WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (June 19, 2013) -- In the hot sun they laid the first bricks and mortar down along the banks of the muddy Hudson River, all the time looking out in the distance for any possible threat. Carpenters were quickly brought in to help with this intense building effort in the small Village of Gibbonsville. Brick by brick they hurried to build the first of 10 buildings as Soldiers stood guard over the 12-acre plot of land that would someday become "America's Cannon Factory."

Local, state, and federal officials converged Tuesday on this cannon factory, now called the Watervliet Arsenal, to honor and commemorate the arsenal's 200 years of continuous service to our nation. In a town hall setting, the mayors of Albany, Troy, Schenectady, and Watervliet joined with the NY State Adjutant General, the NY State Director of Canal Corporation, the Albany County Executive, and the Director of the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center to participate in an Arsenal Community Covenant Ceremony. More than 300 arsenal employees attended.

More than 18 months ago, the arsenal started planning for a series of grand 200th anniversary events and activities to be conducted with the City of Watervliet only to be cut short by the fiscal uncertainty in the Defense Department. With budgets curtailed, the arsenal was at risk of achieving the historic accomplishment of reaching 200 years of professional and faithful service without any acknowledgement or recognition.

Given the situation that the fiscal constraints had placed on the anniversary planning, the Arsenal Public Affairs Officer, John Snyder, relooked a Secretary of the Army initiative from 2008 called the Army Community Covenant and updated the plan to accommodate a 200th anniversary theme.

"It would have been a shame, if not a tragedy, if we didn't have any ceremony of significance to honor the arsenal's long and storied history," Snyder said. "After all, the arsenal workforce was at the Battle of New Orleans and at the landing of Veracruz; they were at Gettysburg and San Juan Hill; they were at the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the Bulge; they were on the frozen Korean tundra and in the jungles of Vietnam; they were at Grenada and Panama; and in 1991, they were in Iraq as one of their weapon systems called the Bunker Buster Bomb destroyed Saddam Hussein's command and control."

There is a sense among the arsenal workforce that their heart and soul, if not their DNA, is in every weapon system that leaves the arsenal fence line, Snyder said. And so, when Soldiers deploy the workforce believes they are with that Soldier.

Snyder added that the arsenal workforce is today in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Arsenal Commander Col. Mark F. Migaleddi said at the close of the ceremony that he recently heard at a community event one of the elected officials talk about the arsenal as "our arsenal."

Migaleddi said that statement by the elected official was powerful because it signified community ownership and support for the great institution called the Watervliet Arsenal.

On July 14, 1813, when the deed was signed between the U.S. War Department and James Gibbons, upstate New York was in a war footing as our nation entered year two of its second war with Britain. The location of the arsenal was selected because it was on the major lines of communication of that day, the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, and because skilled artisans lived just across the Hudson in the Village of Troy.

The arsenal transformed itself in the late 1880s as it went from being a manufacturer of saddles to a manufacturer of cannons. Its products have ranged from the 16-inch guns that graced US Battleships to 105mm guns for aerial gunships to armor doors for HMMWVs to 60mm mortars for our infantry. In addition to supporting the U.S. military, arsenal products are also manufactured for the Australian, Philippine, Yemen, Saudi Arabian, and for Egyptian armies.

The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet) is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.

Migaleddi will turn over command to incoming commander Col. Lee Schiller on July 18, 2013.

Page last updated Thu June 20th, 2013 at 15:23