U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal's August Newsletter: The Salvo, 31 August 2014
U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal
Aug. 31, 2014
Telling our Story
Story on Page 3
Page 2 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
The Arsenal Salvo is an authorized monthly publication for members of the Department
of Defense. Contents of the Salvo are not necessarily the official views of, or an endorse-ment
by the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, or
the Watervliet Arsenal.
News may be submitted for publication by sending articles to Public Affairs Officer,
1 Buffington Street, Bldg. 10, Watervliet, NY 12189, or stop by office #102, Bldg. 10,
Watervliet Arsenal. The editor may also be reached at (518) 266-5055 or by e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org. The editor reserves the right to edit all information submitted
Commander, Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr.
Public Affairs Officer, John B. Snyder
Editor, John B. Snyder
Photographer: John B. Snyder
Arsenal Facebook Page @
Lee H. Schiller Jr.
For those of you who have been around for awhile,
the end of the fiscal year is kind of like the old game
show titled ‘Beat the Clock.’ In the show, contestants
had to complete multiple tasks under a tight time con-straint,
usually 60 seconds.
Although there may be some similarities between the
show contestants and our workforce in that we have a
multitude of critical tacks, in essence our products that
must be shipped before the end of the year, there is one
major difference between us and the show ̶ this is no
game to us.
There are two things that are critical to our closing
out the fiscal year in September. One, we must make as
many on-time deliveries as possible over the course of
the next 30 days to help our 12-month on-time delivery
average. Secondly, we must work extremely hard to
ensure that we have set the conditions for success for a
seamless transition into the next fiscal year.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.
More important than delivery schedules and a seamless
transition is the fact that there is a serviceman our wom-en
waiting for our products.
So, with vacations and the annual shutdown period
now behind us, we should be running on all cylinders.
In addition to the manufacturing that we do is the
very important task of finding new work. In an era of
declining defense dollars, we must look to sources out-side
of our traditional channels to help fill the workload
gap with work that will help us sustain our critical skills.
In that vein, we made an investment in August by
hosting a Canadian film company called Yap Films. Yap
Films spent five, grueling days with us from the time we
opened in the morning until we closed in the afternoon
capturing many manufacturing operations that pertain
to the 120mm breech ring, 105mm tube, and the 81mm
I know that having a film crew watching and filming
every little operation that some of you performed chal-lenged
your patience as daily production was accom-modated
to support their effort. Additionally, because
the film crew did not understand our operations prior to
their arrival, they often had us change the schedule on
the fly as they saw an operation that had visual appeal
to it. I want to thank everyone who was involved in this
production, it was truly a team effort.
Nevertheless, our collective efforts will be rewarded
next spring by having three, five-minute segments run in
an international market from which we have limited ex-posure.
These potential new markets may be the key to
our sustaining our critical skills in the years to come.
To reach new markets, Arsenal invests in Canadian company
Page 3 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
Senior machinist Frank Taylor readies a 120mm tank breech ring for its initial machining marking, while Director of Photography Aaron Szimanski captures the shot for Yap Films. The filming was for a documentary titled, Troop Factory, that will air in 2015. Photo by John B. Snyder
By John B. Snyder
Story continues on page 4, Yap Films
During the arsenal’s more than 200-year history it has adapted to countless changes to its production lines having gone from packing flannel ammunition cartridges during the War of 1812 to manufacturing mortar systems for today’s troops who serve in Afghanistan.
But the production change at Watervliet this month was unlike anything the arsenal had experienced before and it has a Canadian company to thank for it.
Yap Films, an independent film company out of Toronto, set up cameras and lights throughout the historic arsenal August 13-20 to capture footage for a documentary film titled, “Troop Factory.”
James Ellis, a senior researcher at Yap Films, said that his production company selected the arsenal site due to its status as the premier manufacturer of tank, artillery, and mortar tubes in the world.
Ellis said the production will take the viewer into the hidden world of military factories all over the world ̶ where raw materials become finished products. The 14-episode series will reveal how these things are made right before the viewer’s eyes.
During the course of filming, 35 employees, from packaging to machining, were highlighted in various levels of the production process.
With the war in Iraq having ended and the bulk of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, this production could not come at a better time, said Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr., the arsenal commander.
film crew seemed genuinely interested in learning about our capabilities and our workforce despite having visited several manufacturing centers before filming here.”
Yap Film Director Michael Cammidge said as his team was wrapping up the shooting that he was impressed with the enormous amount of process and quality that goes into each part manufactured here.
“I don’t believe that soldiers fully understand the amount of detail in regards to the tight machining tolerances that often are measured in the tens of thousandths of an inch or about the high number of quality control checks that are performed after every major manufacturing operation,” Cammidge said. “And so, it is our job to tell that story and to do so in a crafted, cinematography effort.”
Of all the hundreds of independent operations the film crew had access to, the number one highlight to the crew was not the rotary forge or the bending of a howitzer tube, it was the people, Cammidge said.
“We were truly impressed by a workforce who are highly motivated, very professional, enormously talented, and who truly know the importance of what they do for soldiers,” Cammidge said.
As it stands now, the arsenal will have three-five minute film clips that will follow three major product lines: the 105mm howitzer tube; 81mm mortar systems; and a 120mm tank breech ring through receipt of raw material to the finished product.
The series will run in 2015 on Discovery International and the History Channel Canada and United Kingdom TV.
Yap films is a highly respected independent production company specializing in producing factual specials and series on a wide range of subject matter for broadcasters in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and beyond. They have produced for or coproduced with History Television, History Channel US, Discovery Channel, the BBC, National Geographic, the Smithsonian Channel, France 5, and CNBC, among others.
Photos: More photos on page 10.
Page 4 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014Yap Films Cont.
The arsenal sought to add value to the Yap Films shoot by inviting the local press to cover the story. Here, Times Union Photographer Will Waldron taking pictures for a Business Section front-page story. Photo by John B. Snyder
“We have always believed it is important to tell the Army story, as well as our own story,” Schiller said. “But in an era of declining defense budgets, telling our story has become increasingly more important if we are to ensure our long- term viability as an Army-owned and operated arsenal.”
“By hosting Yap Films for five days during a very busy manufacturing cycle, we have made an investment in our future” Schiller added. “Through their work, Yap Films will extend the arsenal’s messaging into international markets where foreign military sales may help us fill the gap caused by a declining U.S. workload requirement.”
General Foreman Leon Rosko, who spent several days with the film crew, echoed the commander’s words, or at least the intent of the commander’s words, by saying that there was value to hosting Yap Films.
“Anytime we can have a dedicated film crew come in to help us tell the arsenal story is a significant event and one that we will fully support,” Rosko said. “When most soldiers do not understand the detail and effort that goes into the making of their weapon systems, anything we can do to better tell that story is of tremendous value.”
Because the film crew captured everything from forging to assembly to packaging, some of the arsenal’s apprentices sometimes became unwittingly action shots during the filming. It is one thing for a machinist with nearly 40 years of experience to explain in detail the machining operation that they are performing, but challenging an apprentice who has just completed their first two years of a four-year program didn’t matter to the film crew. The film crew gave the apprentices just as much respect as they gave to the senior machinists because at the end of the day, the apprentices were the experts on the machining operation that they were performing.
Apprentice Colin McCarthy said of his experience with the Yap Film crew, “I think having a film crew here was extremely valuable so that people outside of New York’s Capital District would have an understanding of what we do here. The crew was great to work with and they asked detailed questions. But what was nice to see, however, was that the
Page 5 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
By John B. SnyderSometimes the Golden Years aren’t so Golden
For more than 200 years, the arsenal has experienced the countless ebb and flow of retirees departing and new employees coming in to take their place.
Tens of thousands from the local community have toiled in arsenal machine shops and administrative offices to not only provide the nation’s Soldiers with the tools that have made them successful on the battlefield, but also to provide a good, middle-class life for their families.
For many of those who made a career out of providing tank and artillery barrels to the troops, they had beliefs that if they planned well for their retirement that when they did retire they could truly enjoy their Golden Years.
But for every generation of workers, there have been pitfalls, if not significant challenges to their ability to enjoy life after they departed the arsenal fence line for the last time. From the depressions in the 1830s, 1890s, and the 1930s, to the Great Recession of recent years, the arsenal workforce has had to adjust to events beyond their control in order to provide for their families and for themselves in later years.
No matter how well the arsenal worker may have planned for unintended and unforeseen circumstances, the great unknown always lurked in the shadows to disrupt their best laid plans. This disruption showed no mercy whether the worker was a machinist or a supervisor.
After all, the arsenal is a microcosm of the larger American society.
In a CBS 60 Minutes program in 2002, newsman Mike Wallace asked Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady, about her retirement with the former president who was then suffering through the advance stages of the Alzheimer’s disease.
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, President Ronald Reagan knew the years would be tough on Nancy and the family. He penned a letter to the American public in 1994 and in it he said, “Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from the painful experience.”
He could not. Nancy said in that interview that the Golden Years were essentially not golden. They (Golden Years) turned out to be very short with no memories to exchange.
Nancy Reagan’s plight goes on in households all across America, as well as the arsenal. No matter how much one plans for the day they retire, their life in retirement may not be what they planned.
Just in the last 30 days, there have been more than 13,000 articles written regarding the challenges that today’s retiree’s face according to the Google website. What may be the biggest threat to one’s Golden Years are the unknown, unforeseen consequences of economic and political forces on society.
Story continues on page 6, see Golden
Bob and Debbie Hengsterman got serious about saving for retirement about 10 years before they retired in 2005. Sound investments have allowed them to enjoy the good life, such as attending NASCAR races. Photo provided by the Hengstermans
Page 6 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
Story continues on page 7, see Golden
Here are a few examples…
City of Detroit retirees had paid into their retirement system throughout their careers. They had budgeted and saved during a lifetime of work toward what they believed to be a certain retirement future. But when the city recently filed for bankruptcy, all bets were off as city retirees’ benefits were reduced to help bailout the city.
Many servicemen and women in the U.S. military also had long believed that their retirement was untouchable. Then sequestration kicked in, which mandated a loss of billions of dollars toward defense spending. One of the consequences of sequestration and a reduced budget is that the military retirement system is now under threat of being tampered with.
The Defense Department is not only looking at ways to reduce the amount of future cost of living allowances provided to military retirees, it is also looking at raising the cost for health insurance for those who have already retired.
And the military retirement system is not the only defined retirement plan that has been changed or is being targeted for potential future change all in the name of saving money. Of course, the savings often come by reducing benefits to its stakeholders.
Just take a look at America’s number one retirement savings program ̶ Social Security.
Social Security was established during the Great Depression when President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law on Aug. 14, 1935, the Social Security Act.
According to Roosevelt, “Long before the economic blight of the depression descended on the Nation, millions of our people were living in wastelands of want and fear. Men and women too old and infirm to work either depended on those who had but little to share, or spent their remaining years within the walls of a poorhouse . . .”
The federal Social Security website gives the impression that the disintegration of the extended family, where children, parents, grandparents, and other family members closely lived, contributed to this blight on society in the 1930s. The extended family was driven primarily by families who lived on farms and in rural communities. As a family member became too old or disabled to work, the family and local community would step in to provide lifelong support. But as family members moved to the cities, the extended family support system no longer existed for millions of Americans.
Nearly 50 years after Roosevelt signing of the Social Security Act, spiraling costs created a groundswell of concern in Congress to reform Social Security in order to secure the solvency of the Trust Fund.
President Ronald Reagan signed into law: The Social Security Amendments of 1983 (H.R. 1900, Public Law 98-21), which contained two provisions that effected when an individual is eligible to retire with full benefits. One key provision of that law increased the full-retirement age from 65 to 67.
The Congressional Budget Office today states that funding Social Security is the largest outlier of federal funds within the government, and expense that exceeded $800 billion in 2013. There has been recent discussions in Congress that has once again brought to the forefront the challenges of maintaining the solvency of the Social Security program. Reagan’s 1983 Amendment did not establish a long-term solution.
So, how much stake do you put into an expected return on your Social Security retirement and will the rules change again after you hit retirement?
And if tweaks to your future financial picture may not give you much concern, what about rising medical expenses.
In a July 2, 2014, New York Times article titled “Insurers on New York State’s Health Exchange Seek Significant Rate Increases,” the Affordable Care Act that was supposed to provide affordable insurance through New York state health exchanges may not be all that affordable, after all.
According to the article, some New Yorkers may pay as much as 28 percent more for their insurance next year.
In a July 2014 article on the Inventing Daily website, trying to get a handle on future healthcare costs is critical to financially sustaining retirement. Golden Cont.
Rose Sopok with her daughter, Lea, who will be in the 9th grade this year. Rose retired from the arsenal in 2012. Photo provided by Rose Sopok
Page 7 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
For today’s generation of arsenal workers who are near-ing
retirement, they have suffered through three major stock
market crashes. In 1990, the Dow Jones dropped nearly 17
percent in a three-month period. In 2000, the Dow Jones
dropped nearly 16 percent, while in 2001, the Nasdaq stock
exchange dropped more than 50 percent. During the time
period 2007 – 2010, the Dow Jones and Nasdaq both had
losses exceeding 50 percent.
When one can’t control outside influences on their finan-cial
planning, or when one doesn’t know how the rules will
change after they retire, trying to plan well for one’s Golden
Years may be dubious at best.
Or is it?
Rose Sopok had worked at the arsenal for 30 years when
she retired in February 2012.
During her tenure, she worked in
supply, finance, advance technol-ogy,
and in information manage-ment.
Rose said that working at the
arsenal was like working with
family. She watched coworkers
get married, have children, see
their children marry, and then have grandchildren. Cowork-ers
were her family in hard times, as well as in good times.
Rose’s oldest son recently graduated from Siena College
with a Finance degree. Her second son is a junior at Siena
College studying Computer Science, and her daughter will
be entering 9th grade.
“I didn’t think about retirement until five years before
retiring,” Rose said. “At that point I think it became more
than a financial decision; it was also about what I was going
to do with myself to stay busy.
Retirement has allowed Rose to follow her lifelong pas-sion
in teaching. She works as a substitute teacher for St.
Ambrose School in Latham.
She said she was very fortunate to have the opportunity
to retire. Proper planning and saving for retirement is criti-cal.
“Life is far from boring.” Rose said. “It is critical to stay
mentally and physically active, versus, just sitting around.”
Just back from Florida, arsenal retirees Robert and Debo-rah
Hengsterman had a lot to say about their retirement,
as well as the planning it took to provide them the golden
years that they dreamed of. After 47 years of marriage, they
certainly deserve it.
Both Bob and Debbie graduated from the arsenal’s ma-chinist
apprentice program; Bob in 1981 and Debbie in
1987. Bob said he feels as if he went through the apprentice
program twice ̶ once for him and again when Debbie went
through. They both retired in 2005.
Just as there is life after the arsenal, there was life before
While Bob was serving in the U.S. Navy, he married
Debbie. They set up residence at Norfolk, Va., where Deb-bie
stayed while Bob deployed on the USS Forrestal to Viet-nam.
Bob served from 1965 to 1969.
After having worked with a phone company for about
15 years, Bob made the transition to the arsenal and Debbie
She said that after years of raising her four children she
needed to be with people who were taller than her waistline.
Bob said the arsenal gave him the gift that he always longed
for, a college education.
In 1995, Bob got serious about planning for retirement.
He put a mark on the wall that they would retire in 2005,
and then he built a 10-year plan that would support their
leaving the arsenal on their time line. That challenge be-came
a little easier when the last of their children graduated
college. All four of their children graduated college.
“I thought Bob was a little crazy when he started plan-ning
for retirement 10
years out,” Debbie said.
“But when I look back
now, given the great life
we have, his planning
worked out very well.”
Bob said his plan re-quired
diversity to account
for any major fluctuations
in any one investment. And so, he built a retirement plan
that included a mixture of stocks, Certificates of Deposits,
Social Security, arsenal retirement, and home investment.
Critical to the plan was active, continuous management,
Bob said. As financial conditions changed, so did his in-vestment
allocation. Such as his maxing out his contribu-tions
into their 401(k) plans when all the kids had graduated
He also targeted a percentage of their final income as
what they would live on and have found that in retirement,
that percentage has worked out. They haven’t had to dip
into any of their retirement savings.
And so, here they are nearly nine years into retirement
and they do not have any current financial worries. In 2010,
they bought a house in Florida just as the real estate market
collapsed, and now travel to Florida about three times a
year. They are also NASCAR fans and travel to several of
the races each year. They camp in Connecticut during the
summer and like to attend festivals in the Northeast.
The bottom line is that their golden years are working
out well due in large part to their methodical investing to-ward
2005, as well as their active management of their in-vestments
So, planning for a good retirement, even in a world of
unknowns, is not impossible. Although one may have little
control of the external forces that will affect their retire-ment,
if they actively plan and plan for the worst case, the
golden years should be attainable for everyone at Watervliet.
Remember, you can’t take out a loan to finance your re-tirement.
“I thought Bob was a little crazy when he started
planning for retirement 10 years out. But when
I look back now, given the great life we have, his
planning worked out very well.”
Page 8 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
Story by Julie Mitchell, Exchange Service & John B. Snyder, Watervliet Arsenal
The Senior Enlisted Adviser for the Army & Air Force
Exchange Service visited the Watervliet Arsenal in Au-gust.
During his visit,
Chief Master Sgt.
Pearson toured Ex-change
talked with Soldiers
and Department of
the Army civilians
about how the Ex-change
“One of the best
parts of my job as
Adviser is connect-ing
and the federal
workforce in per-son
to find out how
the Exchange can
serve them better,” he said. “I’m excited to visit the
Watervliet Arsenal and I want the arsenal workforce to
know our first duty is to serve them and their families.”
Pearson is one of 52 active duty service members as-signed
to the Exchange to carry out this mission. The
Exchange also employs 36,000 civilian associates
“The Exchange wants to be the first choice for the
workforce at the Watervliet Arsenal,” Pearson said.
“Exchange prices are remarkably competitive. And,
we’re always tax-free. This is a tremendous savings.”
When shoppers buy from the Exchange, money goes
back to supporting quality-of-life services on the instal-lation,
“The benefit is real,” Pearson said. “For every dollar
earned, historically 67 cents comes back to the military
community for the Army Morale, Welfare and Rec-reation
dividend. Our shoppers get the products they
want and deserve,
and their military
community is better
visit, he talked with
Staff Sgt. Shasta
Carver, a member of
the New York Army
and asked her what
would bring her into
the Exchange more
“Fresh fruit,” Carver
said. “I have been
trying to eat more
given up caffeine
several months ago, but during the day I like to snack
Pearson told Carver that if he brings in fresh fruit to the
Exchange he expects her to come in twice a day.
No answer, but a smile came from Carver.
The Exchange is a joint non-appropriated fund instru-mentality
of the Department of Defense with a retail
mission to provide quality products, services and food
to service members, their families, Reserve and Guard
members, plus military retirees. Exchange sales gener-ate
earnings to supplement MWR activities.
For more information about the Exchange and Ex-change
programs, visit shopmyexchange.com.
Senior enlisted adviser
checks out Arsenal
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Pearson, the senior enlisted adviser for the Army
& Air Force Exchange Service, is asking Staff Sgt. Shasta Carver, with the New York
Army National Guard, what items would she like to see in the Exchange.
Photo by John B. Snyder
Page 9 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
Sometimes we put people into leadership positions before they have had formal leadership training, said Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr., and the arsenal needs to correct that. This honest assessment by the arsenal commander set the stage for a week- long leadership training course offered here this month.
The official title of the course, “Influential Leadership for Aspiring Leaders,” was offered to 24 arsenal employees who were selected by their supervisors to attend the course due to their demonstrated potential to be the future leaders of the arsenal.
Schiller said what he hoped the attendees would get out of the course would be a team who could solve problems, know how to motivate subordinates to perform to a higher standard, and leaders who would be open to self-reflection to enhance their personal skills as a leader.
Before the first day of training, the attendees started with self- reflection as they were required to have peers and leaders assess their skills as an arsenal employee.
Industrial Engineer Joshua Gypson said the feedback from the survey gave each person a personalized report on how others viewed their behaviors at work.
“It gave us a starting point on where we need to improve,” Gypson said. “Understanding how our behavior styles are perceived by others will give us the tools to build productive relationships, while avoiding damaging conflicts that will not support the mission.”
Tom Mulheren, an industrial management specialist, concurred with Gypson in that he believes a leader should have the skills to do self-awareness before they assess the people who work for them.
“I thought the “360 review” by those who know us best was a great learning tool, Mulheren said. “In fact, it is such a powerful tool for self-awareness that I believe that all arsenal leaders should have an assessment done from time to time.”
During the course, instructor Kathy Varty led the class through an assessment of what leadership traits they thought were positive and those they perceived as negative. In essence, what are the qualities of good and bad leaders.
What was of interest was not so much the positive or negative traits, but of the second order effects of how those leadership traits made people feel. Although the assessment was not directed at any specific arsenal section or division, or even at the arsenal itself, several of the perceptions identified were common at various work sites.
Varty said that leadership is about making choices. No one is directing leaders to have poor leadership skills but that leaders make decisions on what leadership style they will use and sometimes their styles are not appropriate for their work areas.
Some become situational leaders in that they tailor their style to the organization they supervise, while others think that one size fits all.
Joseph Poole, the arsenal anti-terrorism officer, said that participating with such a diverse group of people helped him to better understand the dynamics of the arsenal and that there is a broad divergence of leadership styles on the arsenal.
The one main takeaway is that leadership styles should not be a cookie cutter template to use in all situations given such diversity, Poole said.
The fact that the course was non- attribution allowed for a free flow of information that gave the class a true sense on how others feel about themselves and how they feel about leaders they have known, Poole said.
Gypson, Mulheren, and Poole agreed that they will be better leaders due to the training but also hoped that their training would not stop with this introductory course. Providing tools to future leaders to assist theirsuccess
By John B. Snyder Photo by John B. Snyder
Page 10 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014Photos by John B. SnyderYap Films13-20 August 2014
Page 11 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014
Photos by John B. Snyder