Welding & Metalworking in the US Military

Welding for the US Military

Every branch of the US Armed Forces must build, repair, and maintain equipment using the same practices which are common in the civilian sector. Here is a breakdown on welding and metalworking roles and responsibilities by service branch.

Welding in the US Army

The United States Army classifies jobs under a code called Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS. In the US Army, the job which performs welding and metalworking is called an Allied Trade Specialist or 91E. Allied Trade Specialists are responsible for fabricating, repairing, and modifying metallic and non-metallic parts as well as operating lathes, drill presses, grinders, and various other tools and machine shop equipment. After 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training (Boot Camp), Allied Trade Specialists undergo an additional 13 weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Lee, Virginia. To qualify for this job, enlistees will need to score at least 98 points in the General Maintenance segment of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, or a combination of 88 points in General Maintenance and 95 points in the General Technical portion.

Welding Needs in the US Navy

The United States Navy calls their enlisted jobs ratings or rates. There are three main rates that perform welding & metalworking in the US Navy.

The first of these is the Hull Maintenance Technician (HT). HTs perform metal work to keep shipboard structures and surfaces in good condition. Essentially, they are a ship’s handyman. They are trained in welding, pipefitting, brazing, and other tasks. HTs must be versatile and able to troubleshoot and solve a variety of problems which may occur on a ship.

Next up is the Steelworker (SW). Seabees build a variety of structures in just about every environment imaginable. SWs fabricate structural steel and sheet metal.

Lastly, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) Divers perform highly specialized underwater welding and cutting. They must attend a seven-week long Diver Preparation Course in Great Lakes, Illinois, followed by another fifteen weeks at Second Class Dive School in Panama City, Florida. Many Second Class Divers eventually qualify as First Class Divers or Master Divers. UCT Divers use special underwater SMAW equipment, including water-resistant electrodes, lightweight insulated electrode holders, and of course, specialized dive suits. All underwater welding done using a DCEN process due to the unique environment.

Welding in the US Air Force

The United States Air Force uses Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) to classify job roles. The AFSC that does the most welding is Aircraft Metals Technology (A2A7X1) This job role is responsible for repairing and creating essential aircraft parts. These Airmen weld and fabricate custom metal components which are critical to the function of an aircraft in addition to CNC machining and other tasks. They will attend 8.5 weeks of basic military training, followed by 67 days of technical school training at Sheppard AFB in Texas. This job frequently works with aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel components common to modern aircraft.

Welding in the US Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps is known as the smallest service branch, but they still see the value of training their Marines to perform welding and metalworking. The Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) primarily responsible for this task is the Metal Worker (1316). To qualify as a Metal Worker, recruits must score a 95 or higher on the Mechanical Maintenance portion of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. Metal Workers are trained on oxy/acetylene, SMAW, GTAW, and GMAW welding processes alongside their Allied Trade Specialist counterparts as part of a detachment stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. Metal Workers in the USMC must be prepared to apply their trade wherever the need arises and frequently repair or replace armor plating on combat vehicles.

Welding in the US Coast Guard

For dry dock repairs and maintenance, the United States Coast Guard prefers to outsource to civilian contractors, such as at USCG Base Miami Beach in South Florida. When at sea, however, the job falls to the Damage Controlman (DC). The DC fills a very dynamic role and is sort of a “Jack of all trades” aboard USCG ships. They are responsible for maintaining the watertight integrity of the ship, firefighting, flood control, plumbing, welding and fabrication, as well as nuclear, biological, and chemical attack detection and decontamination. DCs typically attend a fifteen-week “A” school course in Yorktown, Virginia where they learn oxy/fuel cutting and brazing, plasma cutting, and SMAW welding among other topics. After “A” school, DCs may also receive further training at “C” courses such as advanced steel welding and aluminum welding.

Welding in the US Space Force

As the United States’ newest service branch, the role of the Space Force is still evolving. While they don’t technically have a job role that performs welding and metalworking just yet, it is only a matter of time before vessels bound for outer space will require onboard maintenance while in flight. Who knows what role the Space Force will develop for this sure-to-be highly-specialized task on the final frontier and who will fill it?

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