Pantex Blog

Meet our Sandia Weapon Intern Program Class of 2022 selections

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2021 - 15:46

Pantexan Edward Graef is part of the Sandia Weapon Intern Program, Class of 2022
Pantexan Edward Graef and Y-12 Matthew Willard (not pictured) are part of the Sandia Weapon Intern Program, Class of 2022.

Two CNS employees are joining the ranks of the prestigious Sandia Weapon Intern Program (WIP) for the class of 2022. Edward Graef, Pantex physics senior specialist, and Matthew Willard, Y-12 process engineer, began the program in August 2021.

Both Graef and Willard are looking forward to the program, saying it is considered by many within the Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE) to be a “once in a career” opportunity.

“I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many other capable people at Pantex that it was humbling to know I was selected from among them for this opportunity,” said Graef.

“I was both humbled and excited about the opportunity,” said Willard. “It also comes with the realization that I am a representative of all of us here at Y-12.”

WIP was created by Sandia National Laboratories as a formal mechanism to pass decades of tribal knowledge down to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders. The year-long program begins with classroom work and learning in the first six months, along with site visits, and research assignments. During the final months, participants are embedded in various organizations across Sandia to work on specific projects.

Both CNS participants are looking forward to learning from and working with other WIP interns and mentors from across the abbr title="Nuclear Security Enterprise">NSE.

“The collaborations will further expand my technical and leadership capabilities to better address our stewardship missions,” said Graef.

“One topic that I look forward to learning the most is about the lifecycle of the weapon systems,” said Willard. “Specifically, how DoD requirements turn into designs, those designs eventually become physical systems, and how those physical systems are assessed and certified throughout their lifetime so that they will function as intended if ever needed to.”

Over the course of the program, the interns will learn skills and knowledge that they’ll be able to bring back to their teams at Pantex and Y-12.

“I want to bring back a more refined set of communication skills and a better understanding of the abbr title="Nuclear Security Enterprise">NSE's needs for our evolving role in stockpile stewardship and safety,” said Graef. “For Pantex as a whole, I want to bring back clearer goals to advance our modeling and simulation based engineering approaches to help address plant needs while also improving the safety and security of our workforce and the stockpile.”

Willard looks forward to the benefits of knowledge and professional relationships he will build. “Increased knowledge helps in understanding the ’why‘ when we may be asked to do things a certain way, that may be different from what we are used being asked to by our customers, and those relationships provide lines of communication throughout the NSE as we all continue our careers.”

Congratulations to Graef and Willard on their internships.

Pantex Team Nails Down NNSA Award

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2021 - 15:39

RAMP Program Manager Denise King, Project Manager Janet Dockery, Project Engineer Kerry Bender, and Subcontractor Technical Representative Linda Bernal.
The Pantex Roof Asset Management Program team showcases their 2021 award. Pictured, L to R: RAMP Program Manager Denise King, Project Manager Janet Dockery, Project Engineer Kerry Bender, and Subcontractor Technical Representative Linda Bernal.

Everyone working on a national security site wants to prevent leaks. Texas weather makes that harder for the Pantex Roof Asset Management Program (RAMP) team responsible for managing 2.9 million square feet of roofing across the plant. Aging infrastructure adds to the team’s challenge.

“Every time we get a good snow or rain,” said Pantex RAMP Project Engineer Kerry Bender, “I end up with about 30 emails in my inbox saying, ‘Hey, my roof is leaking.’”

Coordinating access, materials, subcontractors, and security personnel to address thousands of square miles of roofing across a secure site requires precise coordination. Any miscommunication, no matter how minor, can delay a project for weeks. Pantex RAMP Program Manager Denise King said regular delays were a troubling occurrence in the past.

“Four years ago we couldn’t get any roof work done out here,” she said. “We wouldn’t have security police officer coverage; we wouldn’t have access—we couldn’t get contractors on the roofs.”

The team set out to change their outcomes, and in October 2021, Pantex became an award-winning site when the NNSA’s Office of Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations recognized the team’s performance with the annual RAMP award for excellence. Nine national security sites and laboratories in the RAMP Federal Program portfolio, including Pantex and Y-12, are eligible for the award.

“The annual RAMP award was started as a way to recognize the site the program felt had the best year in execution of work,” said John Dembski, materials and operations lead program manager for the NNSA’s Honeywell-managed RAMP initiative. “The criteria are based on engagement of site personnel, safety, security, planning, getting all of the right players involved early, communication with stakeholders, and overall performance improvement.”

“We reroofed 117,000 square feet in FY21,” said King. “What makes that significant is our scope – there were 30 different buildings, and we were replacing multiple roof areas on these buildings. One was over a ramp, which might not seem important, but when snow’s blowing down a ramp and you can’t get product out, it’s a problem.”

“The work we performed in FY21 took a lot of coordination,” added Pantex RAMP Project Manager Janet Dockery, who joined the team in 2020. “We would have roofing projects starting even as other roofing projects were finishing, and instead of doing this for a single project, it was for multiple roofs across multiple projects.”

The project continued on track, on time, and on budget — despite weather and COVID-19-related challenges — thanks to continuous improvement processes the team put in place and practiced during the past four years. An internal tracking system eliminated scheduling and access delays; quarterly management briefings cover improvements and lessons learned; and weekly tracking meetings allow the internal team to quickly identify and mitigate risks and obstacles.

“If we hadn’t made those improvements, we wouldn’t have this success,” said King. “We really came together as a team to work on this project and started communicating more.”

Bender said communication helped improve and build stronger relationships beyond the Pantex program that have been essential to mission success. The Pantex RAMP team works with subcontractors from Indiana and Illinois; a design team and architectural engineer with the program prime contractor in Ohio; and RAMP managers based at the Kansas City National Security Campus.

“The bottom line here is the practices we have and the relationships we’ve built with our design team, architectural engineer, and contractors— that’s why you’re seeing this award,” he said. “Over these last four years we have faced some very challenging circumstances in this roofing program, but at the same time, it’s the unique relationships we’ve created that allow those challenges to be handled and resolved so easily.”

Bender paused, then added, “Now all this work has made it into the limelight— but we didn’t change this program for recognition,” he said. “We each set out to do a job to the very best of our ability every day.”

The Pantex RAMP team includes Project Engineers Kerry Bender and Denise Moore, Project Manager Janet Dockery, Subcontractor Technical Representative Linda Bernal, and Program Manager Denise King.


Pantex sponsors Together We Can Food Drive

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2021 - 15:29

Pantex is sponsoring the Together We Can Food Drive

For the 18th year, Pantex is sponsoring the Together We Can Food Drive held by the High Plains Food Bank with a $5,000 donation this year.

COVID-19 and its impacts have affected so many in our community, and many of neighbors here in the Texas Panhandle who were already struggling are now in crisis. The High Plains Food Bank is there to help and Pantex wanted to show its commitment to our community through this annual event.

“Pantex has been a longtime supporter of High Plains Food Bank, and we are proud to support them in the fight against hunger,” Acting Pantex Site Manager Jeff Yarbrough said. “My fellow Pantexans and I are passionate about making a difference in this community.”

The Together We Can drive runs December 6-10 at Market Street United in Amarillo, Texas. Pantex was the sponsor for Wednesday’s food drive and has employees on site volunteering with the event.

“We know that this $5,000 will help alleviate hunger in the Texas Panhandle, and we are proud to be a Together We Can Ambassador Sponsor,” Yarbrough said.

Pantex is sponsoring the Together We Can Food Drive
Pantex is sponsoring the Together We Can Food Drive

Data centers launch a new generation of power

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 11:47

IT Systems administrators John Neusch (right) and Les Spaulding troubleshoot a new power distribution system in Pantex’s current data center
IT Systems administrators John Neusch (right) and Les Spaulding troubleshoot a new power distribution system in Pantex’s current data center.

If you think of our systems, applications, or network as living and breathing beings, the data center is the brain that essentially regulates every function. As a centralized facility tasked with housing and maintaining multiple server racks that store, process, and backup our electronic information, our data centers are vital to daily operations at Pantex and Y-12.

The Pantex and Y-12 Data Center Consolidation and Modernization projects are progressively coming to fruition, enhancing the monitoring, power reliability, and cooling infrastructure of our IT systems at both sites. At Y-12, Information Solutions and Services continues to decommission legacy hardware and move it into its new home. Meanwhile, the Power Upgrade Project at the Pantex data center continues to implement additional levels of redundancy and alternate power sources.

“Our teams support more than 650 network devices and 4,000 servers at Pantex and Y-12; thus, having a solid infrastructure at each site that hosts and backs up these systems brings us a step closer to meeting a modern industry standard. This is a major accomplishment,” said Joe Harris, Consolidated Nuclear Security’s chief information officer.

With modernization as a primary focus, once complete, both sites will have fully upgraded to 10 gigabytes worth of internet capacity due to the centers’ bandwidth. As a significant boost to our sites’ internet capacity, this will improve our virtual video and audio quality, while decreasing the time to connect to the internet or perform enterprise backups between the sites.

“Teams from across IS&S, Cybersecurity, Construction, and Power Operations have all contributed to the centers’ current and future success for our mission,” said Harris. “This is a triple play with power enhancements, modernization of our cooling of equipment, and increased capacity and resilience in our network connections. We look forward to how this advancement in our infrastructure will continue to grow to serve our people and technology.”

Inside of each data center are multiple racks of servers that store information. As you can imagine, stacks of electrical equipment can overheat if not managed carefully; therefore, in preventing any deficiencies, both centers will have a cool air containment design from the floor of each server room. Currently installed at Y-12, the design separates the cold airflow from the exhaust of the hot and active electrical equipment and ultimately creates a consistent stream of cold airflow throughout the centers that prevents equipment from overheating and shutting down.

“IT equipment creates a lot of heat, which has to be cooled to maintain the equipment’s required temperatures,” said Matt Beattie, who manages both Pantex’s and Y-12’s data centers. “By using an air containment design, we’re able to evenly manage the centers’ temperatures, protect our equipment from overheating, and install more IT equipment in each server rack to make efficient use of our space.”

Adding to the efficiency of the project, the data centers will also be accompanied by a Data Center Infrastructure Management tool, or DCIM. The tool will provide IS&S with a 3-D view of each data center and enable operators to monitor and manage the centers’ equipment, systems, space, power, cooling, and even alert systems administrators of any operational problems after hours.

“From breaking ground to now, both data centers have been nothing short of a collective effort, but we’re not finished yet,” Harris said. “We still have more to do as we continue to move capabilities while maintaining services so as not to impact the site mission and site deliverables.”

Honoring our veterans

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2021 - 14:36

Veterans Day is when we remember the sacrifices and service of our veterans past and present. We are proud of the large number of veterans who choose to continue their service to our country by working at Pantex and Y-12.

Every veteran has their own story, and oftentimes, transitioning from military to civilian life can be a challenge. Two female veterans shared their journeys, and though each has a unique story, both share similar themes throughout their lives—service above self, tenacity, and dedication to excellence.

Lisa Torres, Pantex

As summer fades and autumn arrives, some like to listen to the crackle of a fire, but others, like Lisa Torres, welcome the sounds of Friday night football with her husband and watch their children play the sports they love. Her four kids, who love adventure and being active, don’t fall far from the tree. They exhibit the tenacious energy their mother did when she was a child.

“I remember being a little girl and writing down in a keepsake book what my future goals were. I distinctly remember writing down ‘I wanted to be in the military’,” said Torres. “It always appealed to me; there was just something about it.”

So, after falling in love with her high school’s Marine Corps ROTC program, she went on to serve in the Air Force for four and a half years. Her experience in ROTC confirmed her belief she was meant to join the military; she thrived in an environment focused on discipline and service before self. Above all, she appreciated the intensity.

“I’ve always been very competitive and enjoy setting goals to challenge myself,” said Torres. “I loved my time in the Air Force, and it was a very tough decision not to re-enlist.”

As the saying goes, life happens while you’re making other plans. When the time came for Torres to re-enlist, Pantex was recruiting in San Diego, California. Torres made the difficult decision to change careers and accepted an offer as a Pantex security police officer in 2006. Though she was nervous to begin life as a civilian, she found the atmosphere at Pantex to be similar to that in the military. Security personnel operate on similar ideals—service above self. Many officers are also veterans, which made the transition from the military easier. There is a camaraderie among the officers, as they each know the challenges to overcome after they leave the military.

Her experiences as a SPO were a strong foundation as she continues her career at Pantex. Now, she serves as the Value Stream Element Team program manager within Lean Six Sigma. In this role, she develops and sets up continuous improvement cross-functional teams focused on identifying and implementing sustained improvements. She’s grateful she can make a difference in Pantexans’ daily work and for the constant challenges her job presents.

“Change can be difficult, but once we can make peace with the idea that there might be a better way, it ignites new ideas and improvements,” said Torres. “It’s also always a learning experience for me, so while I get to meet and help folks across the site, it’s also a personally fulfilling role.”

Torres’ dedication to serving others extends to her community. A Panhandle native, she volunteers at the High Plains Food Bank, Snack Pak for Kids, and Hillside Church. She worked to help launch the Pantex Veterans Affinity group Serving Our Service Members and also is a board member for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“We are all in a very intense season of life right now with the ongoing pandemic and other issues in our nation, but it’s important there is a community for everyone,” said Torres. “That’s what the military taught me: If you serve others and work with others with similar goals and passions, life takes on meaning and gets easier.”

Torres hopes that other veterans and veteran supporters can find their own communities to thrive in. Her goal for the new affinity group is to be a source of encouragement for service members and their families, and aid others in the transition from the military to civilian life.