frc east

FRCE Steps Up to Keep F-18s in Flight

April 27, 2020

FRCE steps up to keep F-18s in the Fight

Donovan Guthrie, right, and Jason Hollister check an F-18 safety valve against the technical instruction to ensure it’s ready for issue, or RFI.

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — When coronavirus-related workforce shortages impacted Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base, Fleet Readiness Center East stepped up to take on a component workload and ensure continued readiness for the F-18 fleet.

FRCE was initially scheduled to begin working with the F-18 cabin safety valve later this year while the Oklahoma City ALC’s test chamber underwent scheduled maintenance. That timeline moved forward when, as a result of the pandemic and associated risk mitigations, the facility at Tinker AFB saw a significant reduction in the number of available artisans. Because FRCE had already been making preparations to accept the workload, the handoff occurred with no interruption to the fleet.

“The original intent of bringing this workload to FRCE was to support Tinker Air Force Base through a major support equipment rework effort,” said Mary Linton, an aerospace engineer working with F-18 environmental control systems on the Gas Turbine Compressor-Pneumatics Fleet Support Team at FRCE. “All of the great effort that went into establishing this capability proved even more critical to maintaining the readiness of the F-18 fleet as we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.”

The cabin safety valve is an integral part of the aircraft’s environmental control system, explained Linton. The valve, present on both Legacy Hornets and the newer Super Hornets, acts as a backup to maintain proper cabin air pressure above 23,000 feet in the case where the cabin air pressure regulator fails to function. It also serves as a supplement to the cabin air pressure regulator in regulating cabin air pressure when the aircraft is in a rapid dive, and it assists the cabin air pressure regulator in emergency relief dumping of cabin air pressure.

FRCE was set to begin repairing, checking and testing the valves in May, to shift the workload from Oklahoma City ALC, said John Miller, a planner and estimator with the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Logistics department at FRCE. Inductions would start at 20 per month and lead to the full induction rate of 40 per month by July, he explained.

“Originally the plan was for FRCE to slowly ramp up production to give the shop time to gain experience on the component and to ease into the additional workload,” Linton added. “FRCE was challenged to ramp straight up from no workload to 20-40 a month to support the F-18. The fact that they were able to do is a testament to the hard work and dedication all of the personnel at FRCE have to support the warfighter.”

The artisans in the engine driven compressor/gas turbine compressor shop at FRCE did require some additional training to prepare for the new component, but that didn’t delay the depot’s response to the fleet’s need, Miller said.

“We were still able to hit the ground running,” he added. “And now we are repairing or check-and-testing each valve that meets certain criteria by engineering, via temporary engineering instruction.”

To date, FRCE has turned around 18 of the 40 units inducted so far, with plans to induct 10 more soon. After that, more “F” condition valves, which are unserviceable but reparable, must arrive at the depot to keep the workload constant.

“The availability of components is still in flux due to COVID-19 and other factors, but the transition should move smoothly,” Miller said. ““FRCE can handle the workload, as long as the support elements are good.”

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 $835 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.



Governor Roy Cooper Urges Support for MCAS Cherry Point and FRC East

April 06, 2020

Photo of NC Gov Roy Cooper

In a March 31 letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chief of Naval Operations, Governor Cooper urged the continued efforts to transform Cherry Point into a 21st century airstation. Specifically, the Governor urged action and cooperation:

“I know you appreciate how important it is to me that North Carolina does all it can to support and grow the
military. Therefore, I ask that you work with me to:

  • Seek Congressional authorization and appropriation of funding for critical infrastructure upgrades and
    new construction at FRC East. I will work closely with the North Carolina Congressional delegation to prioritize
    the construction of projects that support both the Department of Defense’s priorities and the State’s
  • Reaffirm the Navy’s commitment to use FRC East as primary source of depot work for F-35 JSF lift fans,
    components, and other related work. The people of our state are fortunate to have over seven hundred
    thousand dedicated and talented service members, veterans and their families call North Carolina home. As
    Governor, I am committed to maintaining the state’s status as the most military-friendly state in the Nation. I
    welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how the Navy, Marine Corps and the state can work
    together for the betterment of our installations, service members, their families, and veterans.”

Find a copy of Governor Cooper’s letter HERE.




COVID-19 Update from ACT Board President

March 27, 2020


We want you to know that ACT and its professional team continue to press hard for Cherry Point. The Air Station and FRC East have been the subject of several conference calls and discussions with Congressional staff and local leaders over the last ten days.

1. The latest federal COVID relief bill, what the media and politicians are calling the CARES Act, should be signed by the President later today. It is a huge 880 page, $2.2 TRILLION package with something for most everyone. For our purposes right now, we are focusing on how it impacts the Defense Department and military contractors.

a. Representative Mac Thornberry, former Chair of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), current senior Republican on the HASC, and friend to ACT said about the CARES Act: “This stimulus package includes provisions important to our men and women in uniform and their families. It pro-vides re-sources vital to the Military’s efforts to assist in pandemic response around the country, from deploying hospital ships to the search for a vaccine. It also provides resources needed to care for those in the military community who are infected with COVID-19. We need to give our military the resources it needs to get on with their important work.”

2. MCAS Cherry Point Slocum and Main gates remain open. However, additional ID checks are being conducted along with strict enforcement of military and retired access only to the commissary; most gathering spots are closed. All visits to base should be limited to an essential purpose. The message from the USMC is to protect our Marines from COVID-19 so they can train and do their duty.

3. FRC East remains fully operational. Those who can telework are doing so, but most employees are on the job in the FRC East buildings. Supporting the warfighter remains their top priority and so far COVID has not stopped their mission.

Please continue to follow CDC guidelines and adhere to any guidance issued by federal, state and local authorities as they are implemented for the health and safety of our community.


Will Lewis
ACT Board President


FRCE to Begin Accepting Applicants for Paid Apprenticeship Program

March 16, 2020

Members of FRC East's 2019 apprenticeship program attend class at Craven Community College
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) will begin accepting applications for the Naval Air Systems Command National Apprenticeship Program Mar. 16.

“We’re excited to offer our community this opportunity to build a stable and meaningful career,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieto. “The program benefits the community and allows FRCE to strategically plan our future workforce. This is a chance for people to learn a skilled trade, contribute to the defense of our country and get paid while they do it.”

This unique work-study program offers 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. Tuition is paid by FRCE. Apprentices will learn and work in FRCE’s production department, training in trades including machinist, pneudraulics, sheet metal, and aircraft mechanical parts repairer.

Those who successfully complete the four-year program will earn an academic certificate, trade theory certificate and certification recognized by 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.

To be considered for this opportunity, candidates must complete the application process on the USAJobs website (, for job announcement number DE-10736899-20-BSJ, and pass an assessment.  There are a limited number of available slots and registration closes Mar. 20.

For more information, contact FRCE Human Resource Office at 252-464-5865/8974/9992/5152 or email:

From Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs


FRCE Produces H-53 Fitting to Fill Supply Gaps

February 03, 2020


By Heather Wilburn, FRC East Public Affairs
Feb 3, 2020

Model maker Chris McCoy, right, demonstrates to machinist apprentice Collin Grummert how to use a FaroArm coordinate measuring machine to verify the dimensions of a 522 fitting for an H-53 heavy-left helicopter. 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — When supply system shortfalls led to a work stoppage on two H-53 heavy-lift helicopters at Fleet Readiness Center East, the depot’s manufacturing and engineering teams stepped up to close the gap.

Manufacturing and material procurement issues prevented the helicopter’s original equipment manufacturer from producing the 522 fitting FRCE artisans needed to continue work on the aircraft, said David Rouse, an H-53 aircraft planner and estimator at the depot. The 522 fitting is vital to the function of the H-53 heavy lift helicopter; as one of the aircraft’s main structural supports, it carries the load for the helicopter’s tail and tail pylon – about 30 percent of its volume – during flight operations.

After several attempts to acquire the part through standard channels, the H-53 line turned to FRCE’s manufacturing branch for assistance – and the team came through. To date, they have completed one of the two fittings currently needed.

“These deficiencies would have driven the aircraft into long-term work stop, thus decreasing fleet readiness,” Rouse said. “To date, there has not been another manufacturer that has been successful in manufacturing the (fittings) within tolerances.

“The collaboration between FRCE’s Manufacturing and (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) Engineering branches continually provides resolutions to barriers, and workarounds when there are issues in the supply chain” he continued. “Their efforts here at FRCE have had a positive impact to H-53 readiness, and proves to the world that, in a time of need, FRCE and its teammates can make the impossible happen.”

Keith Linton, MRO Manufacturing branch head at FRCE, said his team often receives requests to manufacture parts. The request kicks off a process that involves a cross-disciplinary team of the depot’s artisans and engineers.

“The aircraft line will establish a need (for a) a fitting or a specialized part,” Linton explained. “If they can’t get it from Defense Logistics Agency or an outside source, they’ll contact our planning department and submit a request for us to manufacture the component. There are a number of steps in the manufacturing process, and with a critical safety item like this fitting, there are some additional measures to ensure the integrity of the part.”

Requests for parts that are not otherwise in high demand or are unique often get routed to MRO Manufacturing, Linton said, because they aren’t financially viable as products for commercial suppliers. Once the MRO Manufacturing Planning Department receives the request from the aircraft line, they start the process of procuring the necessary material; once that material comes in, a lab verifies its composition and it is prepped for usage. At the same time, the team begins working with engineers to verify the part’s model or drawings.

“Then it goes to the programmers, who write the program to manufacture the part, which gets sent down to the machine – in this case, the five-axis milling machine – and we begin the process of manufacturing the part,” Linton said.

Writing the program involves the transfer of the part’s measurements and specifications from the drawings into a computer-aided manufacturing file that assigns a tool path to the milling machine, which cuts the component out of a solid block of material.

“The program could take two to three weeks, sometimes a month, depending on how complicated the file is,” Linton said. “This 522 fitting is a pretty complex part.”

Once the file is transferred to the milling machine, the project becomes the property of the machinist, who sees it through until the milling is complete. While some parts have been turned around in as little as 24 hours, the complex 522 fitting took about 100 hours of milling time. That can mean long hours and weekend work for the machinists, and the team at FRCE always rises to the challenge, Linton said.

“A lot of people don’t know how much work these guys put into the parts, and how much they can sacrifice to get these parts done, so we can get the aircraft back in the fight,” he said. “They’re a dedicated team that really takes to heart their mission of supporting the fleet.”

Once the machining process is complete, it’s time to measure the resulting product to ensure it meets the standard. The machinists measure the product, and Quality Assurance conducts a round of measurements, as well.

“With a (unique) part like this, we machine it and hope it measures up when we get done,” Linton said. “Basically, we’re proving it out, and doing a prototype on the first run. If the first part isn’t correct, we have to make another one. We’ll go back in and make adjustments, make changes to the program.

“When we assign the tool path, there’s nothing guaranteeing you the machine is going to do exactly what we want it to,” he continued. “There are so many factors – different compositions of the metal, different tools, speed and feeds – and all these things can affect how the part gets machined.”

It usually takes at least one prove-out to get the part machined within acceptable tolerances, Linton explained. When the part is approved, that program is then used to manufacture others.

The machining process is just the first step in manufacturing a finished product. Once the machinist’s job is complete, the part goes through a litany of other steps that can include cleaning, non-destructive inspection, plating, paint, labeling and more. The entire process can take up to 200 hours of work.

“This part started as a block of aluminum. When it’s complete, it will have been through a team of artisans that put their work into it,” Linton said. “It’s not just go make me a part. It’s really involved – there is a lot of effort that goes into something like this fitting.”

For machinist apprentice Collin Grummert, assisting with the manufacture of the 522 fitting provided a unique learning opportunity.

“It’s my first time working on a part this complex,” he said. ““I’ve learned the step-by-step what goes along with these parts, with making them: roughing it out, making it, checking it, working with Quality Assurance and the engineers. I had a chance to learn about everybody that’s involved, and what goes along with it.”

Grummert works alongside Chris McCoy, the model maker responsible for shepherding the 522 fittings through the machining process. McCoy said there’s a prestige involved in being tasked with machining parts that are on the critical safety item list, and he’s proud to be able to step up for the fleet.

“Every little detail has to be just right. You’ve got to be on point, because if one of these parts fail, an aircraft could fail – that’s somebody’s life in your hands,” McCoy said. “There’s a big sense of pride and accomplishment that goes along with it. There’s really a satisfaction to it.”

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 $835 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.