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News | Oct. 31, 2007

It’s alive: Airman builds ‘Frankenstein’s monster’

By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

In the spirit of Halloween, one Airman here built his very own version of "Frankenstein's monster."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Russell, the chief engineer for Armed Forces Network Honduras, is somewhat of a computer guru. When his wife called and said she needed a new computer, he combined his know-how, spare parts, cardboard and a few dabs of glue to create his "monster." Yes, I said "cardboard" and "glue."

"Tinkering with computer hardware is one of my hobbies," he said. "Usually I'll upgrade my (personal) computer one piece at a time and keep all of the old stuff."

In his bedroom, Sergeant Russell has a treasure chest full of spare parts - hard drives, video cards, motherboards - you name it. He was only lacking one critical piece to bring his creation to life.

"I had all of the pieces, but I didn't have a case," he said. "But it's really expensive because it costs just as much to ship a case here as it does to buy it. And why spend 50 bucks, when I can just use what I have?"

With "Plan A" being an expensive off-the-shelf computer from a retail store, Sergeant Russell nicknamed his creation "Plan B" - any good monster has to have a name right?

After a quick sketch up of his project, the Seattle native headed to the Base Exchange to purchase the remainder of his supplies: glue, three cardboard shipping boxes, and a box cutter. Inside the box, "Plan B" sports an 80 gigabyte hard drive, a DVD burner, one gigabyte of memory, a laptop mobile processor and an AM/FM/TV tuner card.

The computer took about two weeks to build, since he had to wait on the glue to dry and cure after each computer component was added. The irony is that the computer, built from a shipping box, may not survive the trip to his wife's address in Texas in once piece.

"I'm afraid to send it because I'm afraid it will break in shipping. It will just be a 'box of parts' when it gets there," he laughed. For now, the computer serves as his personal juke box, as well as an interesting conversation starter.

Sergeant Russell's regular duties as chief engineer include maintaining the technical radio and television equipment for AFN. He and his co-workers maintain 24-hour broadcast capabilities for Soto Cano.

Adding to his resume, Sergeant Russell has also started sitting in as a co-host for the afternoon rock show. At six-foot, five inches tall, the sergeant's unofficial disc jockey name is "The Big Show."

Sergeant Russell joined the military on April 17, 1996, and enlisted as a broadcast maintenance troop. Joining the Air Force, he said, seemed like a natural choice to build on the engineering skills he learned in community college.

"I didn't want to landscape for my uncle anymore and I wanted to use my engineering skills," he said. "My step-dad was an Air Force pilot, so I grew up on a lot of Air Force stories."

Although he cross-trained a few years ago to work as an intelligence analyst, Sergeant Russell was pulled back into his old career field to take this remote tour to Honduras. He's slated to leave here in December with a permanent change of station to Menwith Hill, England, where he'll work in intel again.

Fortunately, after his PCS move, Sergeant Russell will have plenty more boxes to go with his extra computer parts ... maybe a "bride of Frankenstein" is in the future.