By Jay Mann, Fort Rucker Public AffairsSeptember 14, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- In 1981, Dean Doudna, a flight student and prior aircraft maintainer and door gunner in Vietnam, walked onto the flight line to preflight the helicopter he would train in that day.
"Because of my background as an enlisted Soldier, I saw that the aircraft was not returned to service correctly, but they told me we are here to rent them, not buy them. I cooperated that day, but it stuck with me."
Serving as the government flight representative at Fort Rucker since 2005, Doudna put his 36 years of active duty experience to work ensuring the safety of Soldiers and instructors as they carry out the flight training mission.
"If it flies on Fort Rucker, it is because I signed a piece of paper that says it can fly on Fort Rucker," said Doudna.
"But let's unpack that a little," he added. "The GFR is really responsible for indemnifying the contractor and approving all the doctrinal material. When the contractor shows up, they cannot begin ground or flight operations until the procedures have been approved in writing by the GFR.
"This is the largest footprint in the Army and the contract is a huge document, but basically it says go fix, test fly, and release aircraft for student throughput," Doudna said. "So, even though they have a big contract that says they can work on aircraft, they cannot do that until the GFR has approved their processes and procedures."
There are times when that doctrinal material is incomplete and new procedures are required, said Doudna.
"The GFR is a risk-mitigator on behalf of the Army to indemnify the processes and procedures of the contract," he said.
The next charge of the GFR is the return of service to aircraft, said Doudna. "If they fix it, we have to review it, and that's a lot of helicopters. The return to service is the other large marker for the GFR.
"The mission is fantastically large," he added. "We have built the shop up to four people -- two GFRs and two ground government flight representatives, but we still see more in 30 days than most people see in three years."
"We repair every flavor of aircraft in the Army. What better place to learn lessons?" said Doudna. "The book does not fix everything. We can deviate from the book right after we call the Aviation Engineering Directorate and change the maintenance manual. Multiply that times 650 helicopters and that's a ton of fixing. But we fix them in accordance with the maintenance manual in all cases. Now the entire Army gets the benefit. You have to respect the process."
The GFR office samples the fleet, with both contractors and government reporting in, he added. "I supervise the efforts of the entire command to ensure surveillance occurs in returning aircraft to service."
There is a lot of communication that comes in to the GFR, said Doudna. The GFR then weighs out that communication to determine if engineering needs to be brought in, or if the process is correct. But the entire command conducts surveillance and reports.
"Nobody wakes up and says they are going to go in to work and do the wrong thing. They want to do the right thing, but stumble into the wrong thing by error," he said. "I am just holding the line. There is no line held stronger by the GFR than that doctrinal line that holds the contractor to fixing aircraft in accordance with doctrinal requirements."
Doudna retired at the end of August, but prior to that, he said he was confident the mission would continue on just fine without him.
"I have fastidiously crew coordinated and trained my team, so that when I retire, after 47 years of total government service, I will lift my finger out of the pond and it will not create a ripple. I made sure every one of these guys are a world class person of their trade -- whether it is GFR or GGFR. It will be an uninterrupted event when I depart."
He said the GFR office does its job so well "that we standardize the Army. Aviation/Missile Resources Assessment and Analysis came here three times to see how we do things, so that they can go out and better standardize the world.
"I can't think of a higher calling than to fix aircraft doctrinally correct," said Doudna. "You have to respect the process."