Keeping corrosion at bay

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Magen M. Reeves
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Malmstrom Air Force Base has military personnel and civilian teammates who have been the backbone of the base for many years.

Flexible job areas change fairly often, but subject matter experts sustain the integrity and knowledge of the base’s necessary support shops.

Leighton Dresch, 341st Missiles Maintenance Squadron corrosion section supervisor, is one of those individuals.

“The corrosion shop handles the facility sustainment of the (intercontinental ballistic missile) sites, (missile alert facilities) and (launch facilities),” said Dresch. “That means maintaining the structural steel of the facilities including the launch tube and (site) equipment rooms.”

Battling corrosion in the ICBM enterprise is a job that never ceases.

“Corrosion is when a metal eventually degrades over time back down to the natural element (of the metal),” explained Dresch.

When corrosion occurs, the afflicted part is treated either on-site or in the shop on base.

Parts are treated with what is essentially a high pressure sander, utilizing plastic instead of sand granules.

“After the area has been blasted clear we then apply a protective paint coating to the metal to sustain it,” said Dresch.

According to Dresch, water is the most common cause of corrosion.

“Moisture causes corrosion,” said Dresch. “The (missile) sites have water on all sides of the tubes (in the surrounding ground.) The sites would be in pretty bad shape if we didn’t have a corrosion shop.”

To ensure the efficiency and functionality of the metals at the sites, each of Malmstrom’s sites are inspected every three years.

“Every year we inspective 50 LFs and five MAFs between February and September,” said Dresch.

According to Dresch, sites that are more challenging to reach during the winter are inspected early fall and late spring when the weather is fair. More accessible sites are saved for when the weather poses a challenge.

Seven individuals maintain all of Malmstrom’s missile sites. Most of them are civilians; either prior enlisted, or current Guard and Reserve members.

According to Dresch, trips to accomplish maintenance in the field occur almost every day Monday through Thursday and can last approximately ten hours.

Such large responsibilities require a team of hard-working, dedicated professionals.

Dresch leads this particular team as the shop supervisor and has been helping to sustain the nuclear enterprise since 1999.

“I arrived here in July 1975 as an (aircraft maintenance Airman),” said Dresch. “(After completing 20 years of service) I retired as a senior master sergeant in 1985. After that, I was hired to perform corrosion maintenance at Malmstrom in 1999. I have been here ever since.”

According to Dresch, he deployed to the missile field to accomplish maintenance for approximately 15 years.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” said Scott Strieby, 341st MMXS corrosion section technician, who has worked with Dresch for many years. “Now (Dresch) is the shop supervisor so we don’t go out to field together anymore but we did when he was a technician.”

It should come as no surprise Dresch recently received the Civilian Category 1 Supervisor award at the group level for the third quarter.

Strieby has been supervised by Dresch for the last three years.

“The shop works long days but we get it done,” said Strieby.

Also prior military, Strieby says that he enjoys working with Dresch maintaining the sustainability of the missile sites.

Dresch likes living in Montana and has no plans to leave anytime soon.

“I love Montana,” said Dresch. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. This ICBM wing is special. As long as I have been here, we have had this ‘let’s get it done’ attitude. Every wing has a personality and this wing has the best.”