Signs for all seasons

William Hill, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron sign shop manager measures a speed limit sign before affixing the numbers. Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 30th CES sign shop is staffed by a two-man team that maintains more than 7,000 signs of all varieties across Vandenberg property. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/Released)

William Hill, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron sign shop manager, measures a speed limit sign before affixing numbers. Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 30th CES sign shop is staffed by a two-man team that maintains more than 7,000 signs of all varieties across Vandenberg property. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- These inanimate objects tell people how fast they can go and when to stop, when to watch out for deer, and warn of unexploded ordnance and when the beaches are closed.

The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron sign shop is staffed by a two-man team that maintains more than 7,000 signs of all varieties across Vandenberg property.

"We process all directional, informational, and regulatory signs on base," said William Hill, 30th CES sign shop manager. "In other words we make every sign that you see on base. They are all maintained and fabricated by us."

When Hill first started working on the base, there were very few machines to help with the sign making process and much of it was done by hand.

"In '88 we still didn't have any electronic ways of making signs, we just had paint," said Hill. "Now we can create large inlays out of wood from the computerized numerical control cutter. It is all computerized. We can use wood, PVC plastic or even foam that is super dense. All the shields that you see when you drive on base were made by us. We used to re-paint those every two years. Now we use high density vinyl and powder coat the back. They are supposed to last up to 10 years."

With the many signs and types of signs that are maintained, the two-man team has to stay up-to-date on a multitude of regulations.

"We have guidelines we have to follow on all the signs we make," said Rocky Westbury, 30th CES graphics illustrator. "Sometimes we have people who want us to create a sign for them, but we can't, simply because it falls outside of the parameters of our guidelines. We also monitor the signs to make sure they all still follow the correct standard and we make sure people aren't putting up their own signs that are out of regulation."

Because every sign on Vandenberg is made in-house, the amount of resources and time saved by not having to go through a contractor for signage is significant.

"We are saving the Air Force tons of resources by having this shop on base," said Westbury. "With government contracts things can get more complicated and take up a lot more time, whereas we can just go out there and fix things directly with a faster turnaround and cheaper cost."

Monotony can permeate even the most unique jobs, and although sign making is no different, replacing signs on every part of the base grants respite from any tedium.

"I really enjoy creating graphics," said Hill. "Sometimes it gets monotonous creating the same thing over and over again but every once in a while you get to come up with a new design or a graphic. I also like being outdoors a lot and we get to see a lot of the base when we go out to put up signs. Especially when we put up unexploded ordnance signs out in the middle of nowhere. I am pretty sure the only thing that reads those ones are rabbits."