WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (August 2016) -- After more than 200 years in operation, one would think that the arsenal workforce had learned to obey its leaders. But in Col. Joseph R. Morrow's first month in command here, the workforce seemed to disobey his directive this month to shut down the arsenal for one week. Or, did they?

For many years, some here have argued that there is no such thing as an "annual shutdown," which in recent years has been restricted to one week every summer.

Why? Because the arsenal never truly shuts down its entire operations.

There are two main reasons why the arsenal shuts down production each summer. First, it is a very good tool to manage vacation time so that the arsenal does not have a surge of vacationers at an inopportune time during production. Second, the down time allows public works and maintenance teams to get caught up on the checks and services of equipment and facilities. And, in a very limited scope, minor machining operations and quality control inspections continue.

Tim Allard, who is the Chief of the Manufacturing Support Division in the Operations Directorate and who led this year's shutdown-efforts in the production facilities, said about 72 workers stayed in operations while another 28 workers supported the public works division.

"This was a great effort as we were able to achieve about 95 percent of the shutdown projects," Allard said. "We still need to finish up a couple of major projects, as well as order parts for some of the machines that we performed preventative maintenance on."

Allard said the priorities ranged from ensuring that every area met Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards to changing air and oil filters on every machine to performing a critical rail replacement on a major crane system.

But if someone stepped outside of the production buildings, they would have seen just as much action outside.

David Roe, who is the chief of the Public Works Division and who was responsible for shutdown activities outside of the production area, said that he had more than 60 personnel, which included augmentees from other arsenal divisions, supporting public works during the shutdown week.

"We had a handful of projects that we wanted to complete during the shutdown, but the top priorities for the week involved electrical substations, storm and sanitary sewers, and building exhaust fans," Roe said. "We were even able to solve a flooding issue along our fence line that had been bugging us for decades."

Through a process of discovery every summer, public works learns quite a bit about the arsenal's 203-year-old infrastructure. As the public works team this summer was trying to find out why sewer drains were backing up it discovered that 50-year-old blueprints of the sewer lines were not correct. What showed on blueprints as connecting drainage lines was discovered, during a significant trenching action, not to be tied into any drainage system. Thus, the flooding every year. Now, a contract will be solicited to tie the drainage systems together.

"I was very pleased with the great attitudes that everyone had despite performing jobs that were, in many cases, outside of their comfort zones," Roe said. "Much of our success this week was due to a great bunch of augmentees, in fact the best bunch of augmentees that I have had in my career here, as well as due to the superb leadership by our new public works supervisor, Mike Dennin."

Both Allard and Roe agree that the shutdown-week work efforts often carries into the next fiscal year, as parts need to be ordered and contracts solicited to correct some of the deficiencies found during preventative maintenance checks and services.

And so, while some of the arsenal workforce were improving their tan lines on some forgotten beach, placing bets at the Saratoga track, or checking out Mai Tai's on a Polynesian cruise, Allard, Roe, and more than 100 personnel kept the arsenal open. After all, there is always work to do when it comes to maintaining a 203-year-old Army manufacturing center.

And so, no one disobeyed the new commander. The shutdown was, as in previous years, just a misunderstanding of the term "shutdown."

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WATERVLIET ARSENAL:

-The Watervliet Arsenal, widely known as "America's Cannon Factory," is a subordinate command of the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and has been in continuous operation since 1813. It celebrated its 200th anniversary on July 14, 2013.

-Originally constructed on a 12-acre parcel on the banks of the Hudson River, the arsenal site initially served as an important asset for the Army in the early days of our nation due to its strategic military location to ground and water routes of transportation. Today's $1.6 billion dollar complex is situated on a 143-acre site and spans 72 buildings with 2.1 million square feet of manufacturing and administrative space.

-Today, the Arsenal workforce has more than 540 workers who are associated with manufacturing for the U.S. and allied militaries tank, artillery, and mortar cannons, tubes, and associated parts. In addition to the arsenal workforce, another 800 personnel work in the 25 military and civilian tenant organizations that are located on the Arsenal.

-The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned and -operated manufacturing facility that is ISO 9001:2008 certified.

-The Secretary of the Army designated in 2013 the Arsenal as a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for manufacturing cannon and mortar systems.

-The arsenal is a subordinate command of TACOM LCMC and the Army Materiel Command.