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Watervliet Arsenal Newsletter: Salvo 31 July 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 July 2014.

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Watervliet Arsenal Newsletter: Salvo 31 July 2014

  1. 1. Vol. 14, No. 7 U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal July 31, 2014 THE SALVO Not ready to ride into the sunset, the arsenal hosted a workload summit this month that looked into the future for actions that will ensure its long-term viability Story on Page 3 Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion AMC Deputy Commander Mike Merrill Arsenal Quality
  2. 2. Page 2 Salvo July 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 When an Army officer gets ready to attend a Senior Service College, they are told they are about to “enjoy the best year of their life.” After all, it is a year away from the field, deployments, and the stress of leading Soldiers. But as enjoyable as attending that senior ser- vice school may have been for me, nothing compares to the enjoyment that I have had these last 12 months serving as your commander. When I took command in July 2013, I was basically an outsider looking in to an organization that had sup- ported our Soldiers in every military conflict since the War of 1812 ̶ no other currently operating arsenal or depot can make that claim. As I walked the grounds my first week, I could feel it. As I touched the walls of the historic Big Gun Shop, I could feel it. As I looked into your eyes, I could feel it. Although the machines have changed, the build- ings have changed, and the grounds have changed since 1813, the one thing that has not changed is the tremendous sense of pride that is woven into the fabric called the Watervliet Arsenal. Anyone who has spent any amount of time here can also feel the pride in all that is Watervliet. My sense of reflection today is only punctuated by the fact that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that the community, Army, and our nation understands the value of what we do to ensure that our servicemen and women come home safe from combat. During this week’s annual shutdown, we will use this time to shape our environment for future successes in production and in the welfare of our workforce. And, when we bring our operations back on line, I need ev- eryone to have a new sense of focus, striving to give a 100-percent effort to the arsenal in all that you do. These are challenging times in the defense organic base as fewer weapons contracts are being heavily competed for by a still large pool of defense suppliers. In order to remain competitive, our timeliness must be unquestionable, while our quality must be impeccable. We have answered this call to duty for more than 200 years and we can do it again as we approach fiscal year 2015.
  3. 3. Looking at challenges, initiatives to retain the Army’s Industrial Base at Watervliet Page 3 Salvo July 31, 2014 Jake Peart, the arsenal’s production planning and control supervisor, in blue shirt, explaining to Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion the heat treat process. During the workload summit, senior Army leaders and weapons program managers had an opportunity to tour the arsenal’s manufacturing center, as well as several of Benét Labs’ research and design activities. Photo by John B. Snyder By John B. Snyder Story continues on page 4, Summit Faced with significant cuts to defense weapons spending, Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion led a team of logistics experts this month at the Watervliet Arsenal as part of a strategy to ensure the Army’s Industrial Base remains relevant and well postured to support the future Army. McQuistion, who is the deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said that she and subject matter experts from through- out the Army’s logistics and technology fields are looking at challenges and initiatives that will assist the long-term viability of the Army’s industrial base. The title of this new AMC initiative is, “Organic Industrial Base for Force 2025 and Beyond.” To sup- port this strategy, McQuistion and her team are meet- ing this year at depots and arsenals throughout the country, such as the Watervliet Arsenal, to chart out a course that will better direct the unique capabilities of the industrial base in an era of declining defense bud- gets. “The Watervliet Arsenal is not so much a Depart- ment of Defense capability, it is also a national trea- sure,” McQuistion said. “History has been written
  4. 4. Page 4 Salvo July 31, 2014 Summit Cont. here, and it is a great history, but what we need to do today is to help write the future.” In speaking to the broader audience at the summit, McQuistion added that as partners in the Army’s Industrial Base, they collectively need to better understand the implications to arsenals and depots when faced with declining defense budgets and requirements. “We can no longer make bold proclamations and then not take bold action,” McQuistion said. “Now is the time to embrace change if we are to re- main relevant.” McQuistion said this summit provided a great opportunity to discuss the challenges facing the ar- senal. But more importantly, the summit provided a venue to look at possible solutions to retaining the arsenal’s critical skill capabilities that have supported every U.S. Soldier since the War of 1812. McQuistion often referred to the arsenal’s sto- ried 201 years of support to the war fighter and used that history to paint a picture of the arsenal’s resolve to work its way through today’s chal- lenges. “You have countless points of reflection in your 201-year history of surviving declining defense budgets,” McQuistion said. “As you recall in 1990, things looked about the same way as they do today and look what happened. You will get through this…as you will be needed again.” This was McQuistion’s first visit to Watervliet. Although she received a tour of the arsenal’s capa- bilities and capacity, much of her time was in seri- ous dialogue with the arsenal’s leadership. This workload summit, which was also at- tended by several weapon program managers and representatives from the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, was the first of its kind hosted at Watervliet. Although hope is not a plan, there are many at the arsenal who are hopeful that the sum- mit may bring new work and therefore, long-term viability to the arsenal. Benet Labs' Mechanical Engineer Chris Humiston explaining the mortar tube flow-form process to Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion. Flow form uses extreme cold versus heat to shape the tubes. The workload summit attendees in historic building 110. In this building in the late 1800s, the arsenal went from being a maker of saddles to a maker of cannons. Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, the AMC deputy commander, looking past Machinist Bill Sheldon as he machines a mortar tube on the flow-form machine. Photo by John B. Snyder Photo by John B. Snyder Photo by John B. Snyder
  5. 5. sets that are required for the manufacturing of large caliber weapon systems. The manufacturing of tank and howitzer cannons exercises all 11 skills sets that range from complex machining to rotary forging, while manufacturing spare parts and mortar tubes uses no more than seven of the 11 critical skills. The arsenal’s value to the Army is increased by the retention of these critical manufacturing skills that today cannot be replicated at any other government-owned and -operated facility. So, although these orders are good news for Watervliet, they still fall short in retaining all the criti- cal skills necessary to support the arsenal’s core mission of provid- ing large caliber manufacturing for the Defense Department. There is certainly more hard work to do this summer for the business develop- ment team at Watervliet in search of larger, more demanding orders. The 11 orders range from the manufacturing of something as small that can fit into a pants pocket, such as a firing pin for a 155mm howitzer, to something as large as a carrier assembly that will hold a 155mm howitzer tube in place in when the gun is fired. The first shipment will go out Novem- ber 2014 and some contracts will require the arsenal to ship well into 2017. With this announcement, the arsenal has in the last 45 days re- ceived more than $10.6 million in new orders. Page 5 Salvo July 31, 2014 Bench assembler Vincent Gregorek works on an elevating mechanism for a 81mm mortar system at the Watervliet Arsenal. Although spare parts provide the arsenal a substantial amount of work, that type of work does not exercise all of the arsenal’s critical manufacturing skills. Photo by John B. Snyder By John B. Snyder In an era of declining defense budgets, the Watervliet Arsenal needs contracts to produce more than just revenue. It needs the “right kind” of contracts to retain a critical skill base that is required to support large caliber manufacturing for the Defense Department and to allied militaries. And so, when the arsenal an- nounced this week that it had received 11 contracts this month worth more than $9.4 million, that news was met with controlled opti- mism. The contracts will provide the U.S. Army with spare parts for its 155mm howitzer and 81mm mortar systems, as well as for some limited work for the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s 105mm cannon system. “These contracts mean more to us than just money,” said Jake Peart, the arsenal’s chief of production planning and control. “In an era of declining defense weapons require- ments, we view these contracts as a means to our retaining a critical skill base that will provide our war fight- ers with the best weapon systems in the world.” Given the continued uncertainty today with the defense budget, weapons program managers have been very cautious in soliciting new work and so, every new contract, no matter how small, is celebrated as a major achievement, Peart said. Although these contracts will provide more than 21,000 hours of direct labor requirements, as well as hundreds of hours of indirect labor support, they still do not exercise all critical manufacturing skills the arsenal is try- ing to retain, Peart added. “The importance of retaining our critical skill base can- not be overstated as each specialized manufacturing skill is essential to ensuring the long-term viability of the arsenal,” Peart said. The arsenal maintains 11 critical capabilities and or skill ‘Right’ defense contracts needed to support critical skill retention at Watervliet Great Story Placement in the Broader Army Top 10 story for the entire Army #1 Army Science & Technology Story Top 10 Assistant Secretary of the Army Story Top 10 Army story in North America Top 15 Inside the Army Story
  6. 6. Page 6 Salvo July 31, 2014 battles are won by logistics, so are production schedules Dan Belk, Mary Lahait, and Michael Hockenberry stepped into history when they became part of the great lineage of arsenal logisticians. Together, these three run the motor pool operations for more than 200 pieces of equipment. By John B. Snyder Story continues on page 7, Motor Pool Third Army’s Red Ball Express Operation will celebrate its 70th anniversary on August 25, which was a storied logistical achievement having moved more than 412,000 tons of supplies from the shores of Normandy to forward deployed combat troops in the First and Third Armies. The operation was created on Aug. 21, 1944, with the first trucks rolling four days later. On an average day, nearly 900 fully loaded vehicles moved more than five tons of gas, oil, ammunition, spare parts, and food along a treacherous 400-mile route. Nearly 75 percent of the drivers were young African-American Soldiers who at their peak delivered 12,342 tons a day to an American Army that had fought its way off the beach- es and was in hot pursuit of the German army. Of this historical feat, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said in a letter to the Red Ball Express team: “In any war, there are two tremendous tasks.  That of the combat troops is to fight the enemy.  That of the supply troops is to furnish all the material to insure victory.  The faster and farther the combat troops ad- vance against the foe, the greater becomes the battle of supply…So the Red Ball Line must continue the battle it is waging so well, with the knowledge that each truckload which goes through to the combat forces cannot help but bring victory closer.” The spirit of Eisenhower’s thoughts regarding just how important logistics are to the success of the war fighter has also been the same line of thought and spirit at the historic Watervliet Arsenal. From the Battle of New Orleans to the battle of Kandahar Val- ley, arsenal products have helped hundreds of thou- sands of U.S. troops to come home safe from battle by providing them the products that have either made them more lethal or safer. And in a much smaller scale, the internal logistics operations at Watervliet also create an environment that facilitates the successful manufacturing of tank and artillery cannons, as well as that of 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortar systems, for U.S. and foreign militaries. The arsenal motor pool team of three is responsible for more than 200 line items of equipment that require dispatching, licensing, refueling, maintenance and light repair. The scope of this task ranges from main- taining an 80-ton crane for the manufacturing center to repairing a lawn mower for public works. Mary Lahait, Dan Belk, and Michael Hockenberry have a magical chemistry between them that allows them Photos by John B. Snyder & Wikipedia
  7. 7. Page 7 Salvo July 31, 2014 Motor Pool Cont. Top: Michael Hocken- berry adding oil to one of hundreds of pieces of equipment that he helps maintain. Bottom: Dan Belk troubleshooting and repairing one of the larger grass-cutting mowers. From cranes to leaf blowers, Belk’s and Hockenberry’s mechanical skills are challenged every day. Photos by John B. Snyder to face what some would believe is a daily insurmount- able task with a sense of humor and a strong can-do attitude. Lahait, as the transportation assistant, is the office ram- rod who manages the dispatching, licensing, work orders, and anything else that it takes to track and coordinate maintenance and repair of the equipment. Belk and Hockenberry, both militaryVeterans, are the wrench turners who on any given day have a large mo- tor pool filled with equipment ready for maintenance, troubleshooting, or for minor repair, such as replacing hydraulic pumps and alternators. “We come in each day with a plan thought out and tasks prioritized,” Belk said. “But just like in war no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.” The enemy in Belk’s case is the shear scope of well- used equipment that can be as fickle to plan maintenance for as the seasons in which they operate. According to Hockenberry, if it wasn’t for the fact that 43 vehicles belong to the General Services Administra- tion fleet, there would be no way for the small motor pool operation to stay on top of critical maintenance. GSA, through its leasing program, frees the arsenal from having to purchase vehicles, such as four-door sedans and five-ton dump trucks, or provide maintenance and repair for the vehicles. If a GSA vehicle is ready for a scheduled maintenance, such as an oil change, all the arsenal has to do is take the vehicle to a local car dealer- ship that is approved by GSA. Nevertheless, Belk added that the arsenal’s GSA fleet still requires a significant amount of his time. “If all I had to do every day was to repair equipment and vehicles, my day wouldn’t be too bad,” Belk said. “But even with GSA vehicles I still have to diagnose the maintenance problem, coordinate with a vendor, and then get the vehicle to the vendor for repair.” Belk said that nearly half of his time each day is not repairing or conducting maintenance, but performing administrative work that is required for each piece of equipment. In their spare time, Lahait, Belk, and Hockenberry are also part of the arsenal’s snow removal team. When there is a shortage of drivers, Belk and Hockenberry also drive gun trucks. While Lahait, Belk, and Hockenberry struggle to keep their magical relationship, as well as arsenal priorities, in tack, their efforts are not unappreciated. “Each day they make sure that the Arsenal keeps mov- ing, literally,” said Greg Stopera, the arsenal’s chief of the Logistics Management Division. “They fight an unwinna- ble battle against the chaotic nature of equipment failure and conflicting priorities, and do so with an unwavering sense of duty to the arsenal’s mission and commitment to their customers.” So, how do they keep their motivation up in an envi- ronment described by their boss as unwinnable? “We have become, just like the old Army tagline, an army of one,” Lahait said. The importance of those who perform logistics can- not be overstated. From the days of Alexander the Great to General Patton’s Red Ball Express to the motor pool operation at Watervliet, logisticians’ place in the annuals of history books is well documented. After all, there would not be 200 years of arsenal history if it wasn’t for the eight generations of logistical workers, such as Lahait, Belk, and Hockenberry, who have through the years quietly accepted and accomplished all missions even when it may have seemed that their challenges were insurmountable.
  8. 8. In President Barack Obama’s January 2009 Inau- gural Address, he spoke some about those who have made America great. He talked about how the greatness of our nation is never a given, as it has been earned by those who never were one to take short-cuts or to settling for anything less.  He talked about the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women who were ob- scure in their labor. And if the President ever visited Watervliet, he would not need to change his speech be- cause the arsenal has a rich history of risk- takers, doers, makers of things, and especially, those obscure men and women who have not settled for any- thing less than greatness. Arsenal Machinist Frank Taylor is one of those great Americans that President Obama talked about. Although Frank shies away from any accolades of his machining skills, the fact remains he is the senior machinist at the arsenal and everyone knows that even if Frank does not welcome that fact. From apprentice to the Chief of Manufacturing, Frank is revered as the most knowledgeable machinist at the arsenal today. Bill Dingmon, the arsenal’s chief of manufacturing has this to say about Frank. “Frank and I worked together in prototype for more years than I’d like to recall. In all those years, he tops all other machinists and toolmakers on my list of the most admired and respected. Through all the very dif- ficult projects we have worked, I can’t recall Frank ever making a mistake, his quality is impeccable. He has never refused any task given to him and has ac- complished all tasks with the utmost professionalism. Even today, he’s willing to help anyone who asks for his assistance with a great sense of duty and pride. In a few words, he is the best machinist that I have ever known.” Every morning at 6:05 a.m., this humble machinist walks into the major components production building and gets ready for his day of machining that starts at 7 a.m. This routine has not changed since he be- gan working at the arsenal in 1976. Frank is a quiet, humble sort of a guy who sits down every morning and works through his crossword puzzles before starting his day of work. But there is more to this scene than meets the eye. Although it is a simple fact that no supervisor has ever had to worry about Frank being on time, it is what Frank does when he is working through such challenges as a four-letter, across word for “Off one’s rocker” that brings great value to this routine. What Frank is actually doing at that table under the pretense Page 8 Salvo July 31, 2014 If there was a Machinist Hall of Fame, Frank Taylor’s name would be etched in history Story & Photo By John B. Snyder Story continues on page 9, Frank
  9. 9. Page 9 Salvo July 31, 2014 of finding words for puzzles is that he talks machining to anyone who will listen. And, many listen. When asked about his personal history, Frank breaks a smile on his weathered face. He has a great his- tory and he is proud to talk about it, but only after some prodding. Frank was drafted into the Army in 1964. After two years of service as a military policeman, Frank left the Army for greener pastures of hanging aluminum sid- ing and later building homes with his brother. When the green pastures turned brown, Frank learned about an ar- senal apprentice class starting. He applied and was accepted into the program. And for nearly 40 years, he has worked in the building that today houses the arsenal’s major components line. Frank prefers not to work on the computer-controlled machines and there is good reason. His mastery of legacy machines is an absolute wonder to watch. As long as the arsenal retains the non-computer controlled machines, his work is guaranteed. Anyone who has observed Frank in action will of- ten see him leaving his hand on the machine as it turns, leaning forward as if he is watching each revolution of the tool as it cuts through steel. Frank said he prefers working on the legacy machines versus the computer-numerically controlled machines because he likes to use all of his senses when he machines a part. “When I machine a part, I don’t assume anything.” Frank said. “I use my hearing, smell, touch, and sight to make each machining op- eration.” Frank likes to talk about some of the great machinists he has known through the years and rattled off their names as if they still worked alongside of him, such as Bill Dingmon. But his fondest memories of his nearly 40-year career were when he was on the prototype team that manufactured the first 120mm cannon system. Today, Frank is the “fix-it” man having now been the lead machinist for repair work in the major components building for nearly 15 years. And, he has no plans to retire as long as he can continue to be a valuable team member. Given his stature as a machinist, he will remain with the arsenal for a very long time. By the way, Frank said that he has made one mistake in his career and that one mistake will haunt him until he dies. For all the dedicated, tenured work that Frank has provided to the arsenal and to our Army, he is very deserving to be highlighted as this month’s Face of Strength. As the type of American who President Obama spoke about in 2009, Frank has truly helped make our Soldiers great and our country greater. Frank Cont. Always something new at the Arsenal's Exchange Remember...a portion of the profits is returned back to the Arsenal to support MWR facilities and events
  10. 10. Page 9 Salvo July 31, 2014 CPAC - Civilian Personnel Advisory Center Annual Leave – Maximum Accumulation Many full-time Federal employees earn 30 days of annual leave per leave year and are allowed to carry-over into the next leave year a maximum of up to 30 days or 240 hours. There are times when full-time employees are allowed to accumulate 45 days of annual leave and carry-over up to that amount into the next leave year. The most common situation for Army civilians is when serving overseas. What may not be so commonly known is that employees who served overseas and return to CONUS are permitted to maintain their maximum leave accumulation of 45 days until such time as their leave balance reaches 240. When does the leave year start and end? For a chart depicting the starting and ending leave year dates, to include the date for scheduling use or lose, go to the OPM pay leave administration section. The direct link is: leave-administration/fact-sheets/leave-yearbeginning-and-ending-dates/. A leave year begins on the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in a calendar year. A leave year ends on the day immediately before the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in the following calendar year. Dates for the next few years are provided below: Date for Leave Year Leave Year Scheduling “Use or Lose” Leave Year Beginning Date Ending Date Annual Leave 2014 January 12, 2014 January 10, 2015 November 29, 2014 2015 January 11, 2015 January 9, 2016 November 28, 2015 2016 January 10, 2016 January 7, 2017 November 26, 2016
  11. 11. Page 11 Salvo July 31, 2014 Shutdown? Photos by John B. Snyder
  12. 12. Page 12 Salvo July 31, 2014