifts a day. And whenever special courses
for very unique equipment were needed, Lowry was able to supply them.
More than 50,000 people have graduated from the basic course and students have come from all branches of the US services and 21 foreign services.
This is perhaps the only complete school where calibration is taught in electronics, physical, dimensional, optical, chemical, mechanical or combinations of these disciplines.
It is capable to meet any and all necessary needs keeping the equipment of the military in the most dependable and reliable condition for the defense of this country.
The last class graduated from the PMEL School at Lowry AFB on March 18, 1994, 35 years after the first class started. This last class had 3 US Airman and 4 foreign nationals.
The Metrology Program was moved to Keesler AFB, Mississippi after closing Lowry AFB, Colorado.
Miscellaneous information about PMEL's 35 year's at Lowry:
Original course started 1 Apr 1959, had 7 blocks and was 18 weeks long.
First Branch Chief was Lt. Col. Lenard Wien.
Jul to Dec 1960 ALR32470 18 wks long, graduated 379 students.
In 1960 or 1961 the length was changed to 28 weeks and then near the end of 1962 it was expanded to 35 weeks (ALR32430).
First Navy personnel started in November 1963 and attended for 19 3/5 weeks.
1st Lt. Richard G. Taubinger replaced Capt. Howard R. Shaffer as Branch Chief
in the 1965. (see note below)
451st SAC Missile Wing expected to release bldgs 1432 and 1433 in FY 2/66. Long range plans for bldgs. was commissary and base exchange complex at that time. The school moved from bldg. 375A to bldg. 1433 in 1969.
Prior to 1968 entrants to PMEL had to be on at least their second enlistment, have been in an electronics field and got 90 or more of the 130 questions correct on the Pre-Entrance Examination.
Also prior to 1968 there was no 5 level in the AFSC and this effected the promotion to SSgt for some people. Hq. USAF approved a 3/5/7/9 ladder for AFSC 324X0 in 1968.
Effective on 3 Jan 68 the school started accepting first term personnel. School length was 46 weeks. 3ABR32430
3ALR32470 course was discontinued effective 21 Aug 68.
On November 22, 1971 the name "PMEL" was changed to "Metrology"
On January 5, 1972 a "D" shift (classroom time was 0000 hrs to 0600 hrs) was started, also at that time the microwave and physical/dimensional areas were dropped from the Basic Course. Course length was then 32 weeks.
Early instructors, even before graduating from the school, were Art Mulkey, Galen Baskin, Vern Cooper, Andre Grable.
Some of the first students were, Ken Niles, Bart Robeson, Jim Meyer.
Note: Capt. Howard R. Shaffer retired from the Air Force as Lt. Col. , also retired from Martin Marietta and resides in Fla. Thank you George Spellman for this up date.
Note2: I was orginally assigned to PMEL school in November 1958. The orginal group consisted of Msgts Manweiler,Stienmel,Tsgt Jim Long, A SSgt whose name I can't recall at this time,Mr Henry May, Mr Steve Moore. Assigned to the school and the first to arrive were SSgt John Meadows, myself A1C Richard Hawkins. So you see several of the individuals you credit with being on board at the time PMEL inception is incorrect. In fact it was several months after Meadows and I arrived. There was a lot of turmoil associated with getting PMEL off the ground. A tremendous amount of pressure; and extra ordinary effort on the part of the instructors in the beginning of the course. Thanks for your time and patience to read this. This is in no way meant to be a slap in the face to anyone. I just wanted to set the record straight, time has a habit of eroding the facts of individuals recall, By the way the SSgt I made reference to was Jim Brewer. Another name to add to the orginal list would be Barton D. Roberson. I am very proud of my small part in that I was one of the individuals that was instrumental in the implementation of something so important and highly technical as PMEL. I made those 21 years worth every memory. Thanks again and if I can help on the History part let me know, because I went through it all. Richard G Hawkins / Msgt/Ret.
Below are some pictures taken by George Blood 10/15/99 at Lowry. To enlarge a picture click on the thumbnail. Pictures include, appartments near 1308, Bldg.1308, Bldg.1433, ruins of an old barrecks and new trafic lights.