'Geek Squad' Saves Air Force Millions

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- As budget cuts affect the quality of life in the Air Force, military personnel are adapting to changes from the government's financial trouble.   A group of Airmen from the 20th Maintenance Group Air Force Repair Enhancement Program, or also known as the "base geek squad," are doing their part to bring improvements.

The geek squad has done just that by saving the Air Force $11.5 million in the past five years.

But how has the five-man shop found such savings?

Through the program called AFREP, which revolves around finding parts that are being thrown away and then finding ways to repair them.  

Formerly called Gold Flag, AFREP has been around since the mid '90s, and the premiere focus was circuit card repair. However, unlike circuit card repairs, purchasing new ones can be costly. The program was adopted from the Navy career field, 2M (micro-miniature circuit card repair), which has now blossomed into one that fixes all aircraft parts.

According to Tech. Sgt. Caleb Nicholas, 20th MXG, AFREP manager, AFREP is not only an aircraft part repair shop. They fix anything from microwaves and televisions to medical equipment.

"We are the base dumpster divers," he added. "We really want to spread the word that if you have broken equipment to bring it here. That goes for anyone. When it comes to fixing anything electronic, if we don't know how to fix it, we will find out."

AFREP emphasizes the importance of being resourceful.   "The mindset of society is, 'throw it away and buy a new one,'" said Staff Sgt. Aaron Kirby, AFREP technician. "We are about fixing what we have instead of spending money to buy new things."

"You have to be that guy who likes to take stuff apart and put it back together," Nicholas said. "We're the Air Force geek squad."   Often times, the funds attained from AFREP are used to improve the quality of life for Airmen.   "Last year, we (redirected) $45,000 to each squadron to buy new personal protective equipment," Kirby said.   When a part is broken, it is taken to supply so that a new one can be ordered and then funds are allocated to order the part. Once the funds are approved, the part is sent to AFREP. Once it is fixed, the part is then returned to supply, the funds which were originally allocated to pay for the new one, are sent back and shared between the maintenance group and the wing.

Those funds can be used at the commander's discretion to improve areas such as quality of life or buying new supplies for the work environment.

Anything that cannot be repaired by an on-base unit, or parts that require a level of repair beyond their capability, are sent to AFREP.

As times continue to change and so do circumstances, Airmen at the Shaw AFB geek squad will continue to help the Air Force adjust and adapt.

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