509th CES Sign Shop - Whiteman's third base coach

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is part three of a three-part series about the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron Heavy Repair section.)


A base police officer stops a civilian wandering past a restricted area sign. The restricted area sign helps establish boundaries on base, providing notification to individuals that entry beyond a certain point is unauthorized.

Overall, there are thousands of signs all over Whiteman Air Force Base that let people know where they are, where they should or should not be going, and how fast they should be driving.

In baseball, the third base coach is responsible for providing signs to players at the plate and on the bases, and his ability to relay the coach's intent directly impacts the outcome of the game.

Bernard Jones, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron sign maker, functions as the equivalent of the third base coach for Whiteman.

"If an Airman is on the flightline bumbling around in areas he shouldn't be, he's going to kiss the pavement," Jones said. "So my signs help keep people out of trouble."

Jones works alone in the sign shop, where he spends all of his time drilling, cutting, printing and painting the signs that visitors and members of Team Whiteman see everywhere.

Without these signs, there would be numerous vehicle accidents, safety mishaps, security breaches and all kinds of craziness across the base, causing police officers to bend over backward trying to keep people in line, said Jones.

"They make it easier for police officers to do their jobs," said Master Sgt. Sean Ring, NCOIC of police services. "If we get those law-abiding citizens who follow what the signs say, then we don't need a presence in the area. It's the same as when we're driving our vehicles off base and we're coming into a town. We look for the speed limit signs on the side of the road so we're not speeding through town."

The signs Jones creates also help visitors on base, such as those who attend air shows, find the roads they are looking for. Last year, during the 2012 Wings over Whiteman open house and air show, more than 40,000 spectators from all over the region attended. The signs that directed attendees where to go helped contribute to the success of the air show, said Ring.

"When you have that many people who are unfamiliar with the installation, they know all they have to do is follow the detour and parking signs, and they're going to be headed in the right direction," Ring said. "You can't funnel that many people on and off the installation without some sort of sign flow to lead them to the direction they need to be. So if we didn't have those signs, there would've been chaos."

A large part of Jones' job is producing the highest quality product possible. To do this, Jones spends most of his time laying out signs on his computer software, ensuring verbiage is correct and transferring sign material to metal.

"The most challenging part about the sign shop is meeting the customer's needs while still upholding the base standards for signs," said Staff Sgt. Joe Schick, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron structural supervisor. "We want our signs to look professional and Bernie always makes sure that happens."

Jones said the most rewarding part about his job is the wide range of challenges he has tackle. He has the ability to create signs for everything from duty section entryway signs to the warning markers seen on the installation perimeter fence line.

"I could work on three or four projects at once," Jones said. "I could lay out designs on my computer for half a day and then I could be cutting aluminum blanks and applying vinyl the rest of the day. I'm never bored in here because there is so much diversity all over the base."

The busiest parts of each year are during nuclear operational readiness exercises, and inspections that require visitors to come on base, he said.

"I'll get tasked to make last-minute entry control point signs or restricted area signs that keep the inspectors pointed in the right direction," Jones said. "A month before a major inspection is usually the most challenging time of the year for me because there are usually signs that are damaged or faded that need to be fixed before the inspectors arrive."

One of the most challenging parts about working in the sign shop is trying to save resources and keep customers happy simultaneously, said Jones.

"Sometimes I'll get customers who want certain text on their signs, but they don't know what they want the sign to look like," Jones said. "So I'll use my software to create a graphic of my interpretation of what they want and try to tailor it their needs."

Jones receives work orders from the 509th CES customer service desk.

"I cannot make any signs without a direct job order through customer service," Jones said. "It comes down to me with a work order number and that's what I charge my time to when I'm working on a job. That's also how I get my direction on what I'm working on."

Jones' dedicated work is yet another evidence of the value that Air Force Global Strike Command places on safety throughout the command in all things, large and small.

"If there isn't a stop sign at an intersection, and a small child runs across and gets hit, then the base can be at fault," Jones said. "I don't want that child to get hit. I want a sign there to keep children and drivers safe."