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Face of Defense: Maintainer’s Idea Earns Big Bucks

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez
Special to American Forces Press Service

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan, May 13, 2009 – A simple suggestion earned $10,000 for an engine maintainer here and saved the Air Force thousands more.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerome Latham receives a $10,000 check from Air Force Col. Robert Craig, 35th Fighter Wing vice commander, at Misawa Air Base, Japan, April 27, 2009. Latham earned the reward for an idea that saves Air Force money and resources. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jamal Sutter

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerome Latham, an engine craftsman with the 35th Maintenance Squadron, suggested a technical order change that resulted in validated, tangible savings and was approved for implementation throughout the Air Force.

Latham's idea involved extending the divergent flap wear limit on the exhaust nozzle of the F110-GE-129 aircraft engine.

"We do regular inspections, and these parts were supposed to be replaced," he said. "The wear limits were minimal, and we were throwing them away all the time."

At first seeking simply to obtain a local waiver, Latham contacted the engine manufacturer. He was given permission to increase the wear limit for Misawa and implemented the new practice in December. Looking at past data, he discovered the local change would save the base more than $256,000 annually. Believing the rest of the Air Force could implement the same change, Latham submitted his suggestion to the Air Force’s IDEA program – an acronym for “innovative development through employee awareness.”

"There was a lot of paperwork that needed to be submitted, but I knew I had the evidence," Latham said. "It was a long process, but it paid off in the end."

Latham was notified recently that his idea was approved and his suggestion would be added to the new technical order. Air Force Col. Robert Craig, 35th Fighter Wing vice commander, presented Latham with the $10,000 check in his work center.

"A lot of people see the same things I did, but don't want to take the time to fix them," he said. "It was just a simple change. Lesson learned: keep your eyes open, save the Air Force money and improve your job by doing it more efficiently."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez serves in the 35th Fighter Wing public affairs office.)

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