In most offices, there’s a closet, probably known as “the back”, where electronics go to die. This keyboard won’t read common access cards anymore? Put it in the back. The printer keeps jamming? Put it in the back. Pretty soon “the back” is filled with malfunctioning electronics that will soon be taken to Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services for disposal, wasting thousands of Air Force dollars.
Not many know that this equipment can be taken to the Air Force Repair Enhancement Program, a 4-man shop where they take on the repair of anything and everything Air Force related.
“We can fix anything really,” said Tech. Sgt. Jong Park, AFREP manager. “Some things are coded for our repair, but if not you can bring it in and we will try to fix it for you.”
The Davis-Monthan AFREP has fixed mechanical and electrical items for numerous shops on base, from televisions for the 25th Operational Weather Squadron to a Segway for the D-M Explosive Ordinance Disposal.
They also repair any outdated, obsolete and hard-to-find aircraft assets. All of DM’s aircraft units have relied on AFREP to fix something for them when they can’t get a part they desperately need.
The item that comes through AFREP the most is the A-10 fuel quantity I.D. This is a $29,000 piece of equipment that is evaluated, calibrated and returned to aircraft units quickly.
“We get about three or four fuel quantity I.D.s a month in here,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Cordroch, AFREP technician. “Those are Depot controlled items, so if they had to send them out it could take weeks for them to come back, and that aircraft could possibly be grounded until then. But with us they can just drive it over; we fix it, and turn it back into Supply. And this can be returned the next day.”
In 2012, AFREP fixed 48 of these critical assets and returned them to the flightline, for under $50, avoiding further aircraft downtime.
Overall, AFREP had a 94 percent success rate in 2012, repairing 135 of the 144 items that came across their workbenches. Their efforts saved D-M more than $1 million, money that was then recycled back into the installation.
“When we fix an aircraft part and turn it in, the money generated from that turn-in is put into the base account,” said Todd Zickel, AFREP supply manager. “We also save money through avoidance. If we can fix your broken part for, say, $50, then your squadron can avoid paying $20,000 for a new one. The base has greatly benefitted from this program. Last year, the generated funds paid for the base pool repair, a light bill for the Mirage Club and many other things. This is just from the aircraft assets we turned in through Supply channels.”
The Air Force Repair Enhancement Program, originally called Gold Flag, began in the U.S. Navy. The D-M branch of Gold Flag was the first to open in the Air Force.
The AFREP is not a career field unto itself. Airmen assigned to the program have maintenance Air Force specialty codes. Positions in the shop are earned through an interview process.
“A lot of times maintainers are brought to our attention by their supervisors or section chiefs,” Park said. “Their leadership urges them to apply for a position and they come in for an interview. This is a special type of work and it’s not for everybody. You have to be dedicated and have patience, because a lot of times people have no idea what’s wrong with the equipment. We have to open it up and figure it out. You have to like to tinker.”