FRCSW School Qualifies Navy Welders

Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Chase Weishaupt practices a T-weld on two pieces of stainless steel during exercises in the FRCSW welding school in Building 4.
From repairing hitches on tow tractors to transition ducts in V-22 Osprey aircraft, many shipboard repairs in the fleet require the skills of a qualified welder.

For more than 40 years the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) welding school in Building 4 has provided Sailors and Marines the instruction, knowledge and certification to handle any essential welding projects which may arise in theatre.

The two-month long course totals 320 hours of instruction and is taught by instructors Jason Rice and Alex Pimentel. Both are certified by the American Welding Society (AWS).

Rice has been a welder for 30 years, and Pimentel, a former Marine, is a 2012 graduate of the FRCSW welding school and became an instructor two years ago.

Rice said that classes are typically a mix of four Sailors and four Marines and students earn AWS certification upon graduation.

“We have students from Japan, Hawaii, Italy, just about everywhere,” he said. “The Sailors are either aviation structural mechanics or aviation support equipment technicians, and the Marines are usually welders or sheet metal mechanics.”

Students are taught welding of four different metals: aluminum, stainless steel, mild steel (wrought iron steel) and Inconel, an alloy made of nickel, chromium and iron.

“Inconel is an exotic metal and is used on aircraft exhaust,” Rice said. “It can get hot and cold many times and won’t crack and is corrosion resistant, as well.”

“One sheet of aluminum costs $150, while a sheet of Inconel is about $4,500, which is why it’s the last metal we weld because of the expense. But the students must learn to work with it because about 90 percent of the H-60s and H-53s helicopter exhausts are made this metal.”

Students are required to recertify their welding credentials yearly, either by retaking the course or submitting samples for analysis.

Instructors, as well, must recertify every five years.

The FRCSW school is one of three Naval Air Systems Command welding schools. The other two are on the East Coast.