By Janet Gardner, Letterkenny Army DepotAugust 7, 2017
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Letterkenny Army Depot celebrated its 75th anniversary on July 17. Presiding over the festivities was the Depot's 48th Commander, Col. Deacon Maddox.
"For 75 years, when our Soldiers have reached back, the people of Letterkenny delivered," said Maddox. He addressed the large crowd of depot artisans, dignitaries, community leaders and current business partners who assembled for the celebration held at the Recreation Area at the Depot.
It all began on Friday, July 17, 1942, when Col. John K. Clement arrived at Letterkenny Ordnance Depot as the first Commander of the newly-formed depot whose mission was that of an ammunition storage and shipment facility. Clement lead the workforce in accomplishing its first shipment of ammunition, three weeks ahead of schedule.
One year later Letterkenny's mission expanded to include the repair and maintenance of other equipment, including small arms. In 1945 additional depot functions included the assignment of spare parts supply for heavy duty general purpose vehicles.
Recognizing the depot artisans
The greatness of that early workforce continues today. "Letterkenny is a place where the nation gathers some of the most skilled and most patriotic civilian artisans from across four states, many of them veterans and many of them combat veterans,' Maddox said. "The nation gives them tools, facilities and equipment. It gives them repair parts and finished materials. It gives them engineering and computer systems. In return, the artisans give the Nation's Soldiers' platforms from which they can protect themselves, their buddies, the Nation's allies and the American people."
Continuing to honor the Depot's workforce, Mr. Mike Ross, President of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation and Chair of Team Letterkenny, said, "The success of the Depot from 1942 until today can be directly correlated to the commitment and dedication of the employees to making the installation the best that it can be. There are numerous families across Franklin County who are in their fourth generation of working at the Depot. The skill sets and institutional knowledge that has been developed here over the last 75 years simply cannot be replicated anywhere else."
"Every community in the country wants a Letterkenny. They want an anchor employer that is home to more than 3,200 workers and who create a $300 million annual economic impact. They want to know that their installation has a global reputation for operational excellence which is delivering defense systems that are protecting our allies who are under the threat of hostile forces."
75th Anniversary Coin
Keeping with depot tradition, a 75th anniversary coin was unveiled during the ceremony. One Letterkenny employee, Mr. Danny Kissel, worked with Maddox to design depicting the evolving mission of the Ordnance depot to that of the modern-day Army depot. One side of the coin depicts an image of a baby riding a bomb, which was a popular poster item during World War II. On the other side of the coin is that baby all grown up symbolizing its progression from riding gravity bombs to launching precision missiles.
75th time capsule
In 1992, the Depot's 38th Commander, Col. Joseph Arbuckle buried a time capsule outside its headquarters located in Building 500 to honor Letterkenny's then accomplishments. During his comments Col. Arbuckle speculated on who would open the 75th time capsule. Quoting from the October 6, 1992 edition of the KennyLetter, Arbuckle asked, "Who will dig up the time capsule? There are three answers...a chief executive officer of a civilian corporation paid to operate the depot as a government-owned, contractor-operated facility. Second, it could be an officer of the Air Force or Navy or a civilian official who is running a joint-service, consolidated maintenance agency similar to the Defense Logistics Agency. The third option could be the commander of Letterkenny Army Depot."
As Damian Bess, Deputy Commanding Officer for the Depot and Master of Ceremonies for the event, answered Arbuckle's question, cheers rang out from the audience. Assisting Maddox with the unveiling were the Depot's 40th Commander, Col. Thomas Resau, and the 44th Commander, Col. Robert Swenson. As Resau and Swenson uncovered the items, Maddox identified the items that were encapsulated for 25 years. Those items included 1992 capabilities briefings, various t-shirts from Desert Storm, a sand and water bottle from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
A set of BDUs donated by then Capt. Ted Harrison was unveiled as Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Ted Harrison watched from their seats among the VIPs. Harrison who is retiring soon from active duty said, "Not only did my tour at Letterkenny provide a great foundation for future success in the Army, but Chambersburg was a great place to live and raise a family. Wendy and I have a number of friends who we first met at Letterkenny and who we have remained close to over the past 25 years." Harrison is currently with HQDA as Director of Operations for the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation management (ACSIM).
100th time capsule
Maddox, Resau and Swenson moved into the future as they viewed items to be placed in the 100th anniversary time capsule, not to be opened until 2042. Directorates throughout the Depot donated items representing their specific missions. As Maddox checked off the inventory of items, cheers erupted throughout the crowd as the workforce acknowledged their contributions to the future history of the Depot. Photos depicting the new Metals Building construction near Building 350, the 35th PATRIOT modernization mission in Korea (Jan-Sep 2017), an aerial view of depot will be part of the time capsule in addition to a PATRIOT missile (PAC 2) nickel alloy tip with part of the radome material still attached from a de-milled radome. The Commander also included a set of his ASUs and boots.
"As we were preparing for this celebration, we discovered that we simply didn't have an archive to pull anecdotes, photos and stories; in short, we are missing our heritage," Maddox said. "This is our heritage, and we need to preserve it." He then announced that effective July 17, 2017, the formation of the Letterkenny Historical Committee to collect, preserve and display the heritage of Letterkenny Army Depot.
Maddox assured the assembled group that whatever happens, Letterkenny will be ready and he said, "you can be sure that our depot, your depot, will play a major role. We will protect the formation, and we will continue to reach forward with the support our Soldiers need."
Mr. Brian LaForme represented Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's office and read a congratulatory message from the Governor "applauding the efforts of the Depot which have greatly affected our armed forces and strengthened the Chambersburg community."
Pennsylvania Senator Rich Alloway thanked the workforce for continuing to provide outstanding support each and every day. He presented an official citation from the Senate of Pennsylvania congratulating the Depot on its "momentous occasion of its 75th anniversary."
Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rob Kauffman and Paul Schemel read an official citation from the House "saluting the Depot as it recommits itself to the ideals and standards which have sustained it for 75 years."
Immediately following the formal ceremony, Letterkenny's workforce was treated to a picnic catered by Mission BBQ. Cutting the anniversary cake were the oldest Depot employee, Mr. Kenneth Sites, and the youngest employee, Mr. Taha Shamshudin. Sites is an employee with the Directorate of Public Works and Shamshudin works in the Directorate of Industrial Operations. Employees enjoyed ice cream and Italian ice, caricature drawings, customized street signs and horseshoes, volleyball, and miniature golf. A favorite among the crowd was the Car, Truck and Motorcycle show. Employees voted on their favorite vehicle. The Wellness Committee invited over 30 outside vendors who offer local community services. Free chair massages were among the crowd favorites.
A new addition to the employee appreciation day was the Bike/Run/Walk event organized by the Wellness Committee that was held early in the day on the Depot's wheeled test track. Over 400 employees participated in the event as Maddox lead the group of 378 walkers twice around a half-mile track. The Depot's Deputy Commanding Officer, Damian Bess, lead 45 runners on a two-mile run, and TJ Coder, Deputy Director for Industrial Operations, riding a tandem bike with co-worker Jeremy Crouse, lead 12 bikers on a five-mile ride.
At the end of the day, Maddox summed it all up by saying, "Happy 75th birthday, Letterkenny!"
Comprising over 17,500 acres, the Depot is the largest employer in Franklin County, Pa. Contributing to the Depot's success is its unique tactical missile repair capabilities in support of the DOD missile systems including the Patriot ground support and radar equipment.