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Cannon behind the scenes: Skilled AFREP technicians save funds

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexxis Pons Abascal
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
*This feature is the twenty-first in a series of Air Commando highlights at Cannon.

Don't let a good thing go to waste - what some Air Commandos might think belongs in the trash may be in better hands with the Air Force Repair Enhancement Program technicians.

Under the approving authority of Col. David Wiesner, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group commander, the AFREP shop is able to collect, diagnose and repair any unserviceable equipment turned into them from members at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

The AFREP shop is completely self-sustaining. Their entire program relies on the money they save the 27th Special Operations Wing and the Air Force, to obtain additional manpower and equipment to continue their efforts in saving critical funds.

According to a recent article by the American Forces Press Service, Air Force sequestration threatens impact on budget cuts and nearly 200,000 flight hours this year alone. Implementation of initiatives, such as AFREP, can assist in finding innovative ways to not only improve installation repair processes, but also stretch an already tight budget.

"Our shop is responsible for more than $1 million worth of annual savings for our wing; that's money that goes directly back to our command and can then be utilized and allotted toward other mission-essential functions that might otherwise have been halted because of funding," said Senior Airman Michael Grace, 27 SOMXG AFREP technician. "We are currently the leaders in Air Force Special Operations Command for most significant monetary savings."

Savings the AFREP shop provides the Air Force fall into two categories: direct and avoidance.

"Direct savings is the money we see coming back to the unit," Grace added. "The amount of direct savings we save in one fiscal year is the amount we get to spend in the next. Avoidance savings are funds we save organizations by fixing shop items."

Cannon's AFREP techs have developed innovative methods of troubleshooting and diagnosing equipment they receive, effectively cutting spending and man hours by engineering new tools to expedite procedures.

"Certain equipment might require multiple technicians to diagnose, could take hours to troubleshoot, or call for separate machinery to scan all components," said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Martin, 27 SOMXG AFREP technician. "We've created our own internal tools and programs to allow one tech to troubleshoot various items within seconds."

"For instance, we took several hundred dollars and created a CV-22 search and landing light tester that can run checks in seconds and has saved us more than $180 thousand," he added. "The money we save by repairing these salvageable items, versus simply purchasing new gear, comes right back to Cannon and helps keep our mission going."

Another consideration for AFREP is repairing items that are no longer manufactured. Components of the AC-130H Spectre gunship, for example, are no longer factory produced, but can be repaired by the skilled hands in the AFREP shop. Additionally, Cannon's AFREP techs handle Air Force repairs for all CV-22 Osprey avionics components.

"Nearly everything we get in our shop is worth repairing," Grace stated. "The financial impact is always significant to the wing."

Members assigned to AFREP are pulled from various career fields. The candidates demonstrate exemplary skill in their craft when considered. Martin, for example, previously worked in aircraft communication and navigation, and Grace in electronic warfare.

The AFREP training selected candidates receive is said to be some of the most intense and comprehensive Air Force training available in the maintenance career field. Airmen attended a six-week Micro-Miniature Circuit Card Repair course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where they learn wire repair, advanced soldering techniques, circuit card repair and electronic re-work.

"Training aside, the work we do in our shop is learned mostly through hands-on experience," Martin added. "Formal training provides the standard, but what we do daily develops the bulk of our skills and knowledge."

These developed skills allowed Cannon's team to assist in standing up an AFREP shop at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., along with developing continuity for all AFREPs across the service.

"We are all about doing more with less," said Grace. "We can take anything unserviceable that Air Force funds purchased and try fixing it. Ultimately, our objectives are saving money, cutting costs and most importantly, returning valuable assets to the Air Force inventory."