TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (Jan. 11, 2011) - Tobyhanna has a million reasons to celebrate the new year.

The number of helmet bracket assemblies shipped from here to Soldiers around the world, since 2006, surpassed the 1 million mark last week. Over the past four years, hundreds of employees have all but perfected the large-scale manufacturing of military-issue helmet brackets and clips.

"This is an incredible accomplishment for Team Tobyhanna, but more so for Soldiers in the field," said Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Spencer. "This small piece of equipment that warfighters use during their day-to-day operations is crucial to the continuing need to detect, defeat and deny the enemy. It's just another tool that we provide our warfighters to give them that advantage and ultimately to keep them safe."

Workers in several locations across the depot played a role in the manufacture of the helmet brackets. Those in the Production Engineering Directorate oversaw the design, testing and programming of the items. Branch employees in Machining and Sheet Metal Fabrication manufactured the blocks and clips, while others in Component Paint, and Finish and Etching sandblasted, plated or painted each piece. Dozens of people in Building 3 assembled the block and clip, and packaged it with a ballistic screw and lock nut before shipping. Members of the Production Management Directorate managed all the material requisitions and drops, and provided controller and logistics management specialist support.

"We are all very proud of this accomplishment," said John DeYoung, sheet metal assembly leader in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate. "The process has evolved quite a bit since we started building [the helmet brackets]. Over the years we've made small improvements and conducted a couple Lean events that have helped streamline the process."

On average, the depot generates 5,000 helmet brackets each week, sometimes manning one to three shifts depending on the workload. One of the biggest impacts on the work area was the introduction of more modern machinery to accomplish the job.

"[The helmet bracket job] was probably one of the first real mass productions at Tobyhanna," said Zigmund "Ziggy" Pieszalla, Machining Branch chief. "It created a lot of machine changes for us as well as new acquisitions. It opened the door for modern tooling, which allowed for quicker production."

According to Joseph Lynn, it takes 452 pounds of material to create 5,000 clips and 1,252 feet of aircraft aluminum bar to create the same number of brackets. Lynn is a production controller in Production Management's Manufacturing Support Division.

"Early on, raw stock for the clips were tooled using existing methods, until the depot purchased a dedicated machine that not only cuts the blanks, it forms the pieces." said Bob Aten, Sheet Metal Fabrication Branch chief.

Small changes have also occurred over the years.

To begin with, Tobyhanna switched from using aluminum cast to aircraft aluminum to make the item stronger and more resilient. Plus, there were some challenges to overcome when the depot changed the bracket's color from black to tan. Most recently, the helmet bracket design was modified to accept the ballistic screw. Other than that the job has remained relatively the same.

Lou Bocci remembered a visiting Soldier who raved about the changes to the helmet bracket assembly.

"He remarked that his aluminum cast helmet bracket used to break if he hit it on the turret. Now, using our bracket, it stays intact, said the Finish and Etching Branch chief. "That Soldier took the time to shake hands with the employees and thanked them for their hard work."

Depot officials agree there are a lot of dedicated people working on the helmet bracket project.

"As a team they've proven they are capable of great things," said Tom Sweeney, logistics management specialist, noting how supportive everyone has been since the program began years ago. Sweeney anticipates future requirements to include more work with the current design as well as the possibility for work on the Enhanced Combat Helmet design for the Marine Corps.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the armed forces.

About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the armed forces.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16