While most people spent the Saturday before Thanksgiving packing for a road trip or grocery shopping for the big meal, a group of Pantexans spent the day lending a hand in the Amarillo community. For the eighth year in a row, they teamed up with the Hilltop Senior Citizen Association to offer a holiday meal to homeless and low-income families.
Pantexans Lisa Fajardo, left, and Amber Burnam serve drinks during the Hilltop Thanksgiving lunch.
“I really enjoyed the chance to give back to the community and meet new people,” said Amber Burnam, a business services analyst in Ethics and Employee Concerns.”
Nearly 500 HSCA guests enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving feast sponsored by CNS. Volunteers also delivered meals to about 40 homebound seniors.
Pantex volunteers, including some family members, were joined by the Potter County Deputy Sheriff Association and a host of other community volunteers.
Human Resources Business Partner Clarissa Baker said, “My mother and I volunteered and had an awesome time. It was fun working with coworkers in a totally different setting and making new friends. Both of us were very blessed to have been able to participate.”
Since 1974, the Hilltop Senior Citizen Association has offered entertainment, educational opportunities, and outings to seniors primarily in the north Amarillo area. Clara Westmoreland, executive director, stressed the importance of the holiday meal to many of their senior members on fixed incomes and low-income families living near the center.
“For some, this is the only Thanksgiving meal they will have,” said Westmoreland.
She said the need is so great in the neighborhood that HSCA volunteers have begun serving hot meals for the neighborhood children, as part of the High Plains Food Bank’s KidsCafe program.
All of the Pantex volunteers, from the servers to dishwashers, expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to serve and their desires to return again.
Burnam said, “Everyone was so appreciative and it was a great experience. I look forward to doing it again next year.”
Ask a Pantexan to help and often the reply is, “Tell me when and where.” Recently, the High Plains Food Bank in Amarillo benefitted from Pantexans’ giving hearts. A team of about 40 Pantexans and their family members packed food boxes alongside other community volunteers.
Pantexan Robin McLaurin volunteers her time to pack a food box for the High Plains Food Bank.
The High Plains Food Bank provides food boxes for families who live in areas of the Texas Panhandle that do not have food pantries or partner agencies that provide hot meals with goods from the food bank. The food bank distributes about 1,200 boxes monthly. The Pantex team helped pack 456 boxes, which are shipped out almost as quickly as they are packed. While this event supported the food bank, the volunteers also benefited.
“Packing boxes to feed the less fortunate is a great way to give back to the community. It’s amazing how many communities that the Food Bank provides for especially since they were short in donations this year,” said Pantexan Patti Knipp.
Chelsey Westfall brought her family to help. “I’m so glad that my children and I got the opportunity to make a difference for somebody in need by helping pack food boxes for the High Plains Food bank. Hunger is everybody’s problem, and those of us who are able should all help out wherever we can,” she said.
Pantexans Megan Reed, left, and Laura Bailey, joined Pantex Site Manager Michelle Reichert, right, in presenting a donation to Zach Wilson, HPFB executive director.
CNS and the Metal Trades Council also recently joined forces to provide a donation to the High Plains Food Bank just in time for Thanksgiving. Zach Wilson, HPFB executive director, said the requests for food have greatly increased this year while donations have decreased, leaving a large gap. Michelle Reichert, CNS Vice President and Pantex Site Manager, teamed up with the MTC for a combined donation of $3,250 to help bridge the gap and meet the needs of the Texas Panhandle during the holidays.
And CNS recently served as a corporate sponsor during the High Plains Food Bank’s Together We Can food drive Dec. 7-12, providing 16,000 meals, which helped surpass the food bank’s 500,000 meal goal.
“CNS and MTC’s donations show that the company and employees support the Amarillo area and understand that the basic needs are the most important,” said Laura Bailey, Pantexan and High Plains Food Bank board member. “Hunger kills productivity and potential. Providing food helps people in our community to be healthy, active and more alert. This is especially necessary for children, who need to focus on schoolwork so that they can grow to be healthy, productive adults.”
About 50 local business leaders made the second of their two annual trips out to Pantex recently, getting the chance to go tour the plant that remains a mystery for some many local residents.
The organization that arranged for the trip, Leadership Amarillo and Canyon, has been going strong for almost 40 years, providing tours of businesses and industries throughout the region for 10 months out of the year.
Amarillo and Canyon business leaders in front of a replica of the first atomic bomb, Fat Man.
They kicked off the tour hearing from Pantex Site Manager Michelle Reichert followed by the history of the plant by Interim Historian Monty Schoenhals. Then the group loaded up in their tour bus and drove over to a replica of the first atomic bomb, dubbed “Fat Man,” where they got a group picture.
Over lunch, those on the tour say being out here and seeing this first hand helps remove the cloud of mystery that seems to hang over Pantex for most residents.
Jeremy Roark, Director of Surgical services at Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital says, “I get to put something physical with what you hear about in regard to Pantex. I overhear people talking about Pantex who come into BSA, and being here, gives us an association … it’s more of a reality than a mystery."
Technical Program coordinator for Amarillo College, Jerry Terry, agrees. “Being on the tour demystifies Pantex. It’s good to come out here and allows it to be something real for us.”
And if all goes according to plan, the next group of 50 new business leaders from the area should be touring their way through the front gate in about 6 months, excited to learn more about the plant.
Three Y-12 employees recently completed temporary assignments at Pantex. Y-12 engineers Sarah Cruise, Tucker Fritz and Damita Mason spent three months at Pantex supporting Process Engineering.
Y‑12 engineers Tucker Fritz, Sarah Cruise and Damita Mason (seated) accepted temporary assignments at Pantex. Shown with them are Pantex Engineering Manager Joe Papp and CNS Vice President of Engineering Mike Beck.
With extensive deliverables facing Pantex Process Engineering, Mission Engineering management started considering options to address the situation. Many in the engineering workforce were working extensive overtime, and the time-sensitive nature of many deliverables created an urgency to get support in place. Given the training and clearance requirements at Pantex and Y‑12, however, new engineers can’t be hired off the street and plugged into productive roles quickly, and that’s when the idea to send Y‑12ers to Pantex came up.
By early August, the engineers had accepted the new assignments, and, by month’s end, they were attending crash-course training at Pantex. While the three‑month assignment required sacrifices, among them leaving family and friends, all three embraced the chance to work at Pantex.
“I chose this opportunity to gain more in-depth and direct weapons experience, in addition to gaining a better understanding of how both Y‑12 and Pantex work together to meet the CNS mission,” Mason said. “I received positive feedback and a warm welcome from the process engineers and other personnel here.” Her assignment included preparing web-based documents for the upcoming 10‑year Nuclear Explosive Safety Study of the W87 program.
All of the engineers had the opportunity to support multiple weapons programs and learn about the tools and processes used to execute work at Pantex.
Cruise supported her Pantex team by locating information about calibration failures and design requirements document notifications. She also assisted process engineers with procedure writing, which involved trying out new tooling and interfacing with other teams.
“One of the main reasons I decided to take this opportunity was because I was really interested in seeing how the other half works and what they do. I thought it would be beneficial for me to get this experience early in my career at Y‑12,” Cruise, an engineer, said.
Cruise made a special sacrifice, having closed on her first home in Knoxville on Aug. 17, and reporting to work at Pantex one week later. Fortunately, she has family and friends to take care of her new place and even visit her in Texas. “We’ve had some fun times in Amarillo. Plus, we all made new friends here!”
Fritz also sees the experience as valuable to his career. “I felt that this was a great opportunity to learn more about CNS’s role in the Nuclear Weapons Complex,” he said. “The processes I have been exposed to involve the final product of our nation’s nuclear stockpile. This involvement really gives me an appreciation for our technical expertise as engineers and as a nation.”
Although Fritz would recommend such an assignment to other engineers, he admitted the experience did have a downside. “The worst part of this experience has been trying to figure out who will take care of my new puppy,” he said.
Fritz, Cruise and Mason helped CNS meet several deliverables that would have been in jeopardy without their timely assistance. “All of them jumped right in, came up to speed quickly and provided significantly beneficial support to several deliverables,” said Pantex Senior Process Engineering Manager Mike Brinson.
CNS has made remarkable progress in fire protection this year with 17 CNS employees earning certified fire protection specialist credentials by passing the CFPS exam administered by the National Fire Protection Association.
The exam is designed to test candidates’ knowledge and proficiency in protecting facilities from fire and is based on the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, which covers every aspect of fire protection. The certified employees work in various divisions of Mission Assurance; Mission Engineering; Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services; the Uranium Processing Facility and Y-12 Operations.
“Ensuring a high level of fire protection for our sites is critical. One way we can do this is by providing our staff with opportunities for continuing education and training, as well as professional certification. By becoming certified, these employees have demonstrated their commitment to fire protection and CNS,” said Y-12 Fire Protection Engineering Manager David Greer. “We were fortunate to have the exam review course and test given on site.”
For 15 of the candidates, the exam was given at New Hope Center specifically to accommodate Y-12 and UPF project employees. Typically, candidates must travel to an authorized testing center, but CNS arranged to have the test given on site because of the large number of candidates. CNS also offered employees the opportunity to attend an on-site exam review class, as well as the fire protection engineering courses offered through the University of Tennessee program.
Austin Smith had wanted to take the exam for a long time and appreciated the convenience of taking the test at New Hope Center. “On site testing was more appealing than taking the exam at a testing center. I didn’t have to schedule time to go to a testing center and take the test in a cramped, three foot cubicle,” he said.
Pantexans Russell Bainbridge and Tony Lance are other CNS employees who have earned the certified fire protection specialist credential. After completing all qualifications to become a licensed professional engineer last year, Bainbridge set his sights on becoming a CFPS at Lance’s encouragement. As graduates of Oklahoma State University’s fire protection program, both spent three months studying the CFPS material together during lunch in preparation for the exam, which Bainbridge described as “extremely complicated and hard.” In May, they traveled to Nashville for a CFPS exam review course, and that same week, both passed the exam. This past summer, Bainbridge took several UT fire protection engineering courses in Knoxville.
The 3-hour, 100 question, multiple-choice test was open book; however, the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook is two volumes of 3,500 pages divided into 211 chapters. “The exam asks anything and everything. You have to know how to navigate the handbook, and you have to know the nuts and bolts of fire protection,” said Smith, who studied at Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection and Safety after serving in the Navy. His internship at Y-12 led to a full-time position upon graduating, and he recently took four fire protection engineering courses at UT, as well as the CFPS exam review course.
Andrew Tinsley, who joined CNS in July, said, “I was taken aback by the test — it was tough. The book has so much information that if you don’t know the material you won’t know where to find it. I felt it was a great opportunity to demonstrate and validate our knowledge within the field.” Tinsley is a UT graduate who wrote his doctoral dissertation on structural engineering as it relates to fire. He taught fire protection courses at Eastern Kentucky University and served with a local volunteer fire department.
“This effort was a success for CNS and a benefit to the employees who participated. I’m proud of the fire protection staff who earned this credential and thrilled that we now have several certified fire protection specialists working throughout the plant in other roles. Fire education has been expanded at both of our operating plants, as well as at the UPF project, and a number of our staff has earned an internationally recognized qualification. This makes me confident that we will see dividends paid back in orders of magnitude over the investment,” said Ken Keith, director of Y-12 Engineering.