ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- A small group of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island and Joint Munitions Command employees traveled to Rolling Hills Progress Center, Lanark, Illinois, May 31, to see first-hand the processes involved in the production of the 30mm tube and strap line.RHPC is a private, nonprofit agency established in 1976 that employs adults with disabilities. The agency serves as the prime contractor for one of ACC-RI's current contracts for production of the 30mm Tube and Strap assemblies.Kimberly Wheat, program specialist, JMC, said the tubes and straps are used to link 30mm x 173mm cartridges, which are used by the Air Force's GAU-8 weapon system. The GAU-8 is the gun system located under the nose of the A-10 aircraft, commonly known as the Warthog.During the visit, employees took a brief tour of the Plant 1 facility before heading a mile down the road to Plant 2, where the 30mm straps are produced. Three truckloads of the tubes and straps are sent out every two weeks, according to Brandon Rumler, executive director, RHPC.When the 30mm straps are under production at RHPC, the payment received for completed work accounts for 44 percent of the agency's total income."It's big work for us, so I couldn't be happier that we have it," said Rumler. "It truly does allow us to do more for our clients."More than 30 years ago, RHPC formed with 19 employees, who the agency refers to as "clients". These days, RHPC employs about 90 clients who work on various assembly lines. The complexity of these lines varies and clients are assigned based on their skill levels.The RHPC is deeply ingrained in the local community, often saying they are unofficially community-owned, said Rumler. He also said that, unlike other similar non-profit agencies that receive 90 percent of funding from grants and 10 percent from subcontracted work, RHPC receives only about 25 percent of funding from grants, with the rest coming from subcontracted work.Since RHPC is an AbilityOne participating nonprofit agency, the contract for the 30mm straps and tubes falls under the Federal Acquisition Regulation part 8 -- Use of required sources of supply and services -- which outlines acquisition from non-profit agencies that employ people who are blind or severely disabled.Jeffrey Decker, procuring contracting officer, ACC-RI, said that seeing first-hand the opportunities RHPC provides to people with special needs in the community was impressive."It reiterated the importance of using mandatory sources not only because it is required, but because those companies rely so much on work from the government to stay in business," said Decker.Rumler said that RHPC's number one goal is to teach job skills so the clients feel confident to seek out employment, though some clients can't seek outside employment, so they stay at RHPC. In fact, one client has been with the nonprofit since day one."The clients are like family," said Rumler. "They really do love the work they do here."
One client named John, who has autism, has laser-focus on the tasks he is assigned. His ability to concentrate on his tasks is particularly evident during tubes and strap production -- he individually assembles the most consistently high-quality product, Rumler said."He is one example of how their disability works well for how they perform their job," said Rumler.Mark Stevens, contracting specialist, ACC-RI, said he has some experience working with people with special needs and knows how critical it is for them to have a purpose, have something to look forward to, have the ability to socialize, and receive a paycheck for their hard work."I believe if more people were able to visit a facility like this and truly understand their capabilities and benefits, there absolutely could be more work available to non-profits like RHPC," said Stevens. "Who wouldn't want to have that kind of impact on peoples' lives? There is a purpose for everyone regardless of skill set or learning capacity."