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Deep inside one of the 20th Maintenance Group hangars is a windowless room, where Airmen peer into microscopes and solder electronics as they work to save the 20th Fighter Wing millions of dollars.
It's not a secret testing facility or a special operations training hub, but rather an office with three Airmen who belong to a special group of maintainers. The 20th MXG's Air Force Repair Enhancement Program assesses the efficacy of buying new or repairing broken items in an effort to save the 20th FW money.
Repairs come to the shop either through the supply chain for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, or from the owning work center. The equipment is tested to verify the malfunction before the Airmen research repair and troubleshooting options to determine the most cost-effective solution. After repairing the equipment, it is then retested extensively. When they are confident it is serviceable, the item is returned to the owning agency for use.
"We save the Air Force money and time by fixing just about anything on base," said Tech Sgt. Michael Kelly, the 20th MXG AFREP manager. "Anything from aircraft parts to paper shredders."
By providing repaired equipment back to the unit, AFREP saved the 20th FW $2.03 million in fiscal year 2014 -- money that went back to the wing, Kelly said.
AFREP's savings support 18 squadrons across four groups in the 20th FW, which benefits both the mission and the quality of life on base. In 2014, AFREP savings went to funding the sunshades that cover all 79 jets in the wing's F-16CM Fighting Falcon fleet. Part of those savings also allowed the 20th Force Support Squadron to put rubber on the physical training track, improving the fitness facility available to Airmen.
The AFREP’s work ensures the safety of the Shaw AB pilots, too. In fiscal 2015, just by replacing seven landing gear panel LEDs for the wing, they saved more than $60,000, said Tech. Sgt. Scott Williams, a 20th MXG AFREP technician.
Those repairs effectively provide a safe tarmac for pilots to land on during low-light operations.
"The landing gear panel LEDs may seem like a small fix," Williams said. "But those lights tell the pilot that their plane can land safely and that's huge.”
"The 20th FW benefits from AFREP in three very important ways," said Col. Stephen Jost, the 20th FW commander. "They allow us to be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars, they provide us with agile options to keep our jets mission capable, and they essentially generate revenue that can be spent for unfunded requirements across the wing to help us execute our important mission in the most capable and efficient way possible. I am very proud of our AFREP Airmen and what they do."