The commander at Fleet Readiness Center East said Thursday that he has two problems.
He has a large amount of work and he can’t hire people fast enough at the aircraft maintenance and repair facility at Cherry Point.
“Those are good problems to have,” Col. Blayne Spratlin told about 60 people at the general membership meeting for the Allies of Cherry Point’s Tomorrow lobby group in Havelock.
“Right now I’ve got more work than I can do in this next year and I can’t hire enough people fast enough, so that’s good news,” Spratlin said.
He said the facility has gone from working on 33 aircraft to 81.
“We have more than doubled the amount of work that we’ve got to do right now,” he said.
Spratlin said this year stands in contrast to last year, when the facility was faced with sequestration, furloughs and a hiring freeze.
“Before that sequestration, what many of you may not know is that the operations and maintenance for the Navy, the blue dollar account that funds basically the work that FRC East does, also got a 17 percent budget mark, so that hurt us,” Spratlin said. “That really hurt us last summer as the workload fell off and the forecasts for the following year, for this next year, weren’t very clear. We were given three different scenarios on what that forecast would be in terms of the workload, so that was unclear for this coming year, so we still got some problems, but now our problems are good problems to have.”
Spratlin explained that the facility that hiring couldn’t keep up with the workload, which drew a round of applause from the members of ACT, whose sole purpose is support of Cherry Point and the jobs it provides.
Spratlin said that even as late as January and February, the funding was procured for the work because leadership realized that four or five years would be needed to catch up.
“They are trying to get me to recover it all in this year, which is going to be tough to do,” Spratlin said.
Expected workload for the year went from 13 to 18 AV-8B Harries, from nine to 17 V-22 Ospreys, from seven to 20 H-53 helicopters, and from four to 27 H-1 helicopters. He said that maintenance on the H-53 helicopter requires about 13,000 hours of work alone on each aircraft.
He said finding properly trained personnel for the highly skilled jobs required in aircraft repair was proving difficult, but he appreciated the educated workers coming from the Institute of Aeronautical Technology at the Havelock campus of Craven Community College.
Spratlin said FRC East is looking at 340 hirings, with jobs ranging from entry level to senior level.
“We’ll see them trickle in over the next three to six months and it will take us another three to six months after that to get them trained up, if they need some training, before we can turn them loose on an aircraft by themselves,” Spratlin said.
The commander said there is “a ton of work” going on right now on the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter at FRC East. He said FRC East is working on modifications to its fourth and fifth F-35Bs now.
“That work is progressing nicely,” Spratlin said. “By June or July of this summer, we’re trying to get to six stalls so if the training squadrons can do without them, we will bring those jets in to do those modifications.”
He said the Marine Corps is calling for 16 aircraft to have gone through modifications by July of 2015, which each aircraft requiring about 7,000 to 13,000 hours worth of work.
“That’s going to be tough,” he said. “We’re going to have to really scramble to make that work.”
Spratlin said that 10 of the aircraft will be for VMFA-121 out of Yuma, Ariz., and six more will be for operation tests and evaluations.
He suggested anyone interested in work go to www.usajobs.gov and search for Cherry Point for a listing of available positions. Hiring for the jobs is through the Human Resources Service Center Northeast in Philadelphia. More information is available at www.navair.navy.mil/frce/jobs.html.