“Can Do”: the Monster Garage wins Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award

Members of the 58th Training Squadron, Trainer Development Team “Monster Garage,” pose for a photo at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., May 11. The Monster Garage won the Air Education and Training Command 2018 General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award in the team category. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II)

Members of the 58th Training Squadron, Trainer Development Team “Monster Garage,” pose for a photo at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., May 11. The Monster Garage won the Air Education and Training Command 2018 General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award in the team category. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 58th Training Squadron’s Trainer Development Team “Monster Garage,” from Kirtland Air Force Base, won the Air Education and Training Command 2018 General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award in the team category.

The Innovation Award is an Air Force level award that recognizes an individual and/or team who demonstrates innovation in cost and manpower savings to improve efficiency, operational readiness, and replication of the innovation across the Air Force enterprise.

“We are just doing the best job we can because this is the way we live. It wouldn't matter if we thought we were going to win an award or not. We do the best possible job for our training squadron, because we live the Air Force ethos,” said Victor Versace, 58th Training Squadron supervisory electrician engineer and flight chief. “We serve the special operations aviation community and it feels great to know that we support our brothers and sisters down range in a way that others aren't.”

The Monster Garage team designs and builds one-of-a-kind aircraft trainers over commercial products that saves costs for the Air Force. The training devices, which were built in 2017, saved the Air Force more than $57 million, supported 40 percent of 19th Air Force training, and replace 13,000 training hours for operational flight line aircraft.

Saving the Air Force money isn't the only reason why the Monster Garage has gained notoriety. Their trainers and services are sought after by different commands and branches of service. Their high quality work is well known across special operations communities and has been by-name requested by a variety of users, including operators from the United States Army, Air Force Special Operations Command, and Air Mobility Command.

“Little Rock, Hurburt Field, Dyess and Randolph AFB have reached out to us and they reach out to us because of our attention to detail, and the fidelity and expertise we use to provide this service to our fighting Airmen,” said Anthony Tapia 58th Training Squadron fabrication supervisor.

The monster garage is a team of eight members, comprised of engineers, welders and model makers, including Tapia, Versace, John Degroat, Larry Crow, Maynard Oselio, Julie Sadeo, Shawn Higgins and John Nacos. They have a group mentality that no one is above the other; they all serve a purpose and are a piece to the bigger picture that is the mission.

“Since day one of being here, our motto has been ‘can do,’” said Tapia. “The guys that have faith in us: our commanders, our leadership, the loadmasters that use our devices. They know what we can do and they have ultimate faith in us and that shows in our passion [for] what we are doing.”

Some of the products the Monster Garage has produced are TH-1 and H-60 simulators. The TH-1 was a UH1H Huey shell that was turned into an active flight simulator, exceeding the expectations of the requestor. The H-60 was a helicopter that ran out of flight hours and was going to be decommissioned. The Monster Garage decommissioned it and then fabricated it into a HH-60 trainer.