Defender by day, blacksmith by night
By Airman 1st Class Tenley Long, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 23, 2017
RAF MILDENHALL, England --
As the sweat rolls down his face, it collects in his thick, military groomed mustache. The U.S. Air Force technical sergeant pulls the glowing red metal out from the 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit forge and begins to work the steel. Holding the metal with tongs, he strikes it with a hammer. This process continues until the metal starts to take on the desired shape. Soon this chunk of steel is transformed into a shining knife.
Before his assignment here, Steven Pyott, 100th Security Forces Squadron standards and evaluations sections evaluator, enjoyed gunsmithing, which consisted of building, customizing or refining firearms. The strict firearm laws in the U.K. makes gunsmithing a difficult hobby to participate in, so Pyott decided to dip into something a little different: blacksmithing.
“When I moved to England, I figured it would be a good time to start a new hobby that I have always been interested in,” Pyott explained. “I learned from a good friend of mine, George Mckilligan – who is currently in the process of becoming the youngest Master Blacksmith in modern U.K. history. After taking a single class from him, I was hooked. I learned the basics of how to build and control a forge and how to manipulate metal, then I took it into my own hands and have been self-taught from there.”
Blacksmithing takes a lot of hard work and dedication, as does being in the military. In and out of uniform, Pyott’s efforts are noticed.
“I’m aware of Tech. Sgt. Pyott's blacksmithing skills and have seen many of his completed works,” explained Master Sgt. Andrew Hixson, 100th SFS NCO in charge of standards and evaluations section and Pyott’s immediate supervisor. “I’m always amazed when he shows off his latest projects. To see him forge great metal work out of an old thrown away bedspring is simply astounding. I think the dedication Steve brings to his craft easily transfers to his military duty and other aspects of his personal life. It takes serious resolve to work over those blazing hot flames and possessing that level of commitment has definitely played a role in forging the NCO he is today.”
With physical, spiritual, mental and social fitness being important aspects of the military lifestyle, Pyott’s hobby helps him work on all four pillars of fitness.
“I get to spend time outside, and my wife and kids help me with some of the less complex projects, which really brings our family together. Nothing is more relaxing than going out and kicking on the forge, having the stress from the work day melt away. You can take out any pent up aggression that you gathered during the day by changing a cold hunk of raw steel, into a beautiful or functional piece of art,” Pyott explained. “As far as keeping physically fit, swinging a four and a half pound hammer for hours, loading bags of coal into scorching forge and twisting a solid piece of steel, the muscles you didn’t know you had get worked. At the end of the session, you are covered in sweat and ash, and your arms, shoulders and back are aching. I wouldn’t have it any other way!”
Another fixture of the military lifestyle is combat. Following combat, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can occur. The symptoms can be managed to a certain extent, according to the Air Force Medical Service. Pyott uses his love for blacksmithing to help those who are coping with PTSD.
“We have all experienced something in our lives that is rough to get through. None of my experiences are as drastic or grand as others. I just want to help out,” Pyott said. “Veterans sometimes just need to hammer out their frustrations with someone who has been through similar situations as them. There are certain things that I teach that you wouldn’t get the training for unless you were in a certain career field or sent to a certain school.”
Like his mustache, blacksmithing has grown on him, fitting pleasantly into his military lifestyle.
“Sgt. Pyott is a hardworking NCO who is not afraid to take on new tasks or step outside of his comfort zone to ensure the mission gets accomplished,” Hixson said. “He is a consummate team player, always looking for ways to bolster the squadron's performance and improve camaraderie within the unit. Finally, Sgt. Pyott can always be counted on to make the worst pun you've ever heard or tell a ridiculously bad ‘dad joke’ if people need their spirits raised.”
Although Pyott is a great blacksmith, the praise and appreciation from his coworkers and leadership proves that he’s a vital part Team Mildenhall, and they ‘mustache’ him not to quit his day job!