frc east

GOVERNOR ROY COOPER TOURS MCAS CHERRY POINT AND FRC EAST

November 13, 2019

 

From Carteret County News-Times
November 12, 2019

CHERRY POINT — Gov. Roy Cooper paid his first visit as governor to Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to tour the depot’s facility and discuss workforce development Tuesday.

FRC East is the maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider for Marine and naval aircraft aboard Cherry Point. With around 4,200 employees, it is the largest industrial employer in the region, generating more than $720 million in annual revenue.

As part of his tour of the facility, Gov. Cooper met members of FRC East’s first class of apprentices under the National Apprenticeship Program. The four-year program, which welcomed about 40 apprentices in August, offers participants a combination of education and on-the-job training. The apprentices receive free schooling and work as full-time federal employees with pay and benefits, and will be offered jobs at FRC East upon successful completion of the program.

“Some of them (apprentices) are veterans who retired and decided that they want to come back and do this kind of work. There are people who just graduated from high school and are working in an apprenticeship to get the kind of credentials that they need for a good paying job,” Gov. Cooper said during his tour Tuesday. “I’ve talked to people who started out here as artisans and have worked their way up to managing a lot of employees, so there’s clearly opportunity for advancement here, and I think there’s a lot of pride in the work that they do because of the importance of it, but also they’re grateful to get this kind of training that gives them the support they need for their families.”

John Olmstead, public affairs officer for FRC East, said if the first year of the apprenticeship program proves successful, the depot will consider continuing it in future years. More than 380 applicants vied for 40 spots in the program, and 37 apprentices are now receiving education and training.

The governor spoke highly of FRC East, especially as it relates to job creation and supporting economic development in eastern North Carolina.

“This is a hidden gem in eastern North Carolina for good jobs for everyday people,” he said. “…These are the kind of jobs we want North Carolina families to have, where you can make a good living. But it also requires some expertise, and this is why we’ve got to continue to invest in education across our state, because making sure that this workforce is ready, not only for commerce in our area, but this workforce is ready to defend our country. That is critical, and it’s exciting the work that’s been done here.”

Calee Holmes is one of the participants in the National Apprenticeship Program and said the fact Gov. Cooper has taken an interest in FRC East validates the work she and her fellow apprentices do aboard the air station.

“It makes me feel great that I’ve made it this far and that people are actually appreciating what we do,” she said. “…We’re being taught a trade that, unless you’ve been in the military, you’re not going to learn, so me being a stay-at-home mom and being brought out here and being taught from the ground up is unbelievable.”

Gov. Cooper also spoke on the state’s recent investment of $5 million for development of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft at Cherry Point. The F-35 is the military’s next-generation fighter aircraft with three distinct variants, and FRC East is the primary repair and maintenance depot for the F-35B variant. It can also service the A and C variants, and last year, FRC East achieved a milestone when it serviced and returned all three variants of the aircraft.

“I was a strong supporter of that effort for the state of North Carolina to come in and to provide funding because we needed to close the gap and make sure that it was happening here in North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said. “I think you’re going to see the rest of the country, also private business, looking to FRC East to provide help for them. They know they can get great work here done on time, so I think having this facility here, it’s a small price to pay for what we’re getting back in economic investment in eastern North Carolina.”

Gov. Cooper said he is proud of the state’s role in national defense and he hopes to continue to support the work FRC East does to further that mission.

“To make sure that this is a successful endeavor, that we have one of the best places in the country for repair and renovation of aircraft and that we are ready as a country to defend our people and that North Carolina can play such a big part in that,” he said. “We are indeed the most military friendly state in the country, and we are going to do everything we can to uphold that reputation.”

 

OSHA recognizes safety excellence at FRCE with VPP Star Site designation

October 11, 2019

 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. —

OSHA recognizes safety excellence at FRCE with VPP Star Site designation

FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto, second from right; FRCE Executive Officer Col. Thomas A. Atkinson, right; Compliance and Quality Director Amy Morgan, second from left; and Acting Safety Director Brian Snow, left, proudly display a VPP Star Site banner designed to congratulate FRCE for the achievement. (Photo by John Olmstead, Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs)

Fleet Readiness Center East’s commitment to safety has earned the depot designation as a Star Site in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The recognition makes FRCE one of fewer than 60 facilities across the entire Department of Defense to hold Star Site status, and the only Naval Air Systems Command facility to earn the distinction.

“This achievement reflects the commitment of the entire FRC East team to safety in our workplace,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “We are now part of an elite group of organizations that set an exemplary standard for occupational safety and health protection that serve as role models for safety management.”

An OSHA VPP team recommended the depot’s VPP Application Areas Charlie and Golf for the OSHA Star Site designation following a rigorous evaluation in March. Inspectors rated FRC East on 133 criteria in four subject areas: hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; safety and health training; and management commitment and worker involvement.

The five-day evaluation started with a review of the FRCE’s safety management system, after which the VPP team conducted employee interviews with 10 percent of the application areas’ workforce population. Following the evaluation, inspectors submitted their recommendation for Star Site status to the OSHA Regional Administrator’s Office in Atlanta, which concurred the evaluation was successful and sent the report for approval to the Labor Department in Washington, D.C.

“This has occurred due to all members of FRC East pulling together to improve safety across the command. Nearly a decade of sustained, focused work has gone into leading to this achievement,” said FRCE Compliance and Quality Director Amy Morgan. “It has not been easy nor fast, but it has made a tremendous difference in the workplace for all our FRC East employees in that they have a safer, cleaner workplace in which to produce critical Navy and Marine Corps aviation products to support fleet readiness.”

Achieving Star Site status at application areas Charlie and Golf gives FRCE a new goal: broadening that status to include all nine VPP application areas at the depot, which was too large to apply for Star Site status as a single entity. The command qualifies for Star Site status as a whole, but OSHA had to separate the facility into application areas to make the review process manageable.

“Earning this recognition is not the end of our journey to safety excellence,” Nieto said. “We must continue to maintain the high standards we have established and look for ways to continuously improve safety at FRC East. Our goal is to also get the other application areas of the command to the same level, so that we can bring the evaluation team back and achieve the same results for the remaining areas.”

“We can’t let up. We have to keep our foot on the gas,” Morgan agreed. “Historically, the press has been on production, on turning out more product – but when you get in a rush and you hurry, you get hurt. With new initiatives focusing on increasing production throughput, we have to be more aware than ever. We cannot take the focus off safety.”

OSHA approves qualified VPP sites to one of three programs: Star, Merit or Demonstration. Star Sites, the highest ranking, excel at hazard prevention and control, and have successfully implemented a health and safety management system. Star Site status is not just about achieving the standard – it represents an organization greatly exceeding the standard. On average, a VPP Star Site has maintained a days away, restricted or transferred (DART) case rate 52 percent below the industry average for at least three consecutive years.

At its core, VPP promotes effective worksite safety and health. The program recognizes employers and workers who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below average for their industries, with average defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

FRCE began participation in VPP in 2010, with three goals: reducing workplace injuries, improving perception of the depot’s safety systems among leadership, and creating a safe workplace with improved quality of life for all of the organization’s employees.

“I think VPP has created a cultural change. People are much more conscientious and aware, and more likely to think before taking action,” Morgan said. “This program has been a huge success, because it engaged everyone to participate and they had ways to communicate concerns that they didn’t have before.”

Under Voluntary Protection Program, management, labor and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses through a four-pillar system. Success depends on the ability to effectively demonstrate hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and worker involvement. VPP encourages efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at a site, and spurs sites to perfect existing health and safety programs while finding new ways to provide safe and healthful working conditions.

“I attribute our success to a combination of things implemented over the last decade,” Morgan said. “The first would be top leadership’s commitment to make a change with FRC East’s safety culture, in order to make the workplace safer and reduce injuries. Command leadership has had a strong presence, speaking to the importance of safety, walking the talk, and financially supporting changes made to large safety programs within the command.”

The command’s positive record of accomplishment is a testament to the depot’s long-standing commitment to safety. In 2018, FRCE received the Chief of Naval Operations Shore Safety Award in the Large Industrial Activity category – the Navy’s top safety award – which recognizes commands with the best overall command safety programs. The North Carolina Department of Labor recognized FRCE in both 2017 and 2018 with Gold Awards and Million Hour Awards for maintaining a DART rate at least 50 percent below the industry standard, and also for accumulating multiple increments of 1 million employee work hours with no injuries or illnesses involving days away from work.

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(from Navair.navy.mil)

 

FRCE helps Marines boost readiness with composite repair course

September 24, 2019

 
Marines at repair course at FRC East Cherry Point, NC

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C.

A training program recently offered at Fleet Readiness Center East prepared service members to make aircraft and component repairs at the squadron level, which will increase flight-line readiness by reducing aircraft downtime.

Five Marines graduated from the Cross Platform Advanced Composite Repair course, a three-week program led by trainers at FRCE. These Marines now have the ability make local repairs and modifications to aircraft components made of composite materials – advanced materials used on newer aircraft that are lighter and stronger than metals – rather than having to send the parts or aircraft back to a depot for service. This on-site capability speeds up the repair process, which keeps more aircraft ready for the nation’s warfighters.

“We’re increasing fleet readiness,” said Charles Taylor, the composite fabricator training leader at FRCE. “The Marines who come through this class have a better understanding of exactly what goes into a structural composite repair. The class gets them more comfortable with the process, thus improving the quality of repairs they do.”

“It’s going to be very useful, because 90 percent of the material we use on the new aircraft are all composites, whether it be fiberglass or carbon fiber. It’s the future,” added Staff Sgt. Christopher Bruns, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. “As long as we have the materials with us at the (squadron) level, we can get the repairs done more efficiently, using the knowledge we just learned, and get the birds back in the fight.”

Organizational-level maintenance, performed by operating units, includes repairs and minor adjustments that do not require shop facilities, or the removal or installation of components. Because advanced composite repair addressed subjects and skills not taught in the basic course, graduates will be able to complete more repairs at the O-level, Taylor explained.

“The previous class covered basic fiberglass, and filling and drilling holes,” Taylor said. “This course covers a wider range of composite repairs on multiple aircraft.”

Students spend a week reviewing the essentials of composite repairs, including facility requirements, tools, and fasteners, and key repair methods. Once the students have refreshed their basic composite skills, they spend the next two weeks learning to perform double vacuum debulk repairs on V-22 and F-18 aircraft. The Navy developed the technique as a way to strengthen composite materials by removing air during the curing process.

“The biggest challenge in composite repair is how to get the air out of the material to make it stronger,” said Rob Thompson, a materials engineer specializing in composites at FRCE. “There are a bunch of different techniques for doing this, but the double vacuum debulk process is unique because it can be done out in the fleet without having some of the specialized equipment we have at the depot.”

It’s important to have these advanced repair capabilities available in the field because construction of the fleet’s newer aircraft relies heavily on composite materials. Functional components like those in the engine or gearbox aren’t likely to be made of composites, but the materials are widely uses in aircraft structures.

“On the V-22, most of the exterior of the aircraft is composite,” Thompson said. “Some of the structural pieces inside are composite, the rotor blades are composite – any part of the aircraft that’s carrying a load can be composite. If it’s not moving on the aircraft, there’s a good chance it’s made of a composite.”

The most common composite repairs include patching holes in an aircraft fuselage and fixing chafing or chipping damage on the edge of an exterior component. The techniques learned by the students can be applied to any aircraft component made of a composite material.

The wide range of topics covered means the training can seem difficult, but the varied curriculum makes the course especially beneficial, said Lance Cpl. Joseph Pascale, assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 542 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.

“I learned how to do all sorts of repairs that, up until now, I had no experience with,” he said. “Some of what we covered is stuff we don’t see all the time, so it’s harder to find a situation in which we’d get on-the-job training for that. By doing it here, when the situation comes up, we’re ready for it.”

Providing hands-on experience is important, because it ensures there’s someone ready and able to complete these types of repairs, Taylor explained. The additional experience also increases the quality of the repairs, which boosts aviation readiness.

Fleet Readiness Center East provides depot-level maintenance in support of Naval and Marine Corps aviation. Depot-level maintenance at industrial facilities like FRCE supports the O-level and intermediate-level activities by providing engineering support and performing maintenance that is beyond the capabilities of the lower levels.

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot serves as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(from Navair.navy.mil)

 

New F-35 Modification Facility Brings Strategic Capability to Fleet Readiness Center East

August 22, 2019

 
Laser Shock Peening Facility at FRC East.

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — A recently-completed facility will bring a new strategic capability to Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) and the F-35B Lightning aircraft line next year. When the new F-35 laser shock peening facility is fully operational in 2020, FRCE will be one of two sites in the world that will use laser technology to strengthen F-35 structural components.

Construction of the $6 million facility wrapped in July, and the contractor providing the laser shock peening service will take occupancy in early spring, said Donald Jeter, portfolio manager of the F-35 aircraft line at FRCE. Under that timeline, the first F-35 aircraft inducted for laser shock peening would arrive in June to undergo the validation and verification process, and then the depot will begin work on the remainder of the F-35 fleet that requires the laser shock peening modification.

“This facility is a big get for Fleet Readiness Center East,” Jeter said. “It’s very exciting. Being able to perform this laser shock peening process adds a huge strategic capability to our depot. With it, we’ll be able to provide a critical support element to the F-35B program and act as a force multiplier for the fleet and the warfighter.”

The 16,000-square-foot facility comprises two bays, where the actual laser shock peening process will take place, and a connected area that will house the laser generator. The state-of-the-art laser shock peening process will allow FRCE to conduct heavy structure modifications that will strengthen areas of the F-35’s airframe without disassembling the entire aircraft, said Matthew Crisp, the F-35 Joint Program Office site lead at FRCE.

The process strengthens designs without adding additional metal or weight, which increases the aircraft’s life and reduces maintenance costs. It has been used on the F-22 Raptor and in manufacturing aircraft components including engine blades, Crisp said, but has never been employed for the F-35. Now, FRCE will use the technology to help Marine Corps aircraft reach their full life limit.

Aircraft maintenance professionals at FRCE will conduct prep work and some structural modification on the F-35s inducted into the depot, then turn them over to the contractor running the laser shock peening operations. The contractor will complete the process to strengthen the bulkheads and airframes, and FRCE will put the jets back together, perform all the flight test functions and get them back out to the fleet, Jeter said. The end result is aircraft that have been reinforced without adding additional weight, which would reduce the fighter’s capabilities by limiting its fuel or weapons carrying capacity.

Shot peening is not a new process, Crisp said, but laser shock peening is unique in that it produces a uniform result across the surface being treated. In laser shock peening, the surface of the media is first coated with an ablative layer and covered with a water tamping layer. A high-energy laser beam is fired at the metal, which creates an area of plasma on the metal’s surface. The impact creates a shock wave, which travels through the metal, and compressive residual stresses remain. This compression helps improve the metal’s damage tolerance, fatigue life and strength.

“(Shot peening) has been done for decades,” he explained. “It’s where you take a solid media, like glass beads or some kind of metal, and you hit the surface of an item – kind of like sandblasting. You just randomly throw it at the surface, and it creates all these surface dimples. What you get is a very inconsistent surface profile, because it’s not controlled.”

With laser shock peening, the process is very controlled, Crisp said.

“They create a laser beam that’s actually square, and the intensity is consistent across the entire laser beam – it’s the exact same at the very edge of the beam as it is in the middle,” he said. “They come up with a grid pattern and stack the squares up right beside each other, so the entire surface of the part is completely uniform. You don’t have the weak spots in between these areas that would then induce cracking later.”

Jeter said he expects laser shock peening to be a main focus of the F-35 line for the next four to five years. Once the first two aircraft have undergone the validation and verification process, it will be a sprint to the finish to complete modifications on the remainder of the F-35B fleet that requires this treatment.

“After that val/ver event, the aircraft will basically be nose-to-tail,” Crisp added. “We’ll completely fill every aircraft stall that’s here, and for the next five years, when one leaves another will come in. That’s critical, because this process has to be done on every single airplane that requires it.”

The workload does not include every F-35 ever produced, although it does include B and C models, and also encompasses F-35 aircraft owned by partner nations. FRCE will focus solely on the B variant, while Ogden Air Force Base in Utah will work on the F-35C models and take any F-35B overflow.

After the first round of laser shock peening modifications, what comes after that is still to be determined, Crisp said.

“I’m sure there will be some follow-on work,” he said. “And beyond the F-35 program, this is a little bit exciting, because this really is cutting-edge technology and we have it here at FRCE. I think maybe within the engineering community here, as people find out more about it, they may open additional discussions about how we could implement this on other aircraft lines. We might find a future capability we want to look at.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(source: www.dividshub.net)

 

FRCE Welcomes First Class of National Apprenticeship Program

August 13, 2019

 
Fleet Readiness Center East’s Apprentice Class of 2023 pose for a group photo in front of an AV-8 Harrier trainer on the depot’s grounds. The class marks the kickoff of FRCE’s participation in the National Apprentice Program, which will allow Fleet Readiness Centers across the Navy to recruit, train and retain skilled artisans to maintain the command’s future workforce.

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs

MCAS CHERRY POINT, NC — With an eye on recruiting and retaining aircraft maintenance professionals, Fleet Readiness Center East welcomed its first round of participants in the National Apprenticeship Program Monday, August 12.

More than 380 applicants competed for the program’s 40 available slots, which offer participants the opportunity to work as full-time federal employees, receiving pay and benefits, as they pursue a combination of education and on-the-job training. Apprentices will learn and work in FRCE’s Production Department, training in trades including machinist, pneudraulics, sheet metal, aircraft and mechanical parts repair, and airframes.

“Launching our local participation in the National Apprenticeship Program is exciting, because it allows us to strategically plan for the future of the depot’s workforce,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “Through the program, the depot will gain a workforce of highly skilled artisans who have received the most cutting-edge training.

“This initiative also benefits our local community by providing entry-level access to a quality, long-term career,” Nieto continued. “It’s another way FRCE is invested in developing opportunities for the local community while supporting our warfighter.”

“This is our first class of apprentices within the new program, and we are thrilled to begin,” added John Whitehurst, head of the Industrial Execution Department at FRCE. “This is the only program in the Production Department that takes an employee from the local economy, without aviation maintenance experience, and provides them with a planned pathway to becoming a journeyman mechanic. It’s a tremendous opportunity for both the candidates and for FRCE.”

The four-year National Apprenticeship Program – governed at the national level by Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and administered at the local level by each FRC – seeks to produce a steady pipeline of qualified mechanics ready to generate combat airpower for the warfighter. At the end of the four years, apprentices who successfully complete the program will have earned an academic certificate, trade theory certificate, and certification recognized by both the State of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor. In return, they agree to provide the depot with two years of skilled labor, the beginning of what will hopefully be a long career with FRCE.

In addition to maintaining the workforce, the program help the depot evolve as the apprentices bring in the newest production methods and processes, said David Rose, director of FRCE’s Production Trades Division.

“The apprenticeship program allows us to grow and develop individuals with the most current practices so they will have the knowledge, skills and abilities to advance the depot-level maintenance of our aircraft platforms into the future,” Rose explained.

“It’s a true investment in the future of our production efforts,” Whitehurst added.

Pay starts at $17 per hour, with incremental raises every six months for successful apprentices. Monthly performance ratings provide participants with feedback on job performance. This class of apprentices will take two semesters of academic courses at Craven Community College, along with workforce development classes, then start their training under skilled artisans. All told, they will gain 7,200 hours of academic, trade and on-the-job training over the course of their apprenticeships.

“They’re getting paid to learn a trade,” said Angie Cloyd, director of the Career Development Division in FRCE’s Total Force Strategy and Management Department. “We’ve made a very good program – and a very appealing program – to attract the best candidates. It’s a real motivator for most people.

“North Carolina is a very military-friendly state, so we’re very patriotic,” she continued. “I think that’s another motivation here that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the area. When people work at FRCE, they’re purpose-driven, and they know that what they are doing truly makes a difference. That’s a real attraction for a lot of people.”

While apprenticeships are not new to the fleet readiness world, the National Apprentice Program takes a new look at standardizing the program across COMFRC. The Class of 2023 is the largest single group of apprentices the depot has seen since 2012, Cloyd said, and it’s coming in right on time.

“We know we have an aging workforce, we know we have a lot of positions that will need to be filled, and we want to make sure we’re prepared for that with succession planning,” she explained.

COMFRC has estimated its component depots experience an annual attrition rate of about 7 to 10 percent. Having new apprentices come into the program and work their way to journey-level tradesmen is a strategic, long-range planning effort by the command to prevent a future decline in the labor force. The apprenticeship program also helps preserve the institutional knowledge seasoned artisans have learned through years of on-the-job experience, Cloyd added.

“We need that knowledge to stay productive and to put out good, quality products and work. It’s so hard to replace that experience,” she said. “All these people have different strengths they bring on board, and sharing that with the younger generation is critical. We don’t want to lose that. Our goal is to make sure we capture that knowledge from the veteran workforce and share it, so the next generation is ready to keep the fleet in the air.”

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, applicants must be U.S. citizens; determined suitable for federal employment; able to successfully pass a background check; able to meet the physical requirements of the job and pass a drug test; and possess the requirements for admission into the program’s educational partner. Applicants who are selected have the chance to develop into a career field with enormous growth potential.

“There are a lot of people who began their career with an apprenticeship program and have progressed and have grown tremendously into leadership positions,” Cloyd said. “You can be a supervisor, you can be an integrated product team lead – there are lots of opportunities.”

Jeff Nelson, head of FRCE’s Corporate Operations Group, agreed the apprenticeship program offers room to grow. He started working at the depot as a tool and parts attendant in 1987, and took advantage of several formalized training programs – similar to the National Apprenticeship Program – as he progressed through the ranks. Now able to serve as a mentor to others, he stressed that individual effort is fundamental to successful training and advancement.

“Participants in programs like these not only gain mechanical skills that are needed to produce aircraft, engines and components, but also acquire a broad perspective of how our mission supports the fleet,” Nelson explained. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the apprentices. You only get out of these program what you put into it. The application of the knowledge, skills and abilities learned through the program, combined with personal commitment to our mission, are the keys to success.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(source: www.dividshub.net)