WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (March 27, 2009) -- While United States Military Academy cadets had an opportunity this week to learn how the Watervliet Arsenal forges steel, the Arsenal employees had an opportunity to see how the Army's academy at West Point forges its mettle.

For as long as folks can remember, West Point has been sending its mechanical engineering students to the Arsenal to see first-hand the manufacturing of howitzer, tank, and mortar tubes.

According to Maj. Joel Dillon, course director for the Manufacturing and Machine Component Design Course, the cadets are juniors who are majoring in mechanical engineering and have learned mathematical analysis of materials and the components of manufacturing machinery.

"West Point cadets have an extremely busy schedule, between academics, military training, and athletics. However, this trip to the Watervliet Arsenal not only provides the cadets a chance to observe military manufacturing operations first-hand, but also will allow the cadets to see the production of systems that they may eventually use as lieutenants in the U.S. Army," said Dillon.

Dillon further explained the cadets may not yet truly appreciate what they see at the Arsenal for many years. Dillon said that he visited the Arsenal in 1996 as part of his studies at West Point and that visit opened his eyes as to the difficulty of process of design and production that military manufacturers face every day. A learning point he reinforces in today's classrooms.

Cadet Arthur Murphy, echoed Dillon's comments by stating that he was surprised at how involved the process was to manufacturer just one cannon. "I was amazed at the amount of precision, sometimes down to a thousandths of an inch, required in the Arsenal's manufacturing," said Murphy.

Fellow classmate, Cadet Jonathan Wrieden, said the visit to the Arsenal improved the cadets' understanding of the properties of metals. "We have been learning in the classroom and reading in our textbooks about mechanical engineering, but now we were able to see it in action," said Wrieden.

But this was not just a learning experience for the cadets.

Delbert Pierce, Arsenal Operations Directorate, had the opportunity to escort and observe several groups of cadets during the two-day visit.

According to Pierce, "You couldn't help but notice how attentive and bright the cadets were during the tour. They asked tough questions and I believe they have the makings of becoming very good officers."

Through the types of questions the cadets' asked, another observation became evident to the Arsenal workforce.

"Although we had the cadets at the rock bottom of where military hardware is manufactured, many of the cadets had a broader focus," said Jake Peart, Arsenal Operations Directorate.

According to Peart, many of the cadets' questions dealt with the entire logistical supply chain versus just the beginning of it. In essence, how long does it take to process an order and then deliver the product to the Soldiers who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This was interesting to see because it meant that the cadets had a grasp on the broader issue of logistical resupply, which is one that Army officers will have to deal with," said Peart. "After being with these cadets for two days, I feel confident that they will be very good leaders," Peart added.

In about 14 months, many of these cadets, who will then be lieutenants in the U.S. Army, will have an opportunity to experience first-hand how to provide service and support to our forward deployed Soldiers.

During the visit, more than 75 cadets from the United States Military Academy visited the U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal. During their visit, the cadets experienced the complete life cycle of cannon production, from research and design to forging of the tubes to gun tube packaging for shipment to the warfighters.