By John B. Snyder, Watervliet ArsenalJune 2, 2017
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (June 2017) -- This month, the Arsenal will bid a fond farewell to its longest serving employee, Robert "Bob" Pfeil, who after 51 years of continuous service to the Army will retire.
To put Bob's service into perspective, his military career began as an industrial engineer at the Picatinny Arsenal in 1966. Which, as many have now calculated, is before most workers here were born.
Just pause for a moment and think about all that has happened since Bob donned a tie and reported in for work earning $3.51 an hour. In 1966, the number of U.S. troops serving in the Vietnam War had gone from about 180,000 in 1965 to approximately 385,000 by 1966. And since then, the U.S. has landed a man on the moon; 10 U.S. presidents have served or are currently serving; the country's number one threat, the Soviet Union, has dissolved with the ending of the Cold War; and the country has fought in two Gulf Wars.
At the end of combat operation in Vietnam in 1973, Picatinny Arsenal reorganized. As part of this right-sizing effort, Bob was forced to choose between working at the Rock Island Arsenal or the Watervliet Arsenal.
So, he loaded up his wife and two young daughters and moved to Clifton Park, N.Y., and began the next 44 years of service here.
The 1970s were marked noticeably by a great national concern with the Soviet Union's effort to modernize its forces, Bob said. As a result, the Arsenal put a lot of emphasis into mobilization planning, to which Bob, as an industrial engineer, was part of this newly formed team.
One key finding of this team was that after nearly 10 years of supporting combat operations in Vietnam, much of the Arsenal's machinery had fallen into obsolescence or into disrepair. The capability and the capacity of manufacturing here, as was determined by Bob's team, could not keep up with any effort to mobilize during a threat to the nation's security. The Arsenal had to modernize or become irrelevant.
Bob then became part of the team to modernize and in 1978, the first $20 million was allocated by Congress for Project REARM (Renovation of Armament Manufacturing).
Over the course of the next eight years, Bob and his team oversaw more than $300 million invested to modernize the Arsenal. Bob said that one of the first investments made was into a new technology called "computers."
During the First Gulf War in 1991, the Arsenal achieved worldwide acclaim as it, along with the Army's Benét Laboratories, developed the Bunker Buster Bomb that many claimed had ended the war. But success on the battlefield does not necessarily equal to success at the Arsenal. The Arsenal would go through nine reductions in force or RIFs over a 10-year period because there was a widely held belief that there would never be another war like the First Gulf War.
"I saw the Industrial Readiness Division go from 17 personnel down to 4 by the time I received my first RIF notice in 1998," Bob said. "I went from an industrial engineer with a Master's Degree to supervising the Arsenal's Community Services."
In 2000, Bob was served again with another RIF notice and thanks to him having the advance degree, he was offered the job as the Arsenal's assistant museum curator. He held that job until 2008, when he finally became the museum curator and held that position until the museum closed in 2014. Since 2014, Bob has worked for the Arsenal's Quality Systems and Continuous Improvement Office.
By the time this Article is read, Bob would have participated in his last community parade as an Arsenal employee and will have driven out the gate one last time taking nearly 100,000 hours of Arsenal operations experience with him.