MINOT AIR FORCE BASE From shop TVs to the scoreboard at the fitness center, if it can break, chances are the airmen at the 5th Maintenance Group's Air Force Repair Enhancement Program office can figure out what's wrong with it and save the Air Force money in the process.
In fiscal year 2008, the AFREP office at Minot Air Force Base returned $108,000 worth of 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing parts to the Air Force supply system. In addition, the office repaired more than $805,000 of nonaircraft/missile-related equipment, such as printers, treadmills, shredders, radar guns and many other items.
The AFREP's main objective is to optimize Air Force resources by increasing the wing and base-level repair capability of aerospace parts and equipment. The program encourages innovation, ingenuity and resourcefulness by allowing organizations to identify items for base-level or contract repair. Put simply, AFREP saves Air Force resources and American tax dollars by repairing items that are no longer available through normal channels, no longer made or to be thrown away.
Submitted Photo --
Tech. Sgt. Rene Medina, Air Force Repair Enhancement Program technician, repairs a circuit board at the AFREP shop at Minot Air Force Base March 3, shown in this photo by Staff Sgt. Stacey Moless.
"The main thing we do is we repair assets from the flightline that normally wouldn't get repaired," said Master Sgt. Todd Brown, AFREP superintendant. "The biggest asset we give the maintenance group commander is that we can turn in parts back to him that the flightline can use."
According to Brown, there are two categories repairs fall into: mission-capable fills and mission-capable avoids, known as MICAP fills and MICAP avoids.
"If you order something and we don't have it on base, it has to be ordered," Brown said. "That process takes time and costs money. If we have that item here and we can fix it, we can turn it back in within a day. We have a big impact on mission readiness that way."
"Any part we fix that we turn into storage for use at a future date," Brown said. "We did 40 of those last year. It's all about planning ahead and being ready for the unexpected."
By fixing items that might have otherwise been thrown away, the AFREP office is able to not only save the part, but also save the Air Force money it would have spent on a replacement. Savings the AFREP office gives the Air Force fall into two categories: direct savings and avoidance savings.
"Direct savings is real money we get to see," Brown added. "The amount of direct savings we save in one fiscal year is the amount we get to spend in the next fiscal year. Avoidance savings is money we save organizations by fixing shop items."
AFREP is staffed by three mechanics who have been certified (or are being certified) as 2M Micro-Miniature Technicians, which is equivalent to the Naval Sea Systems Command Miniature/Micro-Miniature (2M) Electronic Repair Program certification, one of the highest levels of electronic rework certifications available. The training is widely regarded in the maintenance career field as some of the most intense and comprehensive Air Force training available. Airmen attended a six-week Micro-Miniature Circuit Card Repair course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., where they learned wire repair, advanced soldering techniques, as well as circuit card repair and electronic re-work.
With such a varied mission and so many broken items, Tech. Sgt. Rene Medina, AFREP technician, said the hardest part of his job is figuring out what's wrong with the broken item.
"Another hard part is finding the technical data," Medina added. "A lot of planning and research goes into fixing broken equipment."
The AFREP technician added the job, while challenging, has its rewards.
"I enjoy giving back to the flightline," Medina said. "As a mechanic, not having to wait around for a part is a big deal. It's very rewarding watching that plane fly away and knowing you had a part in it."
Medina's wingman, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Irick, also an AFREP technician, said he was also happy to give back to the Air Force and learn something in the process.
"I get my thrills from ripping things apart and figuring out how they work," Irick said. "I enjoy fixing them and putting them back together."
Whether it's ripping something apart or putting it back together, the airmen at the AFREP office are committed to mending what's broken and saving money wherever they can.