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U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal's August Newsletter: The Salvo, 31 August 2014


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A gathering of key stories and photos that capture some of the action at the Army's manufacturing center at Watervliet, New York for the month of August 2014.

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U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal's August Newsletter: The Salvo, 31 August 2014

  1. 1. U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal Aug. 31, 2014 THE SALVO Telling our Story Story on Page 3
  2. 2. 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: The editor reserves the right to edit all information submitted for publication. 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. Commanding Manufacturer 6 Commander’s Corner 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 mortar system. 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.
  3. 3. 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.
  4. 4. 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: 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. Page 7 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014 Golden Cont. 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 the arsenal. 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 quickly followed. 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 college. 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 after retirement. 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.” Debbie Hengsterman
  8. 8. 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. Anthony “Tony” Pearson toured Ex-change facilities and talked with Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians about how the Ex-change can better serve them. “One of the best parts of my job as Senior Enlisted Adviser is connect-ing with Soldiers 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 worldwide. “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, he said. “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 for it.” During Pearson’s visit, he talked with Staff Sgt. Shasta Carver, a member of the New York Army National Guard, and asked her what would bring her into the Exchange more often. “Fresh fruit,” Carver said. “I have been trying to eat more healthy, having given up caffeine several months ago, but during the day I like to snack on fruit.” 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 Senior enlisted adviser checks out Arsenal Exchange 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. Page 10 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014Photos by John B. SnyderYap Films13-20 August 2014
  11. 11. Page 11 Salvo Aug. 31, 2014 ValleyCats Appreciation Game Photos by John B. Snyder
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