By John B. Snyder, Watervliet ArsenalJuly 10, 2017
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (July 2017) --During a June press conference at the New York state Capitol, several elected officials touted the value of local military installations to the Capital District. There were two takeaways that elected officials highlighted regarding the value that those military installations, to include the Watervliet Arsenal, offer to the community.
New York state Sen. James Tedisco said the impact and the need to retain the local installations is that in addition to keeping our state and our nation safe, they also provide more than $1 billion in economic benefits, benefits that help small businesses.
Although Tedisco's comments are appreciated, as well as those from other state elected officials, there is something more than being a financial boon to the community that is often overlooked -- the value the Arsenal and other military installations provide to the community, as well as to U.S. and allied Armies, in the way of training and education.
The Arsenal has a long history of providing subject matter experts to local educational centers, such as Mohonasen, Cohoes, and Sullivan County High Schools; Hudson Valley Community College; the United States Military Academy at West Point; and recently, to Canadian Army students who are attending the Royal Military College.
But for the first time in recent memory, the Arsenal recently opened its doors this summer to college interns who came from California, Alabama, and from New York.
Steve Cusano, who is a machinist currently working in Quality Control, said that in the more than 10 years he has worked at the Arsenal, this is the first time that he has worked with interns. He was working with intern Murphey Zhang in June.
"When I heard that we were getting interns to help us through the summer, I was truly hoping for a great guy," Cusano said. "We ended up with a great guy who is very motivated and who wants to learn our craft."
Zhang, who recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a mechanical engineering degree and is awaiting the start of his master's studies in the fall, is one of six college interns the Arsenal hired to work this summer.
"I probably applied to more than 100 internships and was selected by about 10 of them," Zhang said. "I selected the Watervliet Arsenal because I had yet to have any experience in heavy manufacturing and I thought the education that I would get here would help me in the future land a job in the defense industry."
"I did research on the Arsenal before coming here, but that knowledge doesn't compare to what I have learned since I arrived," Zhang said. "I am really amazed at the range of products the Arsenal manufactures and I think it is pretty cool that the manufacturing center is across the street from an Army research center (Benét Laboratories)."
Zhang's goal after obtaining his master's degree is to get a job in the defense industry, quite possibly at the Army's Benét Laboratories, which is collocated on the Watervliet Arsenal.
Meanwhile, off of the production floors, another intern is learning about the Arsenal's production planning and control operations.
"With the significant amount of work that we have, any additional support is greatly appreciated," said Christopher Yuhasz, an Arsenal production controller. "What is great about our intern is that he is well-versed in computers and therefore, he is picking up our processes and controls very quickly."
Apil Sapkota, the intern working with Yuhasz, had just finished his junior year at City College of New York, where he is studying to become a computer engineer.
Sapkota, who, with his family, emigrated from Nepal about six years ago, said that prior to arriving at the Arsenal he did not have any knowledge of what it is like to work in the Department of Defense.
"I believe my college education has and will allow me to add value to the Arsenal," Sapkota said. "In just the first two weeks here, I have been able to help track quality control processes in CAMS (the Complex Assembly Manufacturing Solution for the Logistics Modernization Program) and I am looking for more challenging work from Chris (Yuhasz)."
Sapkota said the value of an internship here is that it will give him a good sense of what a 9-5 job is like. But more importantly, the internship has shown him how his education can be leveraged to assist a business.
"Before working here, I never thought about working for the defense industry," Sapkota said. "But this job has opened my eyes. Upon graduation, I will now strongly consider a job in the defense industry, and it might even be here."
And so, as others tout the Arsenal's economic importance to the community, just maybe, there is another talking point that is just as important. Just talk to the interns or their mentors here as to what has truly been important this summer. What they have found important may have nothing to do with economics.
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 allied armies 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 2016 that exceeded $126 million and provides an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.