Machine Operator and Precision Work Occupations

Each job description is preceded by an indication of which branches of the service the job is available in, as not all branches of the service offer the same careers. For additional information beyond what we offer here, you can also visit: careersinthemilitary.com and todaysmilitary.com/careers.

Compressed-Gas Technicians

Navy
Marine Corps

Compressed-gases have many uses in the military, such as breathing oxygen for jet pilots, divers, and medical patients and fuel for missiles and welding torches. Compressed-gas technicians operate and maintain the machinery used to compress or liquefy gases.

What They Do

Compressed-gas technicians in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate valves to control the flow of air through machinery that compresses or liquefies gases
  • Remove impurities, such as carbon dioxide, from gases
  • Fill storage cylinders with compressed gas
  • Test cylinders for leaks, using pressure gauges
  • Operate dry ice plants
  • Maintain compressed-gas machinery

Where They Work

Compressed-gas technicians in the military normally work indoors in shops on bases or aboard ships. Working with air compressors may be noisy and hot.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian compressed-gas technicians work for a wide range of industrial companies and processing plants, especially distilling and chemical firms. They perform duties similar to those of military compressed-gas technicians. They may also be called oxygen plant operators, compressed-gas plant workers, or acetylene plant operators.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is usually required to enter this occupation.

Dental and Optical Laboratory Technicians

Army
Navy
Air Force
Coast Guard

The military provides dental and optical care as part of its comprehensive health-service program. Dental and optical laboratory technicians make and repair dental devices and eyeglasses that are provided for military personnel.

What They Do

Dental and optical laboratory technicians perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Make dentures, braces, and other dental or optical devices
  • Construct, assemble, repair, and align dental and optical devices (metal braces and retainers, eyeglass frames and lenses)
  • Harden and cure new dentures or lenses using high-temperature ovens or other heat-treating equipment
  • Grind, polish, and smooth dentures or lenses using hand or power tools

Where They Work

Dental and optical laboratory technicians normally work in dental or optical laboratories and occasionally in examination and dispensing offices.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian dental laboratory technicians normally work for small dental laboratories or large dental offices. Optical laboratory technicians work in optical laboratories or for retail opticians. They perform duties similar to those of military technicians. Civilian optical laboratory technicians may also be called opticians or ophthalmic laboratory technicians.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision for some specialties is required to match color of artificial teeth with natural tooth color.

Machinists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Sometimes when engines or machines break down, the parts needed to repair them are not available. In these cases, the broken parts must be repaired or new ones made. Machinists make and repair metal parts for engines and all types of machines. They operate lathes, drill presses, grinders, and other machine shop equipment.

What They Do

Machinists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Study blueprints or written plans of the parts to be made
  • Set up and operate lathes to make parts such as shafts and gears
  • Cut metal stock using power hacksaws and bandsaws
  • Bore holes using drill presses
  • Shape and smooth parts using grinders
  • Measure work, using micrometers, calipers, and depth gauges

Where They Work

Machinists work in machine shops, which are often noisy.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian machinists work for factories and repair shops in many industries, including the electrical product, automotive, and heavy-machinery industries. They perform duties similar to those of military machinists.

Power Plant Operators

Army
Navy
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Power plants generate electricity for ships, submarines, and military bases. The military uses many different types of power plants. Some are fueled by oil, others run on coal. Many ships and submarines are powered by nuclear power plants. Power plant operators control power generating plants on land and aboard ships and submarines. They operate boilers, turbines, nuclear reactors, and portable generators.

What They Do

Power plant operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Monitor and operate control boards to regulate power plants
  • Operate and maintain diesel generating units to produce electric power
  • Monitor and control nuclear reactors that produce electricity and power ships and submarines
  • Operate and maintain stationary engines, such as steam engines, air compressors, and generators
  • Operate and maintain auxiliary equipment, such as pumps, fans, and condensers
  • Inspect equipment for malfunctions
  • Operate the steam turbines that generate power for ships
  • Operate and maintain auxiliary equipment, including pumps, fans, condensers, and auxiliary boilers

Where They Work

Power plant operators usually work indoors. They are subject to high temperatures, dust, and noise.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian power plant operators work for power companies, factories, schools, and hospitals. They perform duties similar to those of military power plant operators. Depending on the specialty, power plant operators may also be called boiler operators, stationary engineers, nuclear reactor operators, or diesel plant operators.

Physical Requirements

Power plant operators lift heavy parts or tools when maintaining power plants. They may also have to stoop and kneel and work in awkward positions while repairing.

Printing Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps

The military produces many printed publications each year, including newspapers, booklets, training manuals, maps, and charts. Printing specialists operate printing presses and binding machines to make finished copies of printed material.

What They Do

Printing specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Reproduce printed matter using offset lithographic printing processes
  • Prepare photographic negatives and transfer them to printing plates using copy cameras and enlargers
  • Prepare layouts of artwork, photographs, and text for lithographic plates
  • Produce brochures, newspapers, maps, and charts
  • Bind printed material into hardback or paperback books using binding machines
  • Maintain printing presses

Where They Work

Printing specialists work indoors in print shops and offices located on land or aboard ships.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian printing specialists work for commercial print shops, newspapers, insurance companies, government offices, or businesses that do their own printing. They perform duties similar to military printing specialists. They may be called offset-printing-press operators,
lithograph-press operators, offset-duplicating-machine operators, lithograph photographers, or bindery
workers.

Survival Equipment Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Military personnel often undertake hazardous assignments. They depend on survival equipment (parachutes, rescue equipment) to protect their lives in case of emergencies. Survival equipment specialists inspect, maintain, and repair survival equipment such as parachutes, aircraft life-support equipment, and air-sea rescue equipment.

What They Do

Survival equipment specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Inspect parachutes for rips and tangled lines
  • Pack parachutes for safe operation
  • Repair life rafts and load them with emergency provisions
  • Test emergency oxygen regulators on aircraft
  • Stock aircraft with fire extinguishers, flares, and survival provisions
  • Train crews in the use of survival equipment
  • Repair tents, tarps, and other canvas equipment

Where They Work

Survival equipment specialists in the military work in repair shops on land or aboard ships.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian survival equipment specialists work for commercial airlines, parachute rigging and supply companies, survival equipment manufacturing firms, and some government agencies. They perform duties similar to those of military survival equipment specialists. Those who specialize in parachutes are called parachute riggers.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to work with color-coded wiring and repair charts.

Water and Sewage Treatment Plant Operators

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Military bases operate their own water treatment plants when public facilities cannot be used. These plants provide drinking water and safely dispose of sewage. Water and sewage treatment plant operators maintain the systems that purify water and treat sewage.

What They Do

Water and sewage treatment plant operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate pumps to transfer water from reservoirs and storage tanks to treatment plants
  • Add chemicals and operate machinery that purifies water for drinking or cleans it for safe disposal
  • Test water for chlorine content, acidity, oxygen demand, and impurities
  • Regulate the flow of drinking water to meet demand
  • Clean and maintain water treatment machinery
  • Keep records of chemical treatments, water pressure, and maintenance

Where They Work

Water and sewage treatment plant operators work indoors and outdoors. They may be exposed to strong odors.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian water and sewage treatment plant operators work for municipal public works and industrial plants. Their work is similar to that of military water and sewage treatment plant operators. Civilian plant operators usually specialize as water treatment plant operators, waterworks pump station operators, or wastewater treatment plant operators.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is needed to examine water for acidity and impurities.

Welders and Metal Workers

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Sheet metal is used as a building material in many military construction projects. Ships, tanks, and aircraft are made of heavy metal armor. Welders and metal workers make and install sheet metal products, such as roofs, air ducts, gutters, and vents. They also make custom parts to repair the structural parts of ships, submarines, landing craft, buildings, and
equipment.

What They Do

Welders and metal workers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Weld, braze, or solder metal parts together
  • Repair automotive and ship parts using welding equipment
  • Measure work with calipers, micrometers, and rulers

Where They Work

Welders and metal workers work indoors in metalworking shops and aircraft hangars. They also work outdoors at construction sites, on ships, and in the field.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian welders and metal workers may work for metal repair shops, auto repair shops, construction companies, pipeline companies, aircraft manufacturing plants, shipyards, and marine servicing companies. They perform duties similar to those of military welders and metal workers.

Physical Requirements

Welders and metal workers may have to lift heavy metal parts and work in crouching or kneeling positions. Good color vision is required for locating and marking reference points, setting and adjusting welding equipment, and matching paints.