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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Auto Skills Center provides do-it-yourself instruction

By Pamela Jackson | | April 7, 2011

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a five part series on Marine Corps Community Services. 

Whether an individual is looking to repair, restore or just maintain their vehicle, the Auto Skills Center at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany has all the tools and expertise needed for do-it-yourself projects.

The center is staffed with five automotive experts who are available to provide advice, computer printouts, comprehensive repair manuals and direction on how to complete just about any repair job. Occasionally, they will even jump in and lend a hand.

“I have customers who know and love their cars and simply don’t want anyone else messing with their vehicles, so they do their own repairs,” said Mel Scoggins, manager, Auto Skills Center, Marine Corps Community Services, MCLB Albany. “I also may have a young Marine and it’s his or her first time away from home and they have no clue how to fix their car, so I take them by the hand and lead them through it.”

Scoggins emphasized Marines and other personnel who use the center, do the work themselves, and he and his staff are there to ensure the industry standards are met and the work is done correctly.

“Everyone is looking for a deal when it comes to their car, but there is a catch to reaping the rewards of the extreme savings.  We will teach you how to do the repairs, but you have to physically perform the work yourself,” he said. “Individuals can save a lot of money by doing the work themselves and it’s cheaper than taking it to a shop off base.”

Scoggins and his staff say that most of the tasks remain the same - from common brake jobs, oil and tire changes/balancing and diagnostic checks to more complex work such as engine repair, transmission work and the like.

While the Auto Skills Center provides cost-efficient alternatives to local businesses in the community, it serves as an instructional facility to help patrons become more self-sufficient in maintaining their vehicles.

The center has five full-time employees and can help with anything from oil changes to brakes.

The center allows Marines and other base personnel access to their extensive collection of tools as well as more advanced machinery which includes battery chargers, engine analyzers, tire rotation and balancers, diagnostic equipment and a staff of Automobile Service Excellence certified technicians to advise and assist with vehicle projects.

Though saving money is important, that’s not everyone’s focus. Two Marines who were at the Auto Skills Center say the best part is the safety net that comes with having help on staff should you need it.

Staff Sgt. David Holcomb, communications repair supervisor, Mobile Maintenance Assist Team, Marine Corps Logistics Command, frequents the MCLB Auto Skills Center for two main reasons, one of which was repair work on his 2002 Kia Rio.

“I know what I’m doing with my car, and it saves me a lot of money,” he said. “It’s a lot better to come here and make mistakes when there are folks around with the proper tools that can help you than to make mistakes at home and then have to rely on someone else to fix it at a steep price.”

Employees say it’s rewarding to enable others to fix their own car. The clientele usually varies from those who know their way around their vehicle’s engine to one whose knowledge is limited to turning the ignition on.

“It gives that Marine a skill he or she can take throughout the rest of his or her life. Once they discover what the problem is with their vehicle is, they learn what tools they need to work with, and how to do it,” Scoggins said. “There is enough experience on staff here to assist with any repair job that comes through the door.”

Sgt. Zachary Hickman, retail systems analyst, Logistics Capabilities Center, Logistics Command, knew when he brought his 2005 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck in to change the brakes, he would get the help he needed to do the job correctly.

“I really enjoy working on my own vehicle because it saves me money and I know it will be done right. The staff is very knowledgeable and is there to help, if needed,” he said.

The Auto Skills Center, formerly the Hobby Shop, isn’t just for active-duty Marines, but retirees, other active-duty service members and base personnel.

Some examples of the costs for vehicle repairs and service are $2.50 per hour to rent a lift in one of the bays and $3 for an oil change with oil and filter, which is much less costly than off-base prices.

“Most of the do-it-yourself projects will cost less than $30 and space is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Active-duty Marines, sailors and soldiers are first in line, followed by retirees, reserve and civilian personnel,” Scoggins said. “If an individual comes here first before buying a used car, we can usually help them find anything that is wrong so they can get the best price for it.”

Holcomb said he has been working here on base since 1995 and used to work at the Auto Skills Center part-time for three years.

“I learned my mechanical skills from my dad, so I know how to do most of the work on my own vehicles and I do not like others doing it for me,” he said. “It saves me a lot of time and money, plus I get expert advice and have access to all the right tools. I’ll be bringing my wife’s van in next.”

The Auto Skills Center is open seven days a week. For more information and hours of operation, call (229) 639-5226.