EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Tucked away in a corner of the 354th Maintenance Group is a small group of uniquely-skilled Airmen. Virtually any tool one needs to fix a piece of equipment can be found, but there is not a technical order in sight. This team has saved Eielson and the Air Force $2.7 million this year alone.
A four-man team of Airmen hand-selected from the 354th Maintenance Group (MXG) makes up the Air Force Repair Enhancement Program (AFREP) flight and its mission is to fix anything and everything on the installation.
“Airmen in the unit are all trained maintainers,” said Master Sergeant Cameron Yeckley, a 354th MXG maintenance operations superintendent. “Through an application process, the maintainers are selected and sent to a special technical school where they participate in eight weeks of intricate electronic component training, specializing heavily in miniature and micro miniature electronic components and intensive soldering training.”
Unlike other maintainers, the flight’s members do not rely on technical orders, but instead rely on knowledge and schematics to complete repairs.
“We fix any number of items, generally our main focus is to repair aircraft parts such as lights and panels to enhance aircraft capability due to availability of certain aircraft parts,” said Senior Airman Colin Meyers, a 354th MXG AFREP technician. “Our team will take any item from not only the maintenance group, but the wing and try to repair it. Before you buy a replacement item or turn it into DRMO (Defense Reutilization Marketing Office), give our office a call and let us take a crack at repairing it.”
AFREP Airmen could be considered jack-of-all-trades which is beneficial to the 354th FW and the Air Force as a whole.
“Anything we work on and repair saves this base the cost of replacement or having to outsource the repair,” said Master Sgt. Brandon N. Roeder, the 354th MXG AFREP manager. “Supply assets repaired by us get injected back into the Air Force supply system and ‘big’ Air Force pays the 354th MXG for them. This money is in turn used to fund projects, temporary duty (TDY) travel and equipment for Eielson Air Force Base.”
Some recent projects show how versatile the team is when it comes to repairs.
“We helped fix a couple base signs that were out,” said Meyers. “They’ve been down for a couple of years and no one really knew what to do with them so we did our research, talked to some companies, and figured out how to fix them. Just a couple of weeks ago, we also fixed the community center’s arcade machines the kids use.”
In addition to being able repair base assets, the Eielson AFREP team is slated to become Apple Repair certified in Fiscal Year 2021. This proficiency will further enhance the team’s capability to fix iPhones and tablets used by maintainers to view technical orders while repairing aircraft.
One of the most difficult parts of the job is not having step-by-step instructions for a repair, but AFREP members take pride in not letting any broken parts beat them.
“You may have completely new things that we have never looked at before so it’s always a challenge,” said Meyers. “We do a whole research phase trying out how to fix it. We solve new and unique problems every day, and that forces you to learn something new and always challenge yourself.”