Trash into Cash: Repair Enhancement Program nets big savings

KULIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Alaska -- The mythical King Midas could turn trash into gold with a touch. The very real 176th Wing has its own equivalent: the Air Force Repair Enhancement Program (AFREP).

Employed throughout the Air Force and reserve components, AFREP is a wing-level program that takes throw-away parts and makes them good as new. Here at Kulis, unserviceable aircraft parts are carefully scrutinized to see if there is a way to salvage them for less money than it costs to replace them. Various shops of the 176th Maintenance Group contribute their time, skills and expertise to fix the parts, contracting out repairs when necessary. The parts are then turned into the Logistics Readiness Squadron's Supply Section, and the money saved is put into an AFREP account or written off as cost avoidance for the base.

In other words, trash into cash! AFREP has saved Kulis an average of more than $130,000 per year since its official adoption in 2002. And that figure is increasing: The last couple of years have seen savings in excess of $190,000.

Chief Master Sgt. John Youngblood, chief of the 176th Maintenance Squadron's Component Repair Branch, began pushing this program as far back as 15 years ago. Until it was officially launched, in fact, squadron members had been running their own make-shift prototype of the program. Even then, Youngblood estimates they saved the wing tens of thousands of dollars annually.

"I can't think of any [downside] to the tax payers. It's a good thing and I'm proud to be a part of it," Youngblood said.

The program operates with assistance from units throughout the base. It takes the full cooperation of the AFREP manager Staff Sgt. Chachee Pfeil; support from the Supply Section and Financial Management; and of course the participating shops of the 176th Maintenance Group.

"It's absolutely vital that everyone's working together for this program," says Pfeil.
Saving money is not the only reason these units support AFREP. The program eliminates 20 to 30 "Mission Impaired Capability-Awaiting Parts" (MICAP) situations each year. This translates to saved flying and training hours that would otherwise be missed by grounded crews; reduced time aircrafts are grounded; and even saves lives, because supplies or pararescuemen are able to fly out when the missions might otherwise have been cancelled or delayed.

"The biggest impact is the cost savings," Pfeil said. "We're saving the wing money, the Air Force money, and actually contributing money to the wing by purchasing mission items without using federal funds."

Indeed, savings secured through AFREP fund various mission capabilities for the base. Items purchased with AFREP-saved money are designated with a gold-lettered "Purchased by AFREP" sticker. These include items from bicycles and equipment scanners to a $70,000 master caution warning system panel, a piece of equipment that warns the pilot when something is wrong on his or her airframe. The Maintenance's Electrical Shop fixed the part for $15 and avoided a serious MICAP.

The program represents a significant added value to the wing, said Brig. Gen. Charles Foster, the wing's commander. "It's definitely a win-win."
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