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Auto Hobby Shop reopens following Gearhead intervention

Staff Sgt. Michael Markus, 30th Space Communications Squadron cyber systems supervisor, works on his motorcycle at the Auto Hobby Shop, Aug. 8, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Following an almost two year hiatus, Vandenberg's Auto Hobby Shop reopened its doors to eager patrons, May 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Staff Sgt. Michael Markus, 30th Space Communications Squadron cyber systems supervisor, works on his motorcycle at the Auto Hobby Shop, Aug. 8, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Following an almost two year hiatus, Vandenberg's Auto Hobby Shop reopened its doors to eager patrons, May 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Auto Hobby Shop patrons work on their vehicles, Aug. 8, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Soon after budgetary constraints closed the facility in 2013, The Gearheads Auto Hobby Club formed, to campaign for its reopening. Following the reopening, the Gearheads have continued to support the facility by providing mechanically knowledgeable volunteers and clean-up work parties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Auto Hobby Shop patrons work on their vehicles, Aug. 8, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Soon after budgetary constraints closed the facility in 2013, The Gearheads Auto Hobby Club formed, to campaign for its reopening. Following the reopening, the Gearheads have continued to support the facility by providing mechanically knowledgeable volunteers and clean-up work parties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Following an almost two year hiatus, Vandenberg's Auto Hobby Shop reopened its doors to eager patrons, May 16.

Soon after severe budgetary constraints closed the facility in 2013, The Gearheads Auto Hobby Club formed to campaign for its reopening.

"The Gearheads Auto Hobby Club formed in 2013 to advocate for the reopening of the Auto Hobby Shop," said Royal Australian Air Force Maj. Rex Harrison, 614th Air and Space Operations Center master space plans flight commander, and president of the Gearheads. "With much support from the base, and wing leadership, the doors to the Auto Hobby Shop reopened in May 2015. Moving forward, our club aims to maintain interest in, and support the running of the Auto Hobby Shop."

By raising awareness and interest in the closed Auto Hobby Shop, the Gearheads were able to garner significant support -- which was communicated to wing leadership.

"The Gearheads got together to try and raise interest in reopening the Auto Hobby Shop," said Larry Horsley, 30th Force Support Squadron community services flight chief. "They went to wing leadership and showed that there were quite a few people interested in opening the facility. Leadership then worked with us to figure out what it would take to reopen. The Gearheads were really instrumental in showing leadership that there was an interest in the program."

Following the reopening, the Gearheads have continued to support the facility by providing mechanically knowledgeable volunteers and clean-up work parties.

"Since its opening, we have provided consumables, such as glass beads for the media blaster, and volunteer staff each Saturday," said Harrison. "The volunteers have assisted with repairing equipment, and worked toward bringing back additional equipment into service. In the future, the Gearheads will be conducting fundraising activities to replace tools and purchase new equipment, along with continuing to promote the shop to the wider base community."

Currently open Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the shop's future rests in the hands of its patrons -- as next fiscal year's funding will depend upon a consistent interest level.

"Right now we're in a test phase through the end of the fiscal year," said Horsley. "Then we will reassess and if we're getting a good turnout and a lot of interest, we'll look at funding it again through the next fiscal year. So right now we're seeing how many people are coming in on Saturdays and then we will address whether we will expand the hours, keep it as is, or even close it down."

For some, the shop is much more than a force support service but is also a place to hone valuable life skills while bonding with loved ones.

"I think the ability to perform your own repairs and maintenance on your vehicle is an important skill for anyone to have," said Harrison. "On a personal level, the Auto Hobby Shop has allowed my daughter to learn about her project car and develop skills that will carry her into the future. If I had access to such a facility, with the opportunity to learn from fellow patrons earlier on in my career, I'm sure I would have made fewer mistakes along the way."

In addition to Gearhead volunteers, the FSS has two qualified mechanics who are able to assist with advice and guidance, however, at the moment -- the facility maintains a "Do It Yourself" policy. According to program management, the future services provided by the facility are dependent upon its popularity, and they encourage anyone interested to visit as much as possible.

"If people want these facilities to stay open, and even expand to offer more, they need to get out and support them," said Horsley. "A lot of people love the idea of the Auto Hobby Shop but they don't get out there. That makes it hard to go to leadership and ask for support. We need to get the people in there and show that they really want it. I encourage everyone to utilize the facility. The staff is there and is more than glad to provide assistance. Just like all our facilities, we are here for Airmen and their families."