FLEET READINESS CENTER EAST

~ Service to the Fleet ~

Since 1943, Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, has played an important part in national defense.  Our workforce has earned a reputation of excellence in providing world-class maintenance, engineering and logistics support for Navy and Marine Corps aviation, as well as other armed services, federal agencies and foreign governments. Our skilled workforce uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure that FRCE is without equal in providing quality, cost-effective support. Our employees take great pride in their work, and this professional spirit is evident in the high quality products they produce.

Our mission is to maintain and operate facilities for and perform a complete range of depot level rework operations on designated weapon systems, accessories, and equipment; manufacture parts and assemblies as required; provide engineering services in the development of changes of hardware design; furnish technical services on aircraft maintenance and logistic problems; and perform, upon specific request or assignment, other levels of aircraft maintenance.

FLEET READINESS CENTER EAST

~ Service to the Fleet ~

Since 1943, Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, has played an important part in national defense.  Our workforce has earned a reputation of excellence in providing world-class maintenance, engineering and logistics support for Navy and Marine Corps aviation, as well as other armed services, federal agencies and foreign governments. Our skilled workforce uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure that FRCE is without equal in providing quality, cost-effective support. Our employees take great pride in their work, and this professional spirit is evident in the high quality products they produce.

Our mission is to maintain and operate facilities for and perform a complete range of depot level rework operations on designated weapon systems, accessories, and equipment; manufacture parts and assemblies as required; provide engineering services in the development of changes of hardware design; furnish technical services on aircraft maintenance and logistic problems; and perform, upon specific request or assignment, other levels of aircraft maintenance.

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May 23, 2022

FRCE Declares Capabilities on Next Round of F-35 Components

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has expanded its support of next-generation naval aviation by declaring capabilities on a new round of F-35 components. These capabilities build upon the 17 F-35 components the depot previously declared capabilities on in 2020.

“This expansion of our F-35 component workload is extremely important because the F-35 is a not just a unique platform, it’s the future of naval aviation,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James Belmont. “The F-35 component work will be a vital part of the depot’s workload as we move forward into the future. It will bring continued growth and I believe it will have a positive economic impact on the local community.”

FRCE is the lead site for depot-level maintenance on the F-35B Lightning II and has conducted modifications and repair on the Marine Corps’ short takeoff-vertical landing variant of the aircraft since 2013. The facility has also worked with the F-35A (conventional takeoff and landing) and F-35C (carrier) variants.

FRCE declared capability on its first F-35 component in 2020. By the close of 2020, the depot had declared capability on 17 components for the fifth-generation fighter. Mike Mishoe, FRCE F-35 Lightning II depot activation lead, says that was just the start of an initiative aimed at declaring capabilities on a range of F-35 components, all geared toward supporting the warfighter.

“Since then, we have declared capability on parachutes and the ground maintenance motor pumps,” said Mishoe. “Although all of these components are important, of note are the parachutes. The aircraft can’t be flown without them. We are working with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to produce as many as we can and as quickly as we can. Providing these parachutes, as well as all the other components, allows the pilots to keep training, supporting operations, and conducting real-world missions.”

In addition to supporting fleet requirements and mission readiness, the new F-35 component work provides FRCE with a scheduled workload going forward, Mishoe said.

“We continue to stand up capability on a quarterly basis,” said Mishoe. “We currently have F-35 component workload scheduled through at least 2026, and we continue to pursue bringing in additional workload.”

Mike Sermarini, FRCE’s former F-35 Lightning II depot activation lead, has championed most of these initial efforts along with his team. Sermarini, who recently transferred to another assignment within Naval Air Systems Command, said the depot is already working toward declaring capabilities on an ever-expanding range of F-35 components.

“FRCE is working on 84 different end items,” said Sermarini. “They’ve stood up initial repair capability for 19 components and they’ve developed and managed successful partnerships in support of the workload.  They recently declared capability on parachutes and the ground maintenance motor pump.  The capability team and depot were working hard and anticipating declaration for engine-driven pump and filter modules within the coming weeks.”

While the term “declaring capability” sounds simple, the actual process is complex. According to Mishoe, it involves intensive collaboration both within the depot as well as outside it.

“When FRCE declares capability on a component, that means that we have all the required materiel, support equipment, and staffing in order to test and repair components so they may be sent back to the fleet to be installed on F-35s around the world,” said Mishoe. “In order for this to happen, we must collaborate not only within our own workforce at the depot but also with entities outside of FRCE such as Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers along with the F-35 Joint Program Office, OEMs, and others.”

The process of declaring capability on a component begins years before the component ever arrives at the depot and involves a team of experts. This team must consider a variety of factors such as current and future workloads, manpower requirements, facility and tooling needs, and supply support. Engineers must analyze vast amounts of technical data. Mishoe says it takes critical thinking, expertise and commitment to make it all happen.

“To declare capability on a component, we have a team of people from across our workforce all working hand-in-hand,” Mishoe said. “We really strive to make sure we have the right people in place and ensure that they are properly trained and equipped. Everyone here understands the process and just how important these components and capabilities are to the workforce and the fleet. Their motivation astounds me. Without them, none of this would be possible.”

In addition to having the right people working together, standing up new component capabilities also means ensuring those people have the facilities, gear and training necessary for the project. Sermarini explains that each component brings with it a unique set of requirements.

“Our efforts are not limited to simply training the artisans on the required maintenance tasks,” said Sermarini.  “Our team must ensure a logistically supportable and validated repair solution. This means the facilities, infrastructure, technical data, technical expertise, supporting hardware and software must all be in place to meet the forecasted demand.”

Sermarini says the COVID-19 pandemic has also presented a unique set of challenges as the depot worked to stand up capabilities.

“The past year and a half has been very challenging due to COVID-19,” said Sermarini. “Due to travel restrictions and personnel requirements, all of our major milestones are basically overlapping – which is certainly not something you want in the project management world – but here we are today, and we're pushing through to get all these systems activated.”

Sermarini cites the men and women who work at FRCE as the key factor in overcoming COVID-related obstacles and tight timelines.

“We recognize growing our F-35 repair capability requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Sermarini.  “With the support of our command, we’ve been extremely successful in generating the excitement and buy-in amongst the staff that’s crucial to achieving our objectives.  We’re asking a lot of our workforce and – as always – they’ve come through.”

The F-35 component workload, while important to the future of FRCE, also yields positive impacts that go far beyond the boundaries of the depot. According to Sermarini, these component capabilities benefit warfighters and contribute to mission readiness throughout the Department of Defense.

“FRC East is not solely standing up repair capability for the Marine Corps variant,” said Sermarini. “We are establishing component repair capabilities for all F-35 variants in support of both our local warfighters as well as the global enterprise.”

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 $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

Learn more at www.navair.navy.mil/frce or https://www.facebook.com/FleetReadinessCenterEast.

May 4, 2022

FRCE engineers provide STEM support to area schools

Eastern North Carolina students are getting hands-on exposure to future technical careers, thanks to a small team of Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) engineers and educators who are bringing technology to area classrooms.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach falls under the umbrella of the Fleet Support Team’s Advanced Technology and Innovation (ATI) Team. The ATI team develops innovative technology programs and applications to solve problems that affect FRCE and Navy and Marine Corps aviation. The ATI team has dedicated two engineers and a former teacher to STEM outreach, with a goal of providing educational resources – such as equipment, project plans and volunteers – to area schools to assist teachers in developing technology-based lessons. According to Randall Lewis, Innovation Lead for the ATI Team, the end goal of this support is to encourage students to consider pursuing careers in a technology field.

 “Through our outreach efforts, we’re able to assist local educators with lesson planning and provide them with resources that the students may not traditionally have had access to,” Lewis said. “We’re able to take the curriculum that they’re teaching and apply it to more real world situations that we might encounter in the types of work we do at the FRC. That gives students the types of experience that they wouldn’t usually have had access to in a traditional classroom setting.”

The centerpiece of the STEM Outreach program is an innovative mobile fabrication space called the FABLAB. This eye-catching trailer is emblazoned with the FRCE logo and “FABLAB” in bold black letters against a red, white and blue background. Inside the 32-by-8 foot enclosed trailer are 10 computer work stations, four high-end 3D printers, a laser cutter and other equipment designed to allow elementary through high school students the opportunity to solve engineering problems firsthand.

Recently, the FABLAB made a visit to Tucker Creek Middle School in Havelock. Students from David Rackley’s seventh-grade Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) class gazed intently at computer screens as they pondered how to program miniature robots to follow an intersecting path on a piece of paper. 

Rackley said visits by the FABLAB provide a view of STEM opportunities that many children in regular classrooms may not be exposed to.

“Some students don’t get to attend STEM classes because of scheduling, so this is an experience most kids don’t really get,” Rackley said. “There are a few who are really into robotics or other technology, but the FABLAB really opens the eyes of other students and gives them the experience of seeing what’s possible as a future career.”

Chris Rivera, an aerospace engineer working on STEM outreach for the ATI team, taught the coding lesson to six classes of Tucker Creek students. He said that middle school is a good time to reach the students with STEM lessons to help make engineering and other technical careers seem more attainable.

“The kids may think that engineers are just a bunch of people sitting around computers all day, but we’re teaching activities to show students that it’s much more than that,” Rivera said. “They can see that there’s actually teamwork, problem solving, communication. Engineering is more of a team sport than the movies make it out to be.”

Rivera said the computers are set close together in the FABLAB so students can work together to come up with solutions.

“A teacher might call that cheating, but in the engineering world that’s good because you’re collaboratively working to solve a common problem,” he explained.

The STEM outreach team benefits because one of its members has experience as a classroom teacher. Michelle Smith, ATI educational outreach coordinator, taught middle school STEM classes before coming to work at FRCE. Smith’s role is to serve as a liaison between area school districts and the depot. In addition to the FABLAB, the STEM outreach program includes sending engineers to volunteer at career days, STEM nights, robotic competitions, engineering camps and other activities where they can leave a positive impression about technology careers in general and Fleet Readiness Center East in particular.

Smith said the team focuses its outreach efforts within a 100-mile radius of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, to communicate to local students that they can find lucrative engineering and manufacturing jobs close to home at FRCE.

“We are trying to strengthen our pipeline for our workforce, getting them interested in careers in engineering early, so we can be a part of their journey through school,” Smith said. “It’s important for us to be involved and provide an opportunity for interactions with current engineers so students will consider engineering and consider coming back to us so we can keep our local talent here in eastern North Carolina.”

The STEM outreach team recently learned it had won four new grants from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) New Start program to enhance FRCE’s existing outreach efforts. The outreach program already has STEM carts, complete with gadgets and activities, in all Craven County elementary schools. The “STEM is Elementary” initiative will allow the team to expand these carts to another local county and create design challenges for younger students. “STEM is Challenging” will develop STEM competitions for high school students and engage a more diverse audience beyond those taking engineering classes.  “STEM is for Everyone” will bring the FABLAB and other outreach activities to area Boys and Girls clubs and other community groups. The last initiative, “STEM is Flexible,” will focus on developing in-depth lesson kits that teachers can check out and present, often with the assistance of an FRCE engineer.

Lewis said it’s gratifying to see how far the outreach program has come since the FABLAB was introduced in 2016.  He said that with the ONR grants and better communication with area schools, the future is bright for STEM outreach at FRCE.

“We’re able to fund more things, so we’re able to do more things. It’s only going to be bigger, and that’s exciting,” Lewis said. “It’s really reflects positively on the FRC and the type of work that we do and the impact that we make.”

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 $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

May 2, 2022

ENC Tech Bridge Industry Day focuses on problem solving

More than 80 representatives from businesses, nonprofits, academia, local government and military entities came together to explore how collaboration can accelerate solutions to the Navy and Marine Corps during the Eastern North Carolina (ENC) Tech Bridge Industry Day/Technology Scan April 27.

Held at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center, the event focused on problem-solving, networking and STEM pipeline development. The Industry Day/Technology Scan marked the first working event held by the ENC Tech Bridge, which was launched Jan. 27.

As part of an Office of Naval Agility (NavalX) network, 17 Tech Bridges aim to bridge the gap between the Navy and emerging entities like startups, small businesses, academia, nonprofits and private capital that aren’t traditionally part of the Navy’s development and acquisition process. The ENC Tech Bridge operates in conjunction with a partnership between Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) and Craven County.

FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James M. Belmont said he was excited to see participants from a wide variety of backgrounds taking part in the event, and was hopeful the ENC Tech Bridge would continue to build on the energy it has generated since the organization’s launch three months ago.

“The ENC Tech Bridge is still young, but we are enthusiastic about the opportunities it brings,” Belmont said. “It serves as a conduit that allows for us to share ideas, identify possible solutions and deliver capabilities to the warfighters, ideally faster than we could through traditional methods, and allows us to enlist these nontraditional partners in solving some of the Navy and Marine Corps’ most pressing issues. We are excited and committed to this initiative.”

In the Technology Scan aspect of the event, three companies presented briefings or demonstrations of technologies they offer that could help solve issues facing naval aviation and military maintenance, repair and overhaul operations: digital inventory tracking of small tools, and the on-aircraft measurement of a bearing liner’s remaining thickness. In order to participate, the companies first submitted white papers regarding their technologies. FRCE technical experts reviewed submitted white papers, assessed the technologies’ potential usefulness in a military depot or fleet environment, and issued invitations based on those criteria.

One participant, Anurag Kulshrestha, said he was excited about the opportunity to demonstrate his company’s tracking technology during the Technology Scan. The president and chief executive officer of Anantics said the company has done similar work for other American and international clients, and has been searching for an opportunity to do the same with the U.S. federal government. Kulshrestha said he saw the call for submissions on SAM.gov, the federal government’s website for contracting and award management initiatives, and recognized an opportunity to provide a live demonstration of the technology as a sort of proof of concept.

“I’m happy to be here and, hopefully, we have the technology solution the Navy needs,” he said.

In addition to the Technology Scan, the day’s events also featured a brief introduction to the Tech Bridge Program, an overview of the FRCE Advanced Technology and Innovation Team, an explanation of the Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, and a discussion about expanding outreach and awareness for STEM programs to build a sustainable STEM education and training pipeline for the production efforts of the U.S. Navy and beyond.

With such a wide range of topics covered, the event offered something for everyone who attended, said ENC Tech Bridge Director Jeff Nelson. All participants benefitted from at least one of the in-depth briefings that opened the event, and the expo provided an excellent opportunity for networking.

“I saw a lot of the attendees having very in-depth conversations with the exhibitors and with each other during the expo, and I believe that speaks to the success of today’s event,” Nelson said. “We’ve been able to strike a chord with information that was pertinent to our participants, and also facilitated them making connections with the ENC Tech Bridge, with FRCE and with each other, and that’s an important part of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

The ENC Tech Bridge works to build an ecosystem of innovation to support the Navy and Marine Corps with a focus on several areas of consideration, including manufacturing and repair technologies; advanced manufacturing; big data, data analytics and visualization; technical insertion; augmented and mixed reality; automation and robotics; and soft and wicked problem solving.

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 $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

Apr 27, 2022

FRCE V-22 team, lead earn dual recognition in NAVAIR awards

Reduced cycle times, increased efficiency and an emphasis on safety and quality earned the Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) V-22 team two awards presented during an April 20 ceremony.

During an event live-streamed from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) headquarters at Patuxent River, Maryland, FRCE’s V-22 Aircraft Integrated Product Team (IPT) earned the 2022 NAVAIR Commander’s Award for Best Performing Fleet Readiness Center/Integrated Product Team and Andrew Rock, V-22 Branch Head, was named Most Collaborative IPT Lead. This year marked the 22nd annual observance of the awards, which recognize teams that improve speed and readiness within naval aviation.

“The outstanding service provided by our V-22 Aircraft IPT, with Andrew Rock at the helm, consistently helped maximize material availability to the Fleet,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James M. Belmont. “There are real-world implications to the support provided by the workforce at FRC East, as we saw with Marine Aircraft Group 26 (MAG-26). Our V-22 team’s dedicated service helped provide MAG-26 with mission-capable aircraft when the Marines were called upon to support Joint Task Force-Haiti in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission following a devastating earthquake in August 2021. The Fleet’s ability to execute critical missions is always aided by the quality and timely products delivered by FRC East.”

NAVAIR Deputy Commander Tom Rudowsky led the ceremony, presenting awards that reflect the NAVAIR values to teams and individuals focused on outcomes that matter to the fleet: speed of capability, delivery, affordability and availability.

“Our people are the driving force behind our success here at NAVAIR,” Rudowsky said. “We know our mission is not about us, it’s about how we support those who are on the front lines so they have the capability they need to successfully execute their mission and return home safely.”

The enterprise has faced significant challenges over the past year, but has found a way to continue delivering outcomes for the Fleet, he said. The V-22 Aircraft IPT at FRCE exemplified this with its exceptional performance.

In 2021, the V-22 team pushed to drive down cycle times for planned maintenance interval (PMI) events on V-22 aircraft, accelerating the return of aircraft to the Fleet by 31 percent. The team kicked off the year with a 297-day delivery in January, setting a new record for FRCE and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC). The team continued its unyielding drive to shorten cycle times throughout the year, hitting the 220-day mark in March and 164 days in November. The team also returned its first Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) V-22 PMI in an unprecedented 122 days.

In total, FRCE returned 21 V-22s to operating forces in fiscal year 2021, achieving early delivery on 15 of those aircraft and making a positive impact on aircrew proficiency and currency, and flight line readiness.

The V-22 Aircraft IPT achieved this notable reduction in cycle time through the implementation of several strategies that helped the team boost efficiency, Rock said. This includes the application of a “Core Team” concept, in which the same core group shepherds the aircraft through the entire process from induction to delivery. One work leader assumes responsibility for each aircraft, and with input and assistance from subject-matter experts, makes daily decisions on scheduling, parts and staffing. The work leader oversees a team of seven to nine mechanics who work the same aircraft for the duration, and monitors the progress of critical operations while making course corrections and elevating potential barriers to higher levels for action.

“With this concept, the team is mirroring the aerospace industry’s airframe and power plant license concept, which enables employees to perform a mix of trade skills and allows for flexibility in work assignments and increased employee utilization,” Rock explained. “It allows the team to be fully engaged, and instills a sense of ownership, commitment, inclusiveness and teamwork that results in increased efficiency.”

Implementation of the Naval Sustainment System (NSS) also helped improve efficiency on the V-22 line. With support from COMFRC, the team completed full implementation of Phase 1 of NSS, which focuses on fleet readiness center reform through an emphasis on people, parts and processes, and a commitment to providing artisans with the resources they need to get the job done. As part of the initiative, the V-22 Aircraft IPT established a dedicated production control center (PCC), through which all maintenance activities flow.

PCCs ensure efficient operations and production management by helping streamline the administrative functions on the line: issuing work orders, validating work order completions, keeping track of milestones and helping production run smoothly.

“The production control center makes information readily available and improves communications and collaboration,” Rock said. “The PCC manager coordinates with the work leaders to clearly identify the sequence of tasking, which helps facilitate a smooth transition from phase to phase and ensure on-time or early delivery and optimized employee utilization.”

That optimized employee utilization proved effective in driving down turnaround times and reducing costs. The V-22 Aircraft IPT was able to significantly increase direct labor hours on the line with only a minor increase in staffing, showing a 30% increase in direct labor hours with just a 15% increase in staffing. At the same time, the team absorbed an average increase in work hours per aircraft of 24% for CV-22 aircraft and decreased the cycle time for MV-22 aircraft by an average of 135 days. 

Other improvements in the V-22 Aircraft IPT’s performance include a 19% reduction in the cost of poor quality from fiscal year 2020 figures; a 14% reduction in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable injuries; and a finding of 100% compliance in and International Organization of Standardization Aerospace Standard 9110 audit. Aerospace Standard 9110 assesses the processes, procedures and efficiencies of an organization’s quality management system and serves as the benchmark for excellence in the aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul industry. Conformance to the AS9110 standard is voluntary, and represents an above-and-beyond commitment to quality.

In addition to recognizing the herculean efforts of the V-22 Aircraft IPT, Rudowsky honored Rock as the Most Collaborative IPT Lead for his exceptional leadership and innovative approach to bolstering V-22 readiness. The annual award honors an IPT lead who has achieved significant warfighting capability using innovative teaming strategies.

David Williams, director of FRCE’s Rotary Wing Division, said he nominated Rock for the recognition because Rock’s management and leadership of the IPT enabled the V-22 Production Line to support the Naval Aviation Enterprise in generating superior combat air power.

“Across the enterprise, V-22 cycle times for planned maintenance interval events were unpredictable or simply too long,” Williams said. “The goal for Mr. Rock, a Marine Corps veteran, was to reduce cycle time while ensuring the highest quality airframes, engines and components, maintaining a safe work environment, and delivering the absolute best value. The overall performance of the IPT certainly indicates these goals were met.”

In addition to piloting the “Core Team” maintenance concept, Rock has promoted by example a culture of “Safety First,” making safety of paramount importance to the team’s daily operations, and championed top-down management involvement in product quality assurance.

“With Mr. Rock’s leadership, the V-22 IPT demonstrated exceptional performance in supporting the V-22 Production Line in execution of their rework and planned maintenance interval events,” Williams said. “He is certainly deserving of this recognition, as is the IPT as a whole.”

Rock’s leadership embodied the “Get Real, Get Better” formula that leads to a winning culture, as did all of the NAVAIR Commander’s Award winners, Rudowsky said.

“Each of today’s award winners is being recognized for their accomplishments but, more importantly, they are being recognized for behaviors they and their teams have demonstrated – behaviors that were instrumental to their success,” he explained. The winners challenged assumptions, didn’t take no for an answer, elevated issues quickly, made hard decisions and owned the results, and listened with an open mind to ideas that weren’t their own.

“They practiced and abundance mindset, and figured out how they would, vice why they couldn’t,” Rudowsky continued. “They thought differently about the problem and redefined how they executed to achieve required outcomes. … Ultimately, we found a way to really think differently about how we do our business.”

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 $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers. 

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