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Auto Hobby Shop: For novice, experienced mechanics

Airman Cassidy Green, 341st Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, loosens bolts from under her truck at the base auto hobby shop March 7. The auto shop is open Tuesday to Friday from 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Airman Cassidy Green, 341st Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, loosens bolts from under her truck at the base auto hobby shop March 7. The auto shop is open Tuesday to Friday from 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Roy Ranum, Malmstrom Auto Hobby Shop mechanic, loosens up lug nuts on a truck for a customer at the base auto hobby shop March 7. The auto shop offers customers a chance to “rent a mechanic” for customers who aren’t mechanically inclined. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Roy Ranum, Malmstrom Auto Hobby Shop mechanic, loosens up lug nuts on a truck for a customer at the base auto hobby shop March 7. The auto shop offers customers a chance to “rent a mechanic” for customers who aren’t mechanically inclined. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Tech Sgt. Kevin Pennington, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle mechanic, changes his oil at the base auto hobby shop March 7. The auto shop offers a variety of tools for repairing a car. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Tech Sgt. Kevin Pennington, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle mechanic, changes his oil at the base auto hobby shop March 7. The auto shop offers a variety of tools for repairing a car. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Airman 1st Class Jeremy McNeal, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance apprentice, reaches into his engine compartment to turn a socket wrench. McNeal was replacing the serpentine belt on his truck at the base auto hobby shop March 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Airman 1st Class Jeremy McNeal, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance apprentice, reaches into his engine compartment to turn a socket wrench. McNeal was replacing the serpentine belt on his truck at the base auto hobby shop March 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Airmen who enjoy working on their own car or don't want to drive into town to have their car repaired, have a place to go. The Malmstrom Auto Hobby Shop has many services to offer for military members of any rank, dependents and retirees.

Some of the services the shop offers are engine diagnostic checks, brake checks, welding and paint booths and classes on each. There are also three mechanics available at the shop to help Airmen with any projects they may have.

"The single Airmen program makes it so people can take the welding and auto body paint classes for a low charge," said Clint Mallory, the auto hobby shop chief.

The welding class is the first Wednesday of the month and the painting class is the second Wednesday of the month.

"The classes normally start at 5:30 p.m. and end around 8:30 p.m.," Mallory said. "It all depends on how many questions the class members have. Participants must go to the class for one session before they receive a certification to use the paint and welding booths."

For those who are interested in a more thorough learning experience on painting, the shop also offers a six to eight-week auto body paint class.

"We have a lot of Airmen who come here," Mallory said. "Once they come in once, they keep coming back. Even though we have a lot of people coming in, I have heard a lot of people say they have never been here before or that they didn't even know there was an auto shop on base."

In the shop, people have completed an array of projects for their car.

"We have Airmen who have pulled and rebuilt their motors, installed suspension lifts on their trucks and removed and replaced their transmissions," Mallory said. "There have also been quite a few little jobs such as putting in freeze plug heaters for their car because it was winter time. In the warmer months people come in to put on new tires for their car."

"They supply you with any tool you need," said Airman 1st Class Jeremy McNeal, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance apprentice. "I was replacing the belt on my truck and they had everything I needed to do the swap."

Mallory, who has been working at the auto shop since 2001, doesn't view working at the auto shop as a job, he views it more as a labor of love.

"It's more fun to come here and have fun with the Airmen or whoever brings their cars in," Mallory said. "It's better to say that you get to go to work instead of moping around and saying that you have to come to work. We are here to have fun, not to work.

"We have a good time with the Airmen," he said. "When we assist people putting their tires on, we show them how to do it for the first tire. Then we stand by on the second tire. We know they're going to mess up and we rag on them a little bit, then we show them what they did wrong and teach them from there. If they continue to have problems, we are here to help them. We try not to get in their way so we can let them do their job. Sometimes it's easier to do the job for them than letting them do it themselves, but at the same time if you want them to learn you just got to step back and let them do it."

Many people have rough days at work and some choose to come to the shop to alleviate their stress.

"You can come here and beat on things," Mallory said. "It does relieve stress and we are here to help you if things go wrong."

The shop offers various ways of lending a helping hand to those who are inexperienced with working on cars.

"We have the computer from the base library that tells you (on most vehicles) the how-to's for people who aren't too mechanically inclined," Mallory said.

Granted, there are people who show up to the auto shop knowing what to do, there are a few who need support.

"We have a service where you can 'rent a mechanic'," Mallory said. "If you have any problems with your car and you don't want to do it yourself, then you can come in and talk to me and I can assist you."

"It is nice that you can come here and work on your own stuff," McNeal said. "I enjoy working on my vehicle instead of taking it into a shop, because I feel it's a learning experience and a good way to bond with people who enjoy it too."
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