By Mr. Darryl Howlett (AMC)October 28, 2013
Walking through the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant's headquarters, you immediately feel the history of the installation.
Maybe that has something to do with a large, historical display presented throughout the headquarters building.
The project began in 2011 as Kathy Gibson, graphic artist, and Daniel Morrison, a former base photographer, began putting together frames of photos from the plant's inception in the early 1940s until early 1990s. Lea Giaudrone joined the effort in 2012.
"This project was the best way to preserve the historical value of what happened at the base," Gibson said. "The photos were being stored in a records management holding area. As a matter of fact, there still are a lot of photos down there."
Gibson and Giaudrone, said several people such as Rosie Wooten and Paul Rogers helped throughout different stages of the projects.
"It was cool to see certain things how much the times have changed," Giaudrone said. "You see 20 people working on one production line and now there is maybe two of the same production line."
The display currently has 65 large photo frames, plus two larger frames listing all the Navy and Army commanders. (Prior to 1977, the Navy operated the installation, then known as the McAlester Naval Ammunition Depot).
Some of the interesting photos include parades through downtown McAlester, Ms. McAlester AAP, an African-American Marines regiment marching, telephone operators, Sailors and Marines standing next to their dates, and the gate changeover from the Navy to the Army.
Paul Rogers, protocol officer, said the project has been an eye-opener.
"I guess I'm amazed by the quality of the art and the historical significance," he said. "A lot of the people like it. I like that the photos are set up by decades."
Both Rogers and Gibson said the initial idea for the display came from Robert Golden, a retired chief of staff.
"He wanted to put up some of our (historical) photos up on the walls," Gibson said. "Another retired employee, Sharon Bass, also worked on the displays. Lots of people sometimes walk around and comment on photos. And when dignitaries and VIPs come and visit they comment it's fun to look at the old photos."
As important as the pictures where to the display, the team learned that identifying the people in the pictures was just as important. That's where retired fire chief Don Capps came indispensible.
"We called him several times and he would know the name of the folks in the photos," Gibson said.
One of the display items on the horizons is a frame celebrating the Byrd family. Patriarch, Bill Byrd worked at McAlester for more than 30 years; matriarch, Pat Byrd retired in 2007 after 26 years, daughter, Cathey Heddlesten started working at the Defense Ammunition Center (also located at McAlester) before working in JMC's Ammunition Peculiar Equipment (APE) program, while son, Robert, recently retired from the U.S. Army and is the director of the McAlester's Command Initiatives Group.
Gibson hopes to complete the historical displays by early next year.
McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is the Department of Defense's premier bomb and warhead loading facility, and is one of 14 industrial facilities in the Joint Munitions Command. It is vital to ammunition stockpile management and delivery to the joint Warfighter for training and combat operations.
Headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., the Joint Munitions Command provides America's Joint Forces with ready, reliable and lethal munitions at the right place and time, in a cost effective manner, to enable successful military operations.