The Auto Skills Center on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is unique on many fronts. After all not many automotive shops give customers the opportunity to learn everything they ever wanted to know about their car without them breaking the bank on maintenance costs in order to do it.
On any day customers from around JBAB can be seen at the center either working alongside a trained mechanic, or getting under the hood or frame themselves and getting dirty. The center features five frame lifts, two drive on lube racks, two body stalls and a paint booth. There is also an engine analyzer, tool-issue area, a high-speed wheel balancer and a 24-hour-seven-day-a-week car wash operation. The shop is also home to the scrub shop, a professional and personalized automobile detailing service.
"Rank stays at the door when you show up here. Everyone is equal and treated the same way," said Wain Mitcheltree, director at the Auto Skills Center since 2004. "We're here to help anyone willing to learn and get dirty. Our staff prides itself on getting people the help they need and answers they're looking for."
The center operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. A stall costs $5 an hour and includes tools for any kind of job. Half-hour rates are also available, Mitcheltree said. A basic automotive class is also held the second Wednesday of every month. For just $20, eager beginners and automotive enthusiasts are treated to a 2-3 hour block of instruction on everything from brakes, belts and alignments to how to deal with warranties and other car insurance information.
The class has been going really well since its introduction last year and has proven to be a meeting ground for people looking to "talk shop" and meet others with similar interests.
"We're here to support our military and everyone on base. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," Mitcheltree said. "The class is another way of reaching out to the community. The interest has been good and we would love to have even more come out for a lesson. It's a really fun class."
Mitcheltree, who spent 13 years with the Maryland National Guard's heavy equipment sector, served eight years in the Army and has worked in the automotive field for 30 years. He said the center's motto is to "take care of the people that take care of you." This is probably best demonstrated through the center's hours of operation, he said.
The Auto Skills Center is open Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Discount coupons are available and anyone with base access can use the center. This includes retirees and all DoD personnel, Mitcheltree said. Customers can also drop their vehicles off the night before any pre-scheduled body work.
As a bonus for using the center, Mitcheltree said a staff member can even drop an individual off at their designated workplace in the morning as long as he/she can get a ride back to the center later that day to pick up their vehicle.
"I feel our staff is the best in the area when it comes to customer service. We're willing to go that extra mile to help someone out," Mitcheltree said. "Our hours are tailored to our customers and they know they can count on us for help."
The Auto Skills Center is located at 240 Brookley Avenue, Bldg. P8. For specific prices or any other information, call (202) 767-4571.