TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Two employees' suggestion will save the depot more than $78,000 per year.

Vincent Nguyen and William Bishop have developed a test aid that saves time and money. Nguyen is an electronics measurement equipment mechanic in the Command, Control and Computer Systems Division's Test Equipment Support Branch and Bishop is an electronics mechanic in the Avionics Division's Flight Control Systems Branch. Both are part of the Command, Control and Computer Systems /Avionics Directorate.

The test aid is used to troubleshoot the A1A1 circuit card, which is part of a circuit card assembly. The CCA is a component of the AN/ARC-186, a small, lightweight radio used in the Black Hawk helicopter.

"You can't purchase these boards, so we have to repair them if we can," Bishop says.

Prior to the test aid, the employees in the branch would perform a "guess and check" method, says Bishop. "There was no way we could energize the CCA to tell if the parts were bad."

The mechanics would take the entire assembly apart and remove the circuit card. Next they would try to visually identify the damaged components. They would repair what they thought was damaged, put it back into the CCA and test it.

"Sometimes we would find out that the circuit board was too damaged to use," Bishop adds.

Nguyen realized that if they designed a test aid that was hooked-up to a spectrum analyzer (tracks the radio frequency within a circuit card), volt meter (tracks voltage) and a watt meter (to check power), it would make their jobs easier and save the depot money.

With the new test aid, the longest duration of a repair was four hours. "The other day I repaired a circuit card in 10 minutes," Bishop says.

This test aid helps return equipment to the field faster, says John Stochla, chief of the Flight Control Systems Branch.

Nguyen suggested the idea to Stochla, who encouraged him to see if he could fabricate something.

It took Nguyen two days to build the test aid. It was turned in for review this past September. In January, the branch began to implement the test aid to help troubleshoot the circuit cards.

"The test aid allows us to energize, analyze and test the components by using the schematics to trace and locate the problem," says Nguyen.

The branch used to end up with two or three unrepairable boards each month. With the test aid added to the process they have been able to repair every CCA, says Bishop.

By implementing the test aid into the process, the hours are projected to decrease from 5,700 to 3,400 per year. Because of this decrease, the branch will have a potential savings of more than $78,000 per year.

Nguyen began working at the depot in 2004. He earned a bachelor's degree from Lehigh University in Computer Engineering and has participated in various depot-related classes.

Bishop has been employed by the depot for 21 years. He has had bench training and completed various depot classes throughout his career.

"Bishop and Nguyen are always looking for better, more effective methods to troubleshoot the AN/ARC-186 components," says Stochla. "Suggestions like this one can be used by others working on the same components, which will help keep our costs down for our customers."

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 5,600 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.