Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Through Airmen's Eyes: Airman creates important database program

by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
436th Airflift Wing Public Affairs

12/5/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- When an expensive contract on an Air Force aircrew flight equipment database program was not renewed, bases across the world had to find local solutions to fill the void. Some had to turn to time consuming spreadsheets or paper records.

At Dover Air Force Base, Del., one Airman created a solution to the problem.

The Flight Equipment Automated Records System, or FEARS for short, was created by Airman 1st Class Chris Sharlow, 436th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman, to track the 12,383 Aircrew Flight Equipment items at Dover AFB.

He had created something similar on a smaller scale during a deployment in 2011.

"My leadership knowing that I am pretty computer savvy, asked me if this was something I could do," he said.

The FEARS program can be used to track all inspections done on the equipment, and all of the vital information about the items, like serial numbers, can be inputted. The system also tracks all of the base's aircrew members and the items that have been issued to them. Queries can be easily run to find the necessary information and it tracks the work done by all of the aircrew flight equipment technicians.

Sharlow said the previous program was extremely hard to use and was very time consuming. He said his main goal of the project was to create something everybody could use.

"Everybody is not good with computers," he said. "In FEARS, everything is laid out simply for those who are not technologically inclined."

Computers have been a passion for Sharlow since he was a young child.

"My grandmother bought her first computer in 1992, and I have been fascinated with them ever since." the native of Colton, N.Y., said. "I love building computers and downloading programs and tinkering with them to see how they work."

The Airman worked at a company providing computer technical assistance by phone before joining the Air Force. He is halfway toward earning his bachelor's degree in information technology.

Despite his expertise in computers, Sharlow still had a steep learning curve in developing his database program. He tried unsuccessfully to create FEARS in a few different programs, but he was foiled by network security issues. He got the break he needed when someone in his leadership chain mentioned a database creation program already loaded on government computers.

"I had never used Microsoft Access before being tasked with this," he said. "I had to get a few how-to manuals and do a lot of internet searches, but I was up to speed quickly and the program fit our needs well."

The Airman was pulled out of the shift schedule and put to work solely on creating FEARS. After more than 500 hours of coding, the program was completed. With that hurdle done, he had to input all of the flight equipment data and inspections which he said was the most time consuming process of creating his data program.

In a mere 40 days, the database was up and running. It has been a vast improvement over the old program, said Tech. Sgt. Michael Rosatone, 436th OSS production superintendent for aircrew flight equipment.

"It has increased the effectiveness of our section by 100 percent," the native of Pittsburgh, said. "The old system required a lot of time to update. This one is much more user-friendly and takes a lot less time to use."

The sergeant said in addition to its mission effectiveness, the program is also a great supervisory tool. He said he can use it to easily track the work done by the Airmen in his section. The database is also a great source of metrics for Enlisted Performance Reports and award packages.

Rosatone said the creation of FEARS is a good example of how off-duty education can be a benefit to the Air Force. He said the program was completed well ahead of schedule and has run a lot smoother than the previous database program.

Sharlow is not resting on his laurels following the successful launch of the database program. He is working on a version 2.0 of FEARS that will be more aesthetically pleasing. He said it makes him feel good to contribute to his team in such a positive way.

"I love how I helped improve a daily part of my coworkers' day here," he said. "We are a great team here and I just wanted to do my part."

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