WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (January 2015) -- The arsenal commander had at least 120,000 reasons why it was important to host here January 22 a retired ferry boat captain from Staten Island, N.Y. After all, that is how many members that Frank Peters, the American Legion's New York Department Commander, envisions this year for his organization.

Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr. leveraged a rare opportunity by inviting Peters, who is continually on the road fighting for Veterans rights, to the arsenal for a command briefing and tour. Peters, who was elected as Department Commander last July, was in town that week preparing for his organization's Mid-Winter Conference in Albany, N.Y.

The arsenal has in recent months hosted a significant number of senior Army leaders to its production facilities to discuss ways to better support our nation's troops, but this visit by Peters offered a different perspective ̶ Discussing ways to better support our Veterans and their families.

This was Peters' first visit to the historic arsenal that has since the War of 1812 manufactured the products that have helped hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to safely come home from war. This was also the first visit by New York's Department Commander to the arsenal in anyone's memory here.

Schiller went beyond simple charts and production numbers to discuss how in many ways the arsenal and Legion share common goals and values. Both organizations have strong historical ties to all branches of the military; both strive to build strong communities; and both organizations never lose sight on the proper care of the Nation's Veterans and their family members.

One other key point that Schiller hit on was the responsiveness that an Army-owned and operated manufacturing center provides to our nation. Most civilian visitors are not aware that Watervliet remains one of the few remaining Army-owned and operated manufacturing centers in the country.

"Because we are Army owned, we have a direct line of communication with the Army," Schiller said. "Due to this relationship, we are able to quickly shift production priorities to respond to any urgent troop requirement," Schiller said.

Lee Bennett, the Director of the Army's Benét Laboratories that is collocated at the arsenal, echoed Schiller's comments regarding today's value of the arsenal by saying that, "The beauty of our collocation is that our scientists and engineers are working next to the best machinists in the world. If there is ever an issue with a product's technical data, we can walk across the street and come up with a quick answer or a fix."

Peters, throughout his tour, remarked on the amazing degree of effort that goes into each weapon system that is designed and manufactured at Watervliet.

"Before today, I never thought much about the high degree of technology and the significant amount of machining that goes into the weapon systems that are placed into the hands of our troops," Peters said. "But I will tell you that after today, I will promote the great work that is going on at the arsenal as a pillar of building a strong national defense for our country."

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The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States. It began operations during the War of 1812, and celebrated its 200th year of continuous service to the nation on July 14, 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.

Benét Laboratories is a Department of the Army research, development and engineering facility located at the Watervliet Arsenal. It is a part of the Weapons & Software Engineering Center (WSEC), Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

Commander Frank Peters Background

• Frank J. Peters of Staten Island is a Navy veteran and retired ferry boat captain. As department commander, he is focusing on "honoring all who served."
• A 25-year member of Gold Star Post 1365, Peters has held numerous positions on every level of The American Legion, including serving as post commander, Richmond County commander and 2nd District commander. On the Department level, he has been a member of the Public Relations and Legislative committees; and has served as president of the New York American Legion Press Association. On the national level, he has served on the Legislative Council, National Security Commission, and Aerospace Committee.
• Peters enlisted in the Navy in 1981, trained as an aviation electrician and served aboard the USS Independence during the Lebanon and Grenada conflicts.
• Later, while employed as a captain with the Staten Island Ferry, he enlisted in the Navy Reserve, serving as a coxswain and small boat operator for Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 204 stationed at Fort Dix, NJ.
• Peters was awarded the U.S. Department of Transportation 9/11 Medal for meritorious service as captain of ferry-boat John F. Kennedy following the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
• A native of Staten Island, Peters lives in the community of Travis with his wife, Mary. They have two daughters, Mary Margaret, who is currently serving in the U.S. Navy, and Emily Frances.