Pantex Blog

Working with dad

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2024 - 08:36

Pantexan father and daughter, David and Madison
Pantexan father and daughter, David and Madison, share that the best part of working together is getting to see each other throughout the day.

June is the month to celebrate the fathers in our lives. Some lucky employees have the privilege of working with their fathers on‑site.

Meet Pantexans David and Madison L., father and daughter.

As a technical specialist in Process Engineering, Madison has the opportunity to see and work with her dad on a frequent basis.

“We see each other a lot since we work in the same wing of the JCDC, and we carpool to work,” said David, who is a senior specialist in Nuclear Explosive Safety. “Our roles also intersect. Being a technical specialist, she sends us [Nuclear Explosive Safety] procedures to review.”

Madison, who started at Pantex in December 2022, says her dad has always been the best role model, and she hopes to live up to the reputation that he has made for himself over the course of his 30-year career at Pantex.

“He has taught me to never give up whether in school or just in general,” Madison said. “That has helped me persevere to get to where I am today. He has shown me how to treat others no matter what environment I’m in, and that I should always be respectful and kind.”

For David, his proudest moments as a father are representative of the example he’s set for his daughter.

“Madison is a very kind and generous person with a big heart. My first proudest moment was watching her being baptized and second when she graduated from Texas Tech University in 3 years,” David said. “It showed her determination and desire to reach her goals.”


Protecting personnel and property for the mission

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2024 - 10:42

Carlos G., fire protection engineer, conducts a monthly prevention check on equipment.
Carlos G., fire protection engineer, conducts a monthly prevention check on equipment.

With approximately 500 facilities at Pantex and more than 400 at Y-12, protecting the lives and property inside each building is an essential job. Fire protection engineers work daily to ensure the safety of personnel and property.

“With Pantex being the primary nuclear weapons plant, a fire in a nuclear or explosive facility would cause a huge impact to the nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies,” said Justin H., Pantex Fire Protection Engineering manager. “A fire could cause an explosion, contamination, or worse, the loss of life.”

Justin’s Y-12 counterpart, Jake G., echoed the importance of mitigating fire dangers.

“In addition to the off-site release concerns associated with a fire, any major fire at the site could cause an extended shutdown,” said Jake, Y-12 Fire Protection Engineering manager. “Understanding the potential consequences of a major fire and the associated impact to not only the site but the employees is how I feel I contribute to the overall mission of Y-12.”

Fire protection engineers serve as the technical authority on fire protection–related items. They also review combustibles that are present in nuclear facilities, perform fire modeling, and review procedures to verify that all operations are implementing fire safety controls.

“Knowing that my job directly protects my Pantex coworkers by ensuring their safety as well as the safety of the surrounding community is very rewarding,” said Fire Protection Engineer, Carlos G.

Only a handful of universities offer fire protection engineering degrees. Justin, Jake, and Carlos all earned their degrees at Oklahoma State University where, in addition to the regular curriculum of math and science courses, they worked hands-on in fire labs.

“I interviewed with Pantex at the OSU career fair and accepted an offer a couple of months before graduating. I knew it would be a one-of-a-kind experience and opportunity,” Carlos said. “I had also heard great things from friends and previous classmates who had been hired on before me. I have been a proud Pantexan for 4 1/2 years.”

It is easy for anyone to get bogged down in the daily grind, but at the end of the day, remembering how the work impacts the overall mission is rewarding.

“My favorite part of the job is being able to assist in solving issues associated with the unique and one-of-a-kind processes, equipment, and hazards that we have at Y-12,” Jake said.

Justin shares similar sentiments with Jake and other Fire Protection Engineering colleagues. Each voiced a selfless dedication to the wellbeing of their sites and the people who work there.

“It is gratifying when you take a step back and think about how Pantex is a place in the Nuclear Security Enterprise that deters other countries from using nuclear weapons,” Justin said. “Knowing you have played a role in that mission is rewarding.”

The Burlington-Pantex Transfer

Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2024 - 08:23

This historic image shows a building at Burlington under construction in 1957. The work at the Iowa facility was transferred to Pantex in 1974.
This historic image shows a building at Burlington under construction in 1957. The work at the Iowa facility was transferred to Pantex in 1974.

The early 1970s was a tumultuous time, with the Vietnam War raging and major political upheaval. Americans were struggling with the rising cost of living and a looming gas crisis. The Cold War was still in full swing, and the facilities that actively participated in ensuring the United States’ nuclear security were numerous.

At the time, there were about 30 places that had a role in the work; today less than 10 facilities make up the Nuclear Security Enterprise, including Pantex and Y-12.

At the time, a factory at Burlington, Iowa, was doing assembly and disassembly work, and that site was chosen to be closed and consolidated.

Fifty years ago this year, the mission performed at Burlington was in the process of being moved to Pantex. At the time, both facilities were managed by Mason & Hanger.

“The government did a study to look at cutting costs and consolidate the work into a couple of plants, instead of having it spread around,” said employee Katie P. “One of the reasons Pantex was chosen is it would have cost $30 million in 1974 money to move the work Pantex did up to Burlington, but only $10 million to move the work done at Burlington down here.”

Some of the other advantages that Pantex had were adequate space, updated facilities, better weather, and a larger nearby city—as well as a major advocate in the form of John C. Drummond, for whom the flagship office building at the facility is now named.

Employees made the move in 1974, and among them was Harvey B., who continues to work at Pantex.

Harvey began working at Burlington shortly after graduating college, and met his wife there. Once they made the move to Pantex, a local employee tried to help them get settled in to their new home.

“He gave us a local tour, took us to Lake Meredith. He was proud of this area,” Harvey remembered. “It was different. My wife grew up with trees. Down here, if you want one, you have to plant it. We got home, and [my wife] said, ‘It looked to me like the moon.’”

Today, Pantex is preparing for more change as its management and operating contractor is set to be changed this year. One of the enduring truths at Pantex is the need to adapt to change while continuing to perform the mission without missing a beat.

“Fifty years ago, our mission we still carry out today really got consolidated,” Katie said. “It was a time of change, not only for the U.S., but also for people locally.

“Now, instead of consolidating, we’re growing, getting more duties and getting new people who are becoming part of our family and our culture,” she continued. “We have endured change before, but now we’re in a new era. There is a lot of stuff going on. It’s a different time, but a similar story of change happening then and now.”

Plants may be rich in wildlife, but employees should enjoy with caution

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2024 - 09:12

A pair of rattlesnakes warn off what they perceive as predators.
A pair of rattlesnakes warn off what they perceive as predators. Snakes like these are a common sight at Pantex, where the availability of prey and warm facilities prove inviting.

An employee replacing a Pantex air-handling unit in the ceiling felt something fall out of the ductwork onto his shoulder. Focused on his work, he brushed off the offending object…only to glance down and realize he’d just swiped away a garter snake.

Thankfully, the creature was nonvenomous, and no employees were harmed. However, that doesn’t change the fact that at Pantex, the potential to encounter wildlife—including some creatures that are potentially hazardous to humans—is an everyday reality.

At Pantex, rattlesnakes are the proverbial king of wildlife encounters, with 22 calls in 2023. Along with many other reports, an additional 38 calls reported various other species of snakes, and another 19 calls reported skunks.

“Sometimes, we’ll catch other things when trying to catch a skunk,” explained Environmental Safety & Health Generalist Katie P. “We have gotten some feral cats before. When we get cats in, we take them to the City of Amarillo, and they put them in their barn cat program, where they can be adopted by a farmer and live out a happy life chasing mice and such as that.”

The site is also seeing a boom in other wildlife populations.

“We are starting to see more deer, more pronghorn, more coyotes,” explained Pantex Wildlife Biologist Kevin B.

He cautioned employees against feeding or creating any condition that might invite a wild animal to enter an area where they should not be. The outcome, he warned, could not only create a hazard for employees but also prove tragic for the animal itself.

“They are not your pet dog,” Kevin said. “You are not helping the animal; in fact, you are hurting the animal because they are more likely to come in … and we have to deal with that.”

Pantex employees who see dangerous wildlife or wildlife acting strangely should call the site’s Operations Center. Their first duty, though, is to ensure their own safety and the safety of those around them.

“If you run across a predator-type animal and it’s acting aggressively,” Kevin said, “don’t try to approach it, but still keep an eye on it until one of our team gets there.”

A pair of mule deer cross a Pantex road that divides grazing areas.
A pair of mule deer cross a Pantex road that divides grazing areas.


Armed Forces Day – Families serve too

Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2024 - 10:03

Michele M., Thomas H., and Felecia B. share photos of their family members currently serving in the Armed Forces
Michele M., Thomas H., and Felecia B. share photos of their family members currently serving in the Armed Forces.

Pantex Emergency Preparedness Specialist Felecia B. has always known that Pantex played a vital role in the nation’s safety and security, but it wasn’t until her daughter joined the U.S. Air Force that the site’s mission truly resonated with her.

“I have always believed in our mission, but now, after my daughter has been to 5 duty locations, 2 deployments to the Middle East, and over 20 countries, I know that what we do here directly impacts the protection of our nation, our allies, and our military members stationed around the world,” Felecia said.

Felecia’s daughter, Sergeant Katelyn V., is now stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is one of the many family members of Pantex and Y-12 employees serving in the nation’s military. As Armed Forces Day is celebrated, the military families of Pantex and Y-12 provide a clear and tangible link to the important missions of the sites but also a unique set of challenges…and worries.

Being part of a military family has challenges and benefits unique to military service. As a U.S. Army veteran myself, I know well that servicemembers give up a lot of freedoms to protect our nation, but so do the families supporting them. These families are often unrecognized for their role in service to the nation. They often don’t have a choice regarding where they will live and work.

The servicemember is deployed for months at a time, leaving the family behind to deal with the home front.

“We never realized how much those in the military sacrifice, along with their families, until now,” Felecia said. “We had taken for granted all of the family gatherings or special occasions that our daughter would now be unable to attend.”

Pantex Procurement Engineer Thomas H. has two sons and a daughter-in-law serving in three different locations, and, while he’s proud they are serving their country, he misses the time he gets to spend with them.

“Life from the aspect of military commitment means that the relationships are carried through phone and online communication,” Thomas said. “We sacrifice a lot of free-range visits for the schedule that is set by the military. If we’re lucky, the Air Force and Army block-leave assignments allow us to have everybody together at once, but most of the time, we only get a week with each of them –– once in the summer and once in the winter/holiday season.”

That longing for togetherness as well as concerns for safety are heightened when the servicemember is deployed to a combat environment. The uneasiness of whether or not you’ll see a loved one again never really leaves the mind.

“The most challenging part of being a military family is when the servicemember gets deployed to a remote location and communicating is very limited,” said Lisa H., information specialist in CNS Communications at Y-12. “This is especially challenging when the remote location is in a war zone. When your family member is away, you try to keep busy with day-to-day challenges of life, but your mind is always on the one deployed.”

Those extended deployments can stress the family environment, but they also create opportunities.

Rose R. stands with her husband, Major Brennan R., at his promotion ceremony.
Rose R. stands with her husband, Major Brennan R., at his promotion ceremony.

“Deployments will change your spouse, cause your kids to grow up too fast, stress your marriage, and provide an amazing opportunity for growth,” said Michele M., Pantex Performance Excellence Disciplined Operations lead. “Through my husband's military obligations of weekend drills, schools, and deployments, I have grown into a stronger person. I learned to balance keeping a household going, working a full-time job, meeting the varied demands of four kids, continuing my education, and taking care of myself.”

Rose R., Y-12 administrative assistant for Nuclear Safety, describes her life as an adventure.

“Being a military family is different to lives as nonmilitary families, as expectations for your level of flexibility and resiliency are much higher than in regular civilian life” Rose said. “We have moved 7 times in the past 14 years to places like Vicenza, Italy; Tunis, Tunisia; and my husband is currently stationed in Bamako, Mali. It can be difficult to plant deep roots anywhere, but you have roots far and wide, across the U.S. or the world, wherever your posts may be.”

Like their active-duty counterparts, many military families develop deep bonds with other families they’ve been stationed with.

“Your military friends and associates become your family members, especially when serving overseas,” Lisa said. “You are in a small, remote group with the same purpose. They are family you will always maintain contact with, just as you would your immediate family. If you need help, your ‘family’ will be the ones there to assist.”

The bond that military family members who work at Pantex and Y-12 share with the armed forces also strengthens their sense of pride to be a part of the sites’ missions, knowing the work they do directly affects their servicemembers’ lives.

Thomas stated, “My job at Pantex ties me to a deeper sense of patriotism than I had before because I did not serve in the military, nor did my father. I have a deeper understanding knowing that what we do ends up in the hands of the generation I took part in raising to go forward and protect the world. That connection, and the opportunity that Pantex provides for them as a career option once their enlistment completes, gives me great pride in what I do.”

As both seen and unseen sacrifices continue to be made daily for the protection of our nation, Pantex and Y-12 would like to say “thank you” to all active servicemembers, veterans, and military families for all they have given in service to this country.