By John B. Snyder, Watervliet Arsenal Public AffairsSeptember 20, 2016
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (September 2016) -- Is there heresy in the ranks at the Watervliet Arsenal? After all, apprentice Corey LaBounty did not follow his instructions exactly as his trainer here prescribed them.
At other defense manufacturing centers, the failure to follow instructions might have got him fired. Here, his disobedience got him a pat on the back.
LaBounty is one of 11, first-year apprentices who made their first machining cuts on September 14. But not all of the apprentices came from a machining background, to include LaBounty, who sold cars before being accepted into the arsenal's apprentice program. So, the stress level, that was quite obvious by the body language, was high for some.
To add pressure to the apprentices' first machining cuts, Tool Room supervisor, Anthony Polsinelli, approved the first cuts to be on actual parts the arsenal would use to repair machinery. In previous classes, apprentices would make their first cuts on scrap steel just in case they made a mistake.
And so, when LaBounty's coach, machinist Jonathan Morehouse, told LaBounty to measure twice and cut once on a part that would be used in the production of lightweight bore evacuators for the 155mm howitzer system, LaBounty said he measured five times and cut once. After all, he was the first apprentice in his class to cut steel.
"I know there were a lot of people watching me and so, I didn't want to mess it up. Especially, because the part was to be used in production," LaBounty said. "But after I made my cuts and measured the bearing, my motivation went 'sky high' because I actually made something the arsenal can use."
Morehouse, who is typically very stoic, had a smile as large as LaBounty's when LaBounty's part passed a fit, form, and function test.
"Great job," Morehouse said as he patted LaBounty on the back. "It only gets harder from here."
Following LaBounty on the lathe was Taylor Lee and Todd Herold. Even though they watched every step and listened to every teaching point Morehouse provided to LaBounty, Lee and Herold each took a significant amount of time to set up their first machining cuts.
"Although I had watched Corey and Taylor machine before me, I was still very tense," Herold said. "This (making his first machined part) was a true moment of pride and I am very thankful that the arsenal trusted us enough to work on actual parts that will be used to repair machines."
To add to the apprentices' machining experience in the tool room, two other lathes, with entirely different machining requirements, were set up by second-year apprentices Anthony Dudwoire and Anthony Mosca.
Dudwoire, who not so long ago was in the same situation as these first-year apprentices, said he taught his group something he learned on his first day.
"Machines don't think," Dudwoire said. "And so, you must carefully think about each machining operation before you do any operation."
Zackary Watkins, a first-year apprentice who was working with Dudwoire, said he really liked learning from a fellow apprentice.
"I thought it was good to be mentored by a more senior apprentice because they know exactly how we feel on our first day of machining," Watkins said.
Watkins added that the joy and pride he felt machining his first part was truly heartwarming, especially because he didn't mess it up.
Watching the first-year apprentices' body language as they were setting up the lathe made it easy to see the high amount of stress each felt as they prepared to cut chips on an actual part. Then, something magical happened as each measured their final cut…broad smiles broke out as if they didn't have a care in the world.
Not only were parts created that day, careers were, too.
The apprentices will undergo a challenging 8,000 hours of hands-on training at the arsenal and four years of schooling at the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., before they are called a machinist.
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 on July 14, 2013. It is a subordinate command to TACOM LCMC and the Army Materiel Command.
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 had revenue in fiscal year 2015 that exceeded $138 million and provides an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.