WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- American Legion leadership visited America's cannon factory to gain a better understanding of what it takes to produce the world's best cannon and mortar systems March 28.

Most people know the American Legion as an organization that champions for veteran's issues, but that is only part of the legion's mission according to Brett Reistad, National Commander of the American Legion. Part of coming here is to better understand what it takes to make cannon and howitzers, said Reistad.

"Seeing this in person really gives perspective of what is needed to ensure our military is equipped and ready to fight which supports the legion's mission of ensuring national security interests are being met," said Reistad.

During the visit, Reistad and other members of the American Legion received an overview by Col. Milton G. Kelly, Watervliet Arsenal commander, and a guided tour of the manufacturing facilities here. The tour witnessed all stages of cannon production from the rotary forge where hammers beat steel into the initial shape of a cannon to final machining and chroming process. Kelly showcased some of the newest machines that have been recently installed to boost capabilities and capacity.

"These new machines are part of our commitment to modernization efforts to ensure we continue to provide the very best cannon and howitzers to support the nation's readiness efforts," said Kelly.

Throughout the tour, stories of prior service employees and their connection to the products they now produce were shared.

"When I was a younger man serving in the artillery, there was never a time when I pulled that lanyard that I didn't think it wouldn't fire," said Terry Van Vranken, machinist supervisor. "Never once did our artillery fail me and that is because of the hard work of the men and women of the arsenal that came before me."

Veterans make up more than 35 percent of the arsenal's workforce making the arsenal one of the largest employers of veterans in New York's capital region.

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. Today's arsenal is relied upon by the U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannons, howitzers and mortar systems.