TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa.- Three Tobyhanna electronics mechanics took top honors in the annual Army-wide suggestion competition after discovering a way to save about $150,000 a year.

Tim Kime, David Voorhees, and Andy Martino were named the 2007 Department of the Army Civilian and Military Suggesters of the Year-a first for Tobyhanna Army Depot.

The winners will attend an award ceremony, hosted by the Secretary of the Army, March 27 at the Pentagon.

"The suggesters' idea on the Zero Azimuth Position Sensors (ZAPS) highlights their innovative thinking and dedication to making the Army more efficient," said Col. Ron Alberto, depot commander. Tobyhanna employees submitted 261 suggestions last year; 82 were adopted. A monetary award of $3,939.99 was granted for the ZAPS suggestion.

"The suggestion program gives employees an opportunity to present a better way to do business and to be recognized for their efforts," said Patricia Patelunas, Tobyhanna's suggestion program manager. "I think the suggesters should be very proud of their accomplishment."

Patelunas explained that a suggestion is an idea that benefits the Army or other United States government activity. Submissions must present a problem and proposed solution.

Instead of discarding a $3,356 basic sight assembly scanner, Kime, Voorhees and Martino proposed, via the Suggestion Program, to reclassify the ZAPS from a component to a part, thereby authorizing them to repair the broken sensor.

Through the process of trial and error, the three men devised a plan to save time and money by fixing the scanners at the depot. They realized the heat generated by the laser caused the light transmitting diode to fail. Research showed that eight out of 10 times, only a $20 diode needed to be replaced to bring a broken scanner back online, but because of the ZAPS classification as a component, repairs were unauthorized.

"It really was a common sense approach," Kime said, noting that it seemed like a no-brainer to spend $20 to save $4,000. Electro-Optics/Night Vision Division works on an average of 225 scanners a year. The unit consists of 14 parts, including the sensor and a glass prism and lens.

Getting the reclassification accepted would solve the problem, according to Voorhees. He explained that if an item is classified a component, it doesn't get repaired; however, a part can be repaired.

"A component is something you use and throw away," Voorhees said. "Renaming the ZAPS provided an avenue for us to make necessary repairs saving thousands of dollars for each item." "I never expected the idea to go as far as it has," Martino said. "We were just doing our job-there was a problem and we resolved it." He explained that the hardest part was just figuring out what the problem was and then how to fix it. Martino was reassigned to the Communications System Directorate's Satellite Communications Division before the suggestion was approved.

The ZAPS is used in the basic sight assembly scanner of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The scanner is a mirror assembly that moves quickly left and right. Once the zero azimuth position is found, the mirror is adjusted to move equally left and right from the center.

According to the mechanics, the ZAPS allows the technician to find the center of the moving mirror letting the cross-hairs of the night vision system to line up. Without ZAPS the system would sight slightly left or right of the target.

"They [Kime, Martino and Voorhees] could have just as easily gone about doing business as usual, but decided to work together and submit their idea in hopes of improving the process," Patelunas said. "It shows that employees here really do care about the jobs they do.

"The suggestion program is an excellent avenue for all employees to present better ways of doing business and to improve the quality of life at the depot," she said.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.

About 5,500 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.