SOUTHWEST ASIA - It's been two long weeks since you placed the order and excitement builds as you wait for mail call each day until finally, the coffee maker arrives. You open the box, excited to brew the first cup, and plug it in only to see smoke coming from the outlet and no sign of power on the machine.
It seems everyone has destroyed something, at some point, since arriving in Southwest Asia. Where unfamiliar voltages and frequencies aren't kind to your equipment, there is a group of soldiers here who are.
The volunteer repair shop is a mutually beneficial service provided by the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 7th Air Defense Artillery. The soldiers repair items for service members while honing their technical skills, allowing them to remain proficient at their job of maintaining the PATRIOT missile system.
"Volunteering here helps develop troubleshooting skills and gives the Air Force and personnel the chance to save money," said Army Spc. Christopher Rodgers, 1-7 ADA PATRIOT system repairer. "The repair shop began when the last rotation implemented fixing power supplies or small things just as favors, but when we got here we worked to make it a fully operational repair shop open to all individuals here."
Their troubleshooting skills have been put to the test on items such as game systems, controllers, televisions, cell phones, power converters and most recently, the trend of single-portion coffee makers. If it's broke, the volunteer repair shop Soldiers will try to fix it.
"We can fix power convertors very easily," explained Army Pfc. John Howard, 1-7 ADA PATRIOT system repairer. "When it comes to cell phones and game systems, we can fix them if we have the parts. If not, we can let you know what the parts will cost if you want us to order it and repair it."
The army's volunteer repair shop is a great example of Soldiers reaching across branches, working hand-in-hand with the Air Force's self-help shop to coordinate the repair of equipment, resulting in money saved for Air Force by reducing the need to replace supplies such as converters in dorm rooms.
"Usually we get about 10 to 12 power converters weekly," Rodgers said. "When we go to pick up the converters from the Air Force self-help shop, we bring back the converters we repaired during the previous week."
Volunteers in this repair shop reap the benefit of refining their troubleshooting skills and service members and civilians here get the benefit of having operational electronics, but there are personal rewards that come with being a volunteer.
"I really do enjoy working on this stuff, but it feels really good to help other people out, too," Howard expressed. "When you return something like someone's phone, it's really personal and it feels great to be able to tell them they can use it again."
In taking the volunteer repair shop from doing minor repairs as favors to a fully functional shop available to all, these Soldiers exemplify the army value of selfless service, which mirrors the Air Force core value of service before self. The army's basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of a member to go a little further, endure a little longer and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort. The 1-7 ADA soldiers have added significantly to the effort through their selfless service to others and dedication to use their time to practice their skills.
"We've saved just under $70,000 in replacements for personnel here," Rodgers said. "The best part, though, is seeing the relief on someone's face when they come to pick up their successfully repaired electronics."
The 1-7 ADA has only a short time left in Southwest Asia, but they are hopeful that what they have developed will continue with the next group of soldiers.
"When we redeploy, the incoming battalion will be integrated into how the shop is run," Howard explained. "Once we show them what you can get out of this and how much fun it is to fix all this stuff we're hoping that they'll carry it on."