Ike Rettenmair, left, director of the Fixed Wing Division at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE), briefs Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment James Balocki during an Oct. 5 tour of the depot. Balocki visited FRCE as part of a wider tour of Marine Corps Installations East installations, including Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, where FRCE resides as a tenant command.

FRCE hosts Navy official, with eye on modernization

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) hosted an Oct. 5 visit from the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy office responsible for the construction and maintenance of installations.

Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and James Balocki visited FRCE as part of a wider tour of Marine Corps Installations East facilities, including Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River and MCAS Cherry Point. Balocki toured the commands with a focus on facilities, environmental protection and restoration, and natural and cultural resources and conservation.

At FRCE, events centered on the depot’s infrastructure and facility modernization in support of the Naval Air Systems Command’s Fleet Readiness Center Infrastructure Optimization Plan (FIOP), a 10-year plan to revitalize naval aviation infrastructure, reset aviation maintenance’s most critical facilities and equipment, and streamline Fleet Readiness Center output.

“It’s amazing to see the innovation and creative solutions demonstrated by the men and women here at FRC East,” Balocki said. “The team contributes immensely to naval aviation readiness through their efforts. I clearly see the need to modernize infrastructure and depot facilities to streamline our production and increase our warfighting capability across the fleet.”

Fleet Readiness Center East Commanding Officer Col. Thomas A. Atkinson hosted Balocki and MCAS Cherry Point Commanding Officer Col. Mikel Huber for a briefing outlining FRCE operations as a whole, facilities constraints and potential solutions before departing on a tour focused on the future. Stops included the F-35 Lightning II modification line, the F-35 laser shock peening facility and the sites of future facilities supporting the fifth-generation fighter.

The laser shock peening facility uses laser technology to strengthen the airframe of select aircraft, extending the lifespan of those aircraft, and is one of only two locations in the world that can provide this service on the F-35. FRCE is scheduled to break ground this fall on new facilities designed to test and process the aircraft’s vertical lift fan – a key feature of the short takeoff-vertical landing feature of the F-35B variant flown by Marine Corps aviators – and support additional F-35 modification workload. Scheduled for completion in early 2023, the vertical lift fan test facility will be the only depot-level maintenance test facility in the world that services the component.

“I’m happy we had this opportunity to demonstrate to Mr. Balocki what we’re currently doing at FRC East in support of the fleet, and also familiarize him with the plan for the depot’s future,” Atkinson said. “The planned facilities represent strategic assets to the fleet and mission readiness, and modernization of existing facilities and processes will reinforce those efforts and continue to move FRC East ahead.”

 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.

Stephen Barrow, right, director of the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Logistics Department at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE), briefs Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment James Balocki during an Oct. 5 tour of the depot.

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