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Repair enhancement program breeds innovation, ingenuity

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Clark, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group Air Force Repair Enhancement Program technician, reviews his process for repairing an LCD screen May 5, 2015 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Clark trained in miniature and microminiature electronic repair, module test and repair, and electronic signal analysis courses before becoming a certified AFREP technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi)

Staff Sgt. Paul Clark, a 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group Air Force Repair Enhancement Program technician, reviews his process for repairing an LCD screen May 5, 2015, at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Clark trained in miniature and microminiature electronic repair, module test and repair, and electronic signal analysis courses before becoming a certified AFREP technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- A troubleshooter’s mindset, outside-the-box thinking, and raw talent — is what it takes to become a technician in the Air Force Repair Enhancement Program according to Sam Krahn, the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group AFREP manager.

“Essentially, what we do in AFREP is fix the unfixable,” Krahn explained. “We are the second step if an aircraft component can’t be repaired in a maintenance hangar or back shop. Instead of throwing parts away or sending them to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, we can put them back into the supply system.”

Krahn, who has worked in repairs for nearly 20 years, said he takes pride in his work, and especially to work with the four air commandos who make up the AFREP shop at Cannon Air Force Base.

“This is the greatest job in the world. I wake up every day with a smile on my face, and then I get to come to work with some truly talented and bright individuals,” Krahn said. “The Airmen who work here have a certain mindset. They’re tinkerers, troubleshooters, outside-the-box thinkers.”

AFREP technicians are often hand-picked by shop, flight or group chiefs. Only the best and brightest are selected for the high-profile duty.

“When we interview Airmen for this job, we look for them to have the mindset, the skillset and the thought process for this work,” Krahn said. “Once selected, we send them to several courses to get certified to accomplish repairs: a miniature and microminiature electronic repair program at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, (Arizona), a module test and repair course in Seattle, and an electronic signature analysis course in Boston.”

Armed with the skills they need to make intricate repairs, AFREP air commandos return from training and apply a “four-T” principle to each potential repair to evaluate if they have the training, tools, technology and testing capabilities to fix the part.

“We treat each product as an initiative, starting with a cost-benefit analysis,” Krahn said. “We consider a repair worthwhile when it will cost less than 75 percent of the price of replacing the equipment. Often it’s much less than 75 percent, but sometimes we have some close calls. It comes down to that four-T principle; sometimes we have to pay for special tools, training, tech, or a means of testing a part.”

While AFREP technicians’ skills may seem highly specialized, their knowledge of miniature and microminiature electronics has helped them make repairs across the base.

“We are a wing program sponsored by the maintenance group and affiliated with quality assurance,” Krahn said. “Though we do most of our work for maintenance, we’ve also done repairs for the med group, civil engineering, communications, EOD, you name it.”

The soon to retire AC-130H Spectre gunship has provided Cannon AFREPS with a unique opportunity to prove their value.

“Often we make repairs on legacy parts, components that are no longer in production because their vendors have dried up,” said Krahn. “AFREP technicians become subject matter experts on fixing these pieces. For example, on our AC-130H gunship here at Cannon, there are several parts that only our techs know how to fix, so they become a real opportunity for us to shine.”

In fiscal year 2014, AFREP saved the wing $1.1 million in repair and supply costs, restoring mission capability to 10 aircraft.

“There’s a very high potential for job satisfaction here,” Krahn said. “It’s pretty amazing to watch a plane take off and know that you played a part in getting it back off the ground.”

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