CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.—When it comes to variety in visiting patrons, few work centers can compare to the Auto Skills Center at Cannon AFB.
They can be picking up a wrench for their first time or learning how to change brakes by themselves after years of practice. They could be coming by just to fix their car, or visit the several staff members always on-hand to greet customers.
It’s part of the community atmosphere that Keith Robertson, the manager, has worked so hard on cultivating since 1999.
The retired Air Force master sergeant was a maintenance Airman. Now, he’s been the manager of the Auto Skills Center for five years. Robertson’s tasks as manager are normal for any shop leader, but he also runs the car wash and the resale lot on base. Work is always around the corner for him.
Despite the workload, he’s never too busy to interact with the people that frequent his shop.
“I enjoy interacting with our customers the most,” Robertson said. “But to see a customer come into the shop wanting to learn how to repair their vehicle and to be able to provide the equipment and knowledge is why we exist.”
It provides a sense of pride and joy to him being so involved in an environment that promotes socialization and self-growth.
“The look on their face when they repair their vehicle, save money and gain the confidence to try more advanced repairs is priceless.”
The sense of pride and reward over one’s car keeps them working on their vehicles, but it’s the convenience and experience that keeps them coming back to Cannon’s auto hobby shop.
“We have a large amount of repeat customers,” Robertson said. “I feel our customer service is second to none, our availability and selection of modern equipment, tools, facility and hours of operations are key in keeping them back.”
One of these returning customers is Senior Airman MacArthur Engstrand, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron air terminal operations journeyman.
"The Auto Skills Center is my end-of-day and weekend getaway place," Engstrand said. "I keep coming back, day in and day out, because I feel very comfortable there. I know that Keith, David, and the other car-care technicians will always have my back and I can come to talk to them about pretty much anything, whether that's car-related or not."
"It is a truly special place in my life and also within this wing and in my opinion, doesn't get enough recognition for how much it brings everyone together."
Robertson noted his progress since he start visiting the shop, saying he started off not knowing many basics of vehicle maintenance, but now is changing brakes all on his own.
Similar to how Engstrand was, Staff Sgt. Matthew Isder, 727th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron crew chief, is getting to learn more about car maintenance and the Airmen around him.
“I’m not an expert with vehicle maintenance, but the auto skills center has plenty of resources available for everyone to use for any job I come across that I have little to no experience with,” Isder said.
Working on his vehicles or helping others with theirs is part of the experience that makes the shop unique.
“We are like a family,” Isder said. “We all enjoy each other’s company and helping each other out.”
Speaking from experience, he believes people shouldn’t shy away from trying something new.
“I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t been to the auto skills center yet to come by and check the place out, even if they don’t know much about vehicle maintenance. We will be more than happy to help you learn and save some money.”
So when it comes to variety, the auto hobby shop is endowed with plenty of it. For some, it’s a place to fix their vehicle. For others like Robertson, it’s to recapture the feeling of wingmanship.
“I retired from the Air Force after 23 years of service, and I missed the interaction with our Airmen,” Robertson reflected. “I am very fortunate to be able to give back to the greatest Air Force in the world. The Auto Skills Center is proof that the wingman concept works.”