TACOM commander's final look, thanks to Watervliet
May 15, 2014
- TACOM commander praises, motivates arsenal workforce on his final visit.
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (May 15, 2014) -- A senior Army leader exhibited exceptional poise this week delivering heartfelt thanks to everyone he saw during his final visit to the Watervliet Arsenal.
When Maj. Gen. Michael J. Terry visited the Watervliet Arsenal in August 2012, he learned about the arsenal's 200-year role of providing the weapon systems and the parts that have helped hundreds of thousands of our nation's war fighters to safely come home from battle.
As the new TACOM Life Cycle Management Command's commander, that was Terry's first visit to the arsenal and as can be expected, there was something of the standardized tour that other TACOM subordinate commands had already conducted for him. And, in the two years that Terry has been the commander of TACOM -- which is the arsenal's higher headquarters -- he has visited the arsenal three times.
And so, what could possibly be different about this week's visit?
Farewells are never easy, nor should they be. During a commander's tenure, he or she pours everything they have into those precious few months trying to make a difference, as well as trying to make the organization better. Terry was no different.
These last few years have been very challenging for any commander in the Army's industrial base, certainly for Terry. The effects of sequestration and fiscal uncertainty have plunged Army manufacturing into turbulent waters as the civilian workforce faced furloughs, pay freezes, and a decline in workload due to the end of combat operations in Iraq and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Terry touched on many of these issues today as he talked to arsenal workers at more than 10 sites.
"I am very, very appreciative for all that you have done considering all the fiscal turmoil you have experienced since March 2013 when sequestration took effect," Terry said.
Not only did the arsenal workforce have significant fiscal constraints that affected the amount of work coming to the arsenal, the workforce also had to work through furloughs, shutdown, and hiring constraints while delivering products to the war fighters, Terry added.
Through turmoil and uncertainty, it sometimes takes someone with a steady hand to guide an organization through such adversity. Many believe Terry's hand did that for Watervliet.
Although the arsenal is not out of the water yet in regards to a having a sufficient level of work on the books to sustain its critical skill base, to some at Watervliet the arsenal is moving in the right direction.
Bruce Pienkoski, the arsenal's lead production controller for mortar production, was recently asked by a reporter about what is different today than in the 1990s. During the 1990s, the arsenal suffered through nine reductions in force due to what was then commonly called the Peace Dividend.
Today, the arsenal is once again working its way through a significant decline in defense spending. And so, what the reporter was getting at is has anything changed or can we expect a series of reductions in force as was experienced in the 1990s?
"In the 1990s, I didn't have a sense that the Army's senior leaders were doing anything to help the arsenal survive," Pienkoski said. "Today, it is different because I have seen the efforts by our senior leaders at TACOM and at higher headquarters taking a more active role in finding work for the arsenal."
Such optimism explained by a mid-level worker speaks volumes about the faith the arsenal workforce has in Terry.
Often during his visit, Terry had a sense of reflection as he shared stories of memorable times of his 35-year Army career. But through all stories, there was a common theme.
"I have been in combat two times and I will tell you that I have used your products," Terry said. "God Bless you for what you do."
As Terry wound his way through the arsenal today, shaking hands, awarding commander's coins, one could not think that in some way this was like a member of the family saying goodbye for the last time. Such is often the feeling when a respected Army leader departs his or her unit for the last time.
Terry will change command on June 25, 2014. In the meantime, the arsenal will continue to challenge Terry and other Army leaders for a clearer sense of fiscal certainty, which to the arsenal machinist means workload.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in July 2013.
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.