Military commitments, reliance on technology, increase importance of Army depot technicians

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa., 18 Jan. 2009. Broad commitments worldwide for U.S. defense forces, combined with an ever-increasing military reliance on advanced electronic and electro-optic technology are pressing technicians at the U.S. Army's largest electronics maintenance depot into more important roles than ever before.

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa., 18 Jan. 2009. Broad commitments worldwide for U.S. defense forces, combined with an ever-increasing military reliance on advanced electronic and electro-optic technology are pressing technicians at the U.S. Army's largest electronics maintenance depot into more important roles than ever before.

Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pa., is the largest electronics facility in the world, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) center of excellence for electronics and electro-optics.

These days the depot's ability to make on-site repairs to communications and electronics gear is extending the scope of its maintenance and logistics mission from the mountains of Pennsylvania to the deserts of Southwest Asia.

Hundreds of depot employees embark on deployments averaging six months each year to more than 20 forward repair activity (FRA) facilities to support warfighters in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. Tobyhanna's experts handle maintenance, repair, and overhaul of Army, Navy, and Air Force equipment for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, better known as C4ISR.

"We have the capability to move a flexible, adaptable, and responsive workforce where it needs to be when it needs to be there," says Army Col. Ron Alberto, commanding officer of Tobyhanna Army Depot, pointing out that a large percentage of the depot's workforce works outside the installation.

Tobyhanna volunteers support repair missions ranging from Firefinder radars, Warlock electronic countermeasures, communications security (COMSEC) systems, and C4I. The depot also supports the Army's intelligence aircraft called Guardrail Common Sensor.

"We have the skills here to run the gamut allowing us to send teams anywhere to do anything," says John Parada, Tobyhanna's C3/Avionics Directorate's FRA Division support program manager.

Tobyhanna deployed technicians provide a quick turnaround on repairs while eliminating costly shipping charges, explains James Kondratick, Tobyhanna's COMSEC FRA project officer. To date, sites have received and processed 18,546 in-field repairs or direct exchanges.

Technicians repair, test, and modify secure communications equipment in customized shop vans. They also provide direct exchange services for equipment that cannot be repaired in reasonable time. The vans that support all FRAs are shipped from Tobyhanna loaded with tools, test equipment, and parts.

"We often see Soldiers covered in sand with an M-16 slung over one shoulder," says Chuck Bartleson, electronics mechanic attached to Tobyhanna.

The depot's largest FRA operation directs requirements for several C3 programs such as Command Post System & Integration (CPS&I), Air Defense and Airspace Management (ADAM), Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar (CRAM), Common Ground Station (CGS), and Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE).

"This program just keeps growing," Parada says. "It's a diverse mission and computer repair is only about one-third of the workload." Tobyhanna's technicians are certified to work on many of the computer systems that the military uses. In most circumstances, equipment is repaired and returned in less than 24 hours.

For more information contact Tobyhanna Army Depot online at www.tobyhanna.army.mil.

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