Always serving

  • Posted: Monday, May 15, 2023, 9:28 am

Pantexan Chafin H.
Chafin H. pulls double duty when it comes to serving others; he works at Pantex and is a lieutenant colonel (select) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Once a month, Chafin H. loads up his Suburban and points the truck north toward Colorado Springs.

Chafin is a project manager in Construction Projects at Pantex, but he’s also a lieutenant colonel (select) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. And while the trip usually takes about 6 hours and covers more than 350 miles, there’s not a lot of distance between the two missions he performs: National security is the priority.

“For U.S. veterans, a career at Pantex or Y-12 is a continued service to our nation. At no other time in history has our national security been under greater threat. By working at Pantex or Y-12, we help ensure the reliability of our nation’s greatest deterrence against authoritarian aggression—the U.S. nuclear triad,” said Chafin, who has been an instructor pilot in the Air Force Reserve for 8 years after 9 years of active duty service.

Pantex and Y-12 often are sought-after vocations for those who have or continue to serve in our armed forces. It’s no surprise that 29% of the Pantex workforce and 18% of the Y-12 workforce have former military experience.

Like Chafin, more than 30 remain active in the armed forces, often through the reserves, serving double duty for the nation.

“Serving in the military and working a full-time civilian job is tough and very busy,” said U.S. Navy Reservist and Y-12 Quality Technical Procedures Specialist Scott Bruneel. “We are always on the go, but most of us wouldn’t change a thing. I am very proud to have the opportunity to wear our nation’s uniform, but we are just regular people who have had the opportunity to help our country the best way we know how.”

Why I serve

“I choose to serve because I enjoy the people. I’ve been in 10 years now and have worked with a lot of really great people and have made some lifelong friends. I really enjoy being able to help my younger soldiers sort through life and grow into competent adults. A lot of these guys are 18 and fresh out of high school and don’t have a strong family support system. For some of them, the military is the closest thing they have had to a family. So being able to be that support system for them and help bridge the gap means a lot.” —Jonathan Craig

“I chose to serve for the community on which the military is built upon. The teamwork, adventure, and ability to learn something new drew me in to continue my education both far and wide.” —Allison Derthick

“The choice of military service is not for money. Military service pay is inadequate compared to civilian careers. The choice of military service is not for comfort. Military lifestyle can be brutal and terrifying with extended combat deployments. I chose military service at age 18. My determination was based on my strength and ability to fight against U.S. constitutional threats, foreign and domestic.” —Chafin H.

In recognition of Armed Forces Day, celebrated on May 20, some of our peers shared how their roles at the sites allow them to continue service to our nation.

“The operation and functionality of our sites have a direct impact on national security,” said Jonathan Craig, an engineer in the Facility Design Group at Y-12 and a first lieutenant in the Tennessee Air National Guard. “If the operational status of the facilities and the sites is impacted, then we may miss key objectives, which have second and third order effects.”

It is clear those who continue to serve in the armed forces while they work at Pantex or Y-12 do so to support protecting our nuclear deterrent.

“In the Army, I dealt with nuclear targeting, nuclear disablement, and counterproliferation,” said Jimmy Matthews, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, who is a SkillBridge intern working in Y-12 Product Manufacturing Engineering. “At CNS, I can support the other end of our nation’s nuclear deterrent and assist in the training of other DOD elements. I continue to serve because I enjoy the challenge, and I feel as though I am supporting my country.”

Bruneel thanked CNS and his colleagues for supporting those who remain active in the armed forces.

“Y-12 and CNS have been the most supporting companies I have worked for since transitioning from active duty to the reserves,” Bruneel said. “I know that my team always has my back when I have to be out on orders for the Navy. I’m able to complete my training and return seamlessly.”

Mike Fierley, a master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force National Guard and an instructor in Production Training, agrees the support of the company, coworkers, and even DOE are important.

“I have had several supervisors support me in my role to serve our nation. I’m also thankful to our DOE headquarters leaders who feel strongly in supporting us serving our nation,” Fierley said.

U.S. Army National Guard, Second Lieutenant Robert Mehlhorn and Y-12 Project Controls scheduler, added, “I definitely feel like working at Y-12 allows me to continue to serve the nation. When I come to work, I get to actually see America’s nuclear deterrent actively being used. From the history of the plant to the individual projects and individuals who make things happen, it is incredible to see.”

His peer Allison Derthick, a captain in the Tennessee Army National Guard and a Project Controls scheduling associate, said, “My role at Y-12 has allowed me to continue to serve the nation through providing the products to which we are interfacing with foreign nations. By doing so, I’m understanding their capabilities and threats they can bring to the world.”

How the service molded me
Through life experiences, we grow and become the people we are now. For these soldiers, their time in the armed forces helped mold them, preparing them for their careers in the military and at Pantex and Y-12.

“Being in the guard has helped me become more confident and able to think on the move,” Mehlhorn said. “A popular saying is that ‘No plan survives first contact,’ so being able to prepare contingencies and to think and adjust on the move has been a very valuable skill that the Army has taught me. I personally like to remind myself that I may not be able to control every situation, but I can always control how I react to it.”

“The National Guard helped me develop a positive self-improvement mentality and taught me to aim for excellence in all I do,” Craig said. “I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and to bounce back when you hit a wall and keep moving forward. It changed the way I view the world and taught me to appreciate the small things. It has made me into a better leader, a better follower, and a better communicator. All these aspects turned me into a better friend, family member, and (soon to be) husband.”

Bruneel agreed his service made him better. “After graduating college, I still had not grown into the person I am today. The Navy helped me become a better husband, a better father, and a better person all around. It has helped me develop into a leader, as before I was just a follower.”

What civilians should know about those who serve
Whenever America has been at combat, there are those who are for and those against the conflict. Our active service members would like civilians to take the following advice.

“Military service can put a great deal of stress on service members and their family,” Matthews said. “Support the military during peacetime so we can display a strong conventional deterrent, which will hopefully let us avoid conflict. Support the military during combat deployments so we can return to peace. And of course, provide the reliable nuclear deterrent on which our national security strategy relies.”