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U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal's June 2014 newsletter: The Salvo


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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. The lead story is about the importance apprentices have on the arsenal's long-term viability.

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U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal's June 2014 newsletter: The Salvo

  1. 1. Vol. 14, No. 6 U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal June 30, 2014 If there was ever a time for apprentices to step up to the challenge, now may be that time Story on Page 3 THE SALVO Second-Year Apprentice Jeremy Brackett
  2. 2. Page 2 Salvo June 30, 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 Each year, the Arsenal leadership sets aside a one- week period when manufacturing stops or slows down to accommodate summer vacation plans. For this year, the shutdown period will be from 28 July to 1 August. We shut down for several reasons: So the Arsenal does not have a surge of vacationers at an inopportune time during the summer months and; the time also provides us an opportunity to conduct critical, focused maintenance without impeding manufacturing delivery schedules. The term “shutdown” may be a little misleading because we will still have limited manufacturing operations being conducted, as well as more than 50 percent of the workforce still at work during the week. Additionally, for those who will be involved in maintenance operations, you will soon find that our focus on maintenance actually ramps up and does not slow down or shut down. It will be an extremely busy week. Suffice it for me to say that this week is a critical, important period for us and I need everyone to accomplish all annual shutdown goals. In July, the arsenal will be a very busy place in regards to visitors. Army senior leaders, from the AMC Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion to new TACOM LCMC Commander Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham (in photo), will visit the arsenal. Maj. Gen. Bingham assumed command of TACOM on June 25. This will be the first visit to Watervliet by either of the two general officers. In addition to Army senior leaders visiting in July, we will host weapon program managers and key leaders from such organizations as the Defense Logistics Agency. The purpose of all this activity is for them to learn more about the arsenal’s capabilities and capacity, as well as to develop strategies that may bring workload to the arsenal in fiscal years 2015 and 2016. My summer column would not be complete if I did not talk about safety. We recently conducted a great Safety Stand-Down Day on June 4 that better educated you on personal and workplace safety. As you heard that day, and have often heard, safety awareness must be thought about and practiced every day. So, please be safe in all that you do. You are too important to our mission to lose.
  3. 3. Arsenal Apprentices The strength of the their Mettle will soon be tested Page 3 Salvo June 30, 2014 One of the critical aspects to an apprentice’s training is his or her relationship with the program supervisor. Arsenal Toolmaker and Apprentice Program Supervisor Terry Van Vranken, r, discusses with Apprentice Tim Lever the table of pre-set tools that will be used for the manufacture of 155mm howitzer products. Apprentices rotate through various manufacturing centers during their four-years of training to ensure that when they graduate they will be able to work on any production task. Photo by John B. Snyder By John B. Snyder Story continues on page 4, Apprentice The Watervliet Arsenal's apprentice program has since 1905 produced some of the finest machinists in the country. But despite such a legacy, today's apprentices may face a burden that their predecessors may not have experienced. For more than 100 years, the apprentices have helped build the 16-inch cannons that once graced America's battleships during World War II to manufacturing engineer bridges for U.S. troops who were fighting in Vietnam. But given an era of fiscal uncertainty in today's defense budget process, the challenge that apprentices face today may be unprecedented as they must be more adaptable and responsive than their predecessors to ensure that the arse- nal retains its critical skill base. The arsenal's workforce has ridden the ebbs and flows of military budgets since the War of 1812. As wars ramp up, the demand for the large caliber manufacturing rises in direct proportion to the urgent needs of our war fight- ers. When wars wind down, the demand for the arsenal's products decreases almost as fast as the troop withdrawal. As demand decreases, so often does the size of the arsenal's workforce. During World War II, the arsenal's workforce peaked at more than 9,300 employees. By the end of the war, the arsenal was down to 1,756 employees. Prior to the first Gulf War in 1991, the arsenal had nearly 2,000 employees.
  4. 4. Page 4 Salvo June 30, 2014 Apprentice Cont. Story continues on page 5, Apprentice By 2002, the numbers were below 500. When simultaneous combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were ongoing just a few years ago, the arsenal's work- force numbered nearly 640. Today, the arsenal stands at just over 500. Someone who simply looks at per- sonnel numbers, however, may arrive at a false sense of the level of capability and capacity the arsenal has to support the war fighter. Although the arsenal stands at just over 500 personnel, it does not mean the arsenal cannot provide full- spectrum manufacturing support as it did just a few years ago ̶ because it must. Which leads to why the arsenal leadership does not look so much at the numbers of machinists, but in the level of critical skills, in essence capability, as well as the capacity the arsenal retains at any one time. Although the arsenal has only 85 machinists today, they still must provide the same machining capabil- ity as when their numbers were significantly higher just a few years ago. After all, the Army leadership expects the arsenal to manufacture cannons for tanks and for howitzer systems, as well as tubes and associated parts for the 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortar systems. Those are the arsenal's core missions and have been since 1887. Today's low personnel numbers, which are driven by lower workload requirements, have implications. If the arsenal wishes to ensure its long-term viability, it must quickly adapt to make certain that it retains the critical ca- pabilities to support the needs of the war fighter regardless the size of its workforce. One way the arsenal is adapting today is by bringing on line more computer-numerically controlled machines. Nearly $26 million in new capability will be brought on line this year and many of the new machines will perform multiple operations, whereas the former machines may have been able to perform only one operation. This allows for a significant reduction in set-up time for a machinist. As important as new machinery is to the arsenal's long- term viability, so too is the increased scope of responsibili- ties for the arsenal's future machinists. The days of special- izing in just a few operations of a product line for years is over as today's apprentices will be expected to work a variety of operations on several product lines to make up for fewer machinists on the arsenal's production floors. The bottom line is that apprentices must be part of the solution as to how the arsenal retains an adequate level of critical skills despite the reduction in personnel that it has experienced in recent years. Terry Van Vranken, the arsenal's apprentice program supervisor, said that today's apprentices, who number 14, must be able to run any one of the 600 machines that reside on the arsenal upon their graduation from the program. Van Vranken has looked into the future and said that he does not believe the workforce will grow much in size beyond the current manning levels and so, he is challenging his apprentices to do more than was required of apprentices when he was in the program 10 years ago. "Even with a smaller workforce, we still need to retain the critical skills to manufacture large caliber weapon systems and their component parts," Van Vranken said. "After all, soldiers don't care if the arsenal has 500 or 1,000 workers as long as they get a high-quality artillery or tank cannon on time." Van Vranken said that by the end of the first year of training, today's apprentices were already machining products with little direct supervision. And, by the end of their fourth year, the apprentices will not only be ma- chining complex operations independently, they will also be charged with training senior machinists on advanced machining. Arsenal Apprentice Colin McCarthy, top, and Machinist Wayne Pelletier are testing a new CNC machine before it is approved for production. Apprentices often team up with an expe- rienced machinist. Photo by John B. Snyder
  5. 5. Page 5 Salvo June 30, 2014 Apprentices James Nowell, left, and Nathan Coryea are working in two of the major areas of training. Nowell is working on the major components produc- tion line, while Coryea is working in the tool room. Every few months, the appren- tices rotate through various arsenal manu- facturing centers, from the tool room to majors to minors to tubes and to quality control. Photos by John B. Snyder Apprentice Cont. James Nowell and Jeremy Brackett are two apprentices who are in their second year of the four-year program. Despite their short tenure, it seems that they fully grasp the awesome responsibility that is about to bestowed on them. Nowell, who grew up just outside the arsenal's fence line, said he loves the challenges that are now being af- forded to him as an apprentice. "We understand that as the workforce numbers decline that we must take on more responsibility, accomplish more, and be ready to machine to tight tolerances on any one of the 600 machines at the arsenal," Nowell said. "I fully understand that upon graduation, where I machine on the arsenal isn't so much about where I want to go, but what the Army needs me to do, and I accept that." Brackett said that he has always been mechanically in- clined and took that passion into the U.S. Navy where he served five years on active duty as an aviation mechanic. Armed with military experience and a natural mechanical ability, becoming a machinist has turned out to be a win- win situation for him and for the arsenal. "The hiring for our apprentice class was exceptional because the 14 guys who are currently in the program are similar to me in that they have strong mechanical back- grounds," Brackett said. "I feel pretty good that we will meet the challenge upon graduation because we are al- ready doing machining operations that are more complex than where we should be in the program." Given the continued fiscal uncertainty in the defense budget due to sequestration ̶ which caused the appren- tices to be furloughed in their first year in the program ̶ one might think that keeping these apprentices motivated to stick it out with the Army would be a challenge. But, according to fellow apprentice, Colin McCarthy, that does not seem to be the case. "Yes, furloughs financially hurt us because many of us gave up better paying jobs to become an Army appren- tice," McCarthy said. "But what makes our class so strong is that each of us has a high sense of personal motivation and a commitment to the arsenal and so, we will do well no matter the challenge." The arsenal leadership fully understands that critical capability isn't purely about numbers, because it is also about the skill level, experience, and adaptability that the remaining workforce has to meet the needs of our mili- tary. Nevertheless, the fact remains that numbers do influ- ence the long-term viability of the arsenal. The arsenal's only feeder program for talented machinists has only 14 apprentices. Those numbers mean something. The apprentices undergo a challenging 8,000 hours of hands-on training at the arsenal and four years of school- ing at the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. This current class is in its second year of the pro- gram and will graduate in August 2016.
  6. 6. Page 6 Salvo June 30, 2014 a professional force of firefighters who often go beyond the arsenal fence line rendering aid to the local com- munity by leveraging their critical skills and experience. They don’t do this for the pay. They do it for their sense of duty to their community as volunteers, just as Frank- lin did it in 1736. Whipple will never claim to have created any impact- ful innovation such as Franklin’s first volunteer fire company, but in his own right he still has made a signifi- cant impact to his community. Whipple has been a part of his local firehouse in up- state New York since he was 14 years old, when he joined the ambulance corps. Whipple said that he knew at 14 that firefighting was his passion and that firefighting would someday be his career. As soon as he turned 16, he immediately transi- tioned to a firefighter position and has remained a volun- teer fireman since that day. After high school, Whipple joined the U.S. Air Force and for the next four years he perfected his firefighting skills at Fort Monmouth, N.J. Upon his discharge, he re- turned to volunteer firefighting with the Rock City Falls, N.Y., department. Although Rock City Falls may sound like a small-fire department, it handled more than 440 Who would have thought that arsenal Fire Chief John Whipple had something in common with Benjamin Franklin? He does, but before the kite jokes start fly- ing – ok, a poorly intended pun – let’s take a quick look at early American history before we lay judgment on Whipple. America’s first European settlement in Jamestown, Va., had more to worry about than scurvy, extremely cold winters, and insect-borne diseases. They also had to contend with a rudimentary wooden encampment that was heated by open fire pits. Anyone who has visited some of the recreated early settlements such as James- town or Salem, Mass., has learned that fire embers were often an arm’s length away from sleeping quarters and dining areas. Within the first year of the establishment of the Jamestown colony in 1607, more than half of the 105 set- tlers had died primarily due to starvation and disease. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the remaining survivors had to deal with a near-total destruction of the settle- ment due to a fire in 1608. As settlers continued to arrive in significant num- bers, small camps became towns and eventually cities in such places as Philadelphia and Boston. The material that was readily available for use in the construction of thatched-roofed homes, businesses, and government fa- cilities was wood. Having witnessed a terrible fire in Boston in the early 1700s and after a major fire in Philadelphia in 1736, Franklin’s hometown, Franklin leveraged his journalis- tic skills to create awareness in his community for an or- ganized fire fighting response. He is also credited as hav- ing established in Philadelphia the Union Fire Company, America’s first volunteer firefighting brigade, in 1736. A spirit of “volunteerism” is woven into the American fabric. From defending a neighbor’s farm to defending our country in battle, Americans have historically done what needs to be done and often without any mental reservation or hesitance. This is as true today as it was when our country was founded. Today, in an 1800s-era building on the arsenal, resides From Benjamin Franklin to Watervliet, the spirit of volunteerism is alive and well Assistant Fire Chief Kenneth Haviland as- sessing a simulated building fire during a recent community-wide training event. The training and experience the arsenal firefighters have is often leveraged by local communities who rely heavily on volunteer support. By John B. Snyder Story continues on page 7, Volunteer
  7. 7. Page 7 Salvo June 30, 2014 emergency service calls in 2013. Today, Whipple is on the Board of Fire Commissioners. As commendable as Whipple’s spirit of volunteerism is to the community, many of his fellow arsenal firefighters share Whip- ple’s enthusiasm toward protecting the local community. Arsenal Fire Captain Steve Mair has been a part of the arse- nal’s firefighting team since 1997. He, too, started his tenure as a firefighter when at 16 years old he joined the Westmoreland, N.Y., Fire Department. And, similar to Whipple’s career in firefighting, Mair joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school as a firefighter. The benefits to a local com- munity when one of the arsenal’s firefighters, as a volunteer to the local fire department, provides first responder training and aid must be immeasurable. That is, unless you count the lives saved or the property protected. On a quiet Tuesday afternoon last month, Mair and his wife were driving near Westmoreland on Route 5 when they saw what looked like a dust cloud by a house just up the road. As they got close to the house, Mair real- ized that it wasn’t dust that they were seeing but smoke coming out of the basement of a house. After pulling off to the side of the road, Mair had his wife call 911 while he went to the front porch to bang on the door to alert any residents who might have been in the home. He was soon met by a neighbor who helped him get two dogs out of the first floor apartment. It was a two- family home. Stepping back from the porch, Mair saw a woman on the second floor who seemed unaware that her house was on fire. He yelled for her to get out of the house im- mediately. When she still seemed confused, Mair rushed to the back of the house and ran up a staircase to the second floor as flames were now reaching the first floor apartment. He helped the women down the steps and escorted her safely out of the house. As the volunteer fire department arrived shortly after Mair escaped the fire with the house resident, he gave the fire chief a complete report about the fire and the status of resi- dents. Within three minutes of rescuing the woman, the house was fully engulfed with flames. On his own time and armed with decades of firefighting expe- rience, Mair was able to make a huge difference in the small com- munity of Westmoreland. Whipple, Mair, and nine other arsenal firefighters give freely of their time to local volunteer fire departments. Why do they do it? According to Whipple he vol- unteers because he enjoys helping people. “When people are experienc- ing one of their worst days in their lives, I know that I can make their lives just a little bit better,” Whipple said. Mair had a similar explanation. “This is what we do as profes- sional firefighters,” Mair said. “We are willing every day to risk our lives to save a life,” Mair said. Although no one may be able to truly measure the importance of having a well-trained firefighting force readily available at the arse- nal or within the community until a crisis or an emergency arises, suffice it to say that all bets are on the woman, who was saved on that Tuesday afternoon in May, would probably say that the importance is life changing. The “Franklin spirit” of volun- teer firefighters is alive and well in such places as Rock City Falls, Westmoreland, and in countless other communities throughout our nation. Every day in America, a life is saved or made better by the men and women who, like the arsenal firefighters, give freely of their time and experience to make their communities better by being a volunteer firefighter. Volunteer Cont. Top: Fire Chief John Whipple providing guidance during training. Center: Assistant Fire Chief Stephen Bogart, r, and Fire Captain Steve Mair take a blood sample from Machinist Larry Wood. Bottom: General Foreman Leon Rosko putting his training that Firefighter Luke Ryder just provided him to good use as he at- tempts to put out a simulated fire. The fire won. Photos by John B. Snyder
  8. 8. Page 8 Salvo June 30, 2014 Does it ever makes sense to shut down Army Manufacturing centers? Photo by John B. Snyder By John B. Snyder Arsenal Commander Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr. talking safety to the workforce at the end of the Safety Stand-Down Day on June 4, 2014. Anytime there is a significant pause in production at this Army- owned manufacturing center, reports are often prepared to alert higher headquarters of the incident that has stopped the critical manufacturing of weapon systems for our Soldiers. But not earlier this month. The arsenal turned off its machines and office lights on June 4 to rein- force workplace safety. There wasn’t an incident that directed the shut- down, as is sometimes the case at oth- er Army installations and commands, but a sense by the arsenal leadership that this time away from production was a sound investment for the future. Arsenal Commander Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr. said it was the right time to pause operations having just come off of a very long winter and prior to entering the summer months. “What was great about this month’s safety program is that it reflected some of the key lessons learned from the after action reviews that we do after every safety-related incident,” Schiller said. “So, this wasn’t a check-the-box type of a program because we worked on ar- eas that we know needed to be rein- forced.” Schiller said the training addressed more than workplace safety, such as sling-load and forklift operations; the training also sought to improve the workforce’s health and welfare. “We checked body fat, glucose, and blood pressure, as well as pro- vided information on proper eating habits,” Schiller said. “The wellbeing of my workforce is so important to our success that we are now working on a program that will help members of our team to quit smoking.” John Whipple, the arsenal’s fire chief who was manning the blood pressure station, said that his firefight- ers truly enjoy supporting the Safety Stand-Down Day. “We believe that there is great value in having a workforce who is trained to provide an immediate response to a threat to life or to prop- erty,” Whipple said. “Just about everyone has a fire extinguisher at home, but few have read the direc- tions or have trained themselves on how to use it.” When a fire can consume a build- ing in about three minutes, having people properly trained to use a fire extinguisher may be the difference between life or death. Although Schiller believes this month’s training was an investment in the future, there were some immedi- ate results coming from the wellness program. “It was good that we worked with the health clinic and the Morale, Wel- fare, and Recreation team because we discovered during our health checks that several individuals had glucose or blood pressure levels that were too high,” Whipple said. “We asked those people to check with their doc- tor at their first opportunity.” Having a day set aside as a Safety- Stand Down Day may be a misnomer, because safety is preached and prac- ticed every day at Watervliet. “This is an inherently dangerous business,” Schiller said. “We cannot afford to think about safety just once a year, and we don’t as evidenced by the awards for safety that we have won in recent years.” The arsenal earlier this year re- ceived the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff Safety Award for Industrial Operations. This was the third time in four years, and two years in a row, the Arsenal had been recognized by the Army’s senior lead- ers for its exceptional safety program and record.
  9. 9. Page 9 Salvo June 30, 2014 MILITARY SERVICE BUY BACK TOOL DFAS has created a "Military Service Earnings/Buy Back Estimator" tool to assist in estimat- ing the cost of buying back military time to apply towards an employee's civilian retirement. The tool is located on the DFAS website at: This tool will project estimated earnings and the estimated cost of buying back military ser- vice time. This will give employees an *unofficial* estimate of their military earnings and the estimated cost of buying back military service time in order to make the decision on whether or not to buy back the military time. If an employee chooses to pursue buying back the military time after using the estimator, they must still follow the steps outlined on the ABC-C website. If you have questions about buying back military time, you can contact the Army Benefits Center-Civilian (ABC-C) at telephone number 877-276-9287 or the Watervliet CPAC on exten- sion 4053 or 4058. CPAC - Civilian Personnel Advisory Center Paying back the community one drop at a time The arsenal conducted a blood drive on June 10-11 and during the course of those two days more than 130 units of blood were donated. In the photo to the right, Motor Vehicle Operator Richard Windham gets ready to donate, while Red Cross worker Ashley Domey is about to make the draw. Her co-worker, Steve Foster, jumped into the scene to steal Windham’s 15 seconds of fame. Fame doesn’t come easy at the arsenal and so, Foster was lucky that Windham is a very nice guy.
  10. 10. Page 10 Salvo June 30, 2014 The Arsenal’s Exchange: Providing continuous support via one customer at a time Frank Galbraith thought that when he ended his 10-year Army career in 2000 that the days of being separated from his family were over. They were not. Frank, who has since November 2012 managed the small Post Exchange on the arsenal, left his wife and five children in Germany due to the changing needs of service members and their families. Leaving families, especially when they are in a different country, is extremely difficult on Soldiers and their family members. Although Frank is no longer in the Army, the separation is no less painful to him or to his family. So it begs the ques- tion as to why he would put himself into such a predicament. After all, Frank certainly could have found another job outside of the Exchange in Germany because he had lived in Germany for nearly 20 years and had mastered the German lan- guage. Frank said it boils down to two key reasons. “When the United States began to reduce troop levels in Europe a few years ago many Army installations closed,” Frank said. “As Exchanges closed down, there were sim- ply no other opportunities to stay with the Exchange unless I came back to the United States.” “Secondly, I really like supporting our military, to in- clude the Department of the Army civilian employees,” Frank said. “There is no other job that I would like to do than to continue to support our military.” But Frank is just a part of this story. The Exchange prides itself on its ability to run its op- erations from 98 percent of the revenue it generates. To- day, “Exchange” is the new name for what many recall as AAFES. But more important, at least to the arsenal, is that about 40 percent of the arsenal’s Exchange profits are returned to the arsenal. For 2013, that meant that nearly $30,000 was provided back to the arsenal’s Morale, Welfare, and Recre- ation program. What did that $30,000 do for the arsenal? According to Dawn Whelan, the arsenal’s MWR busi- ness manager, the Exchange has through the years sup- ported several improvements to the arsenal’s fitness center, swimming pool, playground area, and Cannon Club. To maintain a healthy level of support for arsenal MWR programs, Frank and his coworkers Linda Dennett, Dave Carmel, and Tonya Day must optimize product and service offerings to keep shop- pers coming to their store. Frank said the key to the Exchange’s future success lies in the 1,300 workers who drive in and out of the arsenal every day. “To ensure that we continue to provide great support to the MWR pro- gram, we need to increase our foot traffic who will buy such things as ready- made sandwiches, gift cards, and personal comfort items,” Frank said. “Anyone who works on the arsenal can shop at the Exchange and the only restrictions are that they need to be in the military or retired from the military to buy alcohol and tobacco products. Everything else is fair game.” So, if you have enjoyed the improvements to our fitness center, swimming pool, playground area, and our Cannon Club in previous years, visiting our Exchange may go a long way towards seeing similar improvements in the fu- ture. Frank and his team have not only provided great support to the arsenal workforce, they have done so under some very personal and professional trying times. For the service that they provide and the great attitude they showcase daily, our Exchange team is worthy to be called the Arsenal’s Face of Strength for this month.
  11. 11. Page 11 Salvo June 30, 2014 Arsenal Appreciation Night with the ValleyCats Saturday, 2 August at 7 p.m. • The arsenal has coordinated with the Tri-City ValleyCats baseball organization for the 6th Annual Arsenal Appreciation Night. • Game is on Saturday, 2 August, at 7 p.m. • Department of the Army Civilians and arsenal family members may purchase a "Reserved Box" ticket for only $5.50 (42% discount). These are great seats in Section 250. • All Military Veterans will still receive a free ticket. • You may also purchase a reduced meal voucher for only $3.50 This voucher is good for one hot dog, small soda, and a bag of chips. Contact John Snyder in Room 102 Building 10 (266-5055) or Melissa Ryder at the Body Forge (266-4829) for Tickets!!! Ticket sales begin on July 8th Photos by John B. Snyder
  12. 12. Page 12 Salvo June 30, 2014