CRANE, Ind. - Crane Army Ammunition Activity completed the three-day Depot and Arsenal Assessment Program here, providing the leadership of the Army Materiel Command with a holistic view of both its strengths and its areas that need more support.

AMC Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Pillsbury, as well as representatives from AMC, JMC and depot commanders, attended the program designed to provide AMC with a greater look at the various Joint Munitions Command depots and arsenals.

"Any time you can get leadership to step away from their desk, at both JMC and AMC, and see where the blue-collar work force really makes a difference, it opens our eyes that not all our decisions are as well thought out as we thought. Good ideas come from the bottom up and not necessarily from the top down and that we need to do some things differently at the higher headquarters to ensure that Crane becomes even more efficient and effective," Pillsbury said.

During the conference, attendees received a few briefings but focused largely on visiting key areas of Crane including some of its shipping and receiving, production and administration sites. The idea was to allow for a true look at the way Crane Army does business. According to Crane Army Commander Col. Charles Kibben, the idea was to present a total, unfiltered view so that the attendees could truly glean Crane Army's best practices and suggest improvements.

"Through this collaborative process, we will share with you what has enabled CAAA to be successful and learn together what we all can do to improve, partner and maintain a strong and balanced ammunition enterprise," Kibben stated in his welcome to the guests. "By utilizing your collective experiences and knowledge, I am confident that all of us can find ways to improve the way we do business."

AMC Director of Support Operations James Dwyer explained the importance of the visit for the leadership of the four-star command. He said, "The nice thing about this is that the headquarters learns a lot about what is going on at the plant. What we bring is the Washington, D.C., picture of logistics. So this visit was extremely helpful. We learn a lot that we didn't know before every time we come down here and it enables folks down here to understand the Washington, D.C., perspective."

Although showing both the positive and potential negative areas might seem painful to some, Crane showed the attendees it was serious about improving itself. Pillsbury said, "Any time you have twenty or so outsiders descend upon you it is tough, but this program was done very professionally. More importantly, the workforce showed that it is well lead, well trained and capable of doing its mission in either a surge or a steady state."

That idea of openness displayed by the workforce was echoed by AMC Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, William Marriott. He said, "Of course these visits are designed to not only find the great things and recognize those, but find areas of improvements and there are a few. The folks that are on the floors are willing to talk about those and make recommendations. So I came away much better for having experienced this."

Marriott, a relatively new employee of both AMC and the Army, explained the value of the conference for him was in learning what each specific site does as well as having open dialogue with the workers. He said for the other AMC representatives at the conference, "I think they had the opportunity to talk to those employees at the lowest levels in an open and honest conversation and find out what the real issues are that they can take back. I also think that the synergy that we get with all of the ammunition plant commanders here in the same place at the same time, along with the JMC leadership, there is great value in that. You can focus on specific issues and talk one on one. The general has had plenty of opportunities to sit down and talk to those commanders. You can't capture that on the phone or VTC. So that synergy and the best practices that are popping up are of a real value."

Among the other depots and arsenals represented at the conference were Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark.; Tooele Army Depot, Utah; Blue Grass Army Depot, Ky.; McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Okla.; and Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas. For the commanders, the conference and site visits allowed for them to contrast and compare operations, as well as share best business practices.

"The benefit of benchmarking off of Crane's operations is critical," Col. William Barnett, commander of Pine Bluff Arsenal, said. "Getting to see some of Crane's Shingo-ready operations was one great benefit, as well as learning of some partnering opportunities between us. They have some capacity here that I was not aware of and there might be a chance to partner together on some projects."

For Barnett's replacement at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Col. Franz Amann, the conference allowed him a chance to learn more about the other depots. "As an incoming commander, this gives me a better appreciation of how other installations are doing their job and how I might be able to gain efficiencies on the practices here. That is a great value. It also gives me an appreciation of what Crane does in relation to what Pine Bluff Arsenal will do when I take command. Plus meeting the other commanders and seeing how they perceive their operations compared to the operations here."

One of the most common themes repeated by attendees was the pride the Crane employees displayed in doing their jobs. With an ever-present attitude of safety, the Indiana workforce showed that their dedication was not for show, but a real sentiment about their job.

Marriott said, "I heard an interesting quote today from a gentleman running the shipping and receiving section, who said that everyone here feels privileged to be working at Crane. And that is not just because of the economy, but I think it is because of the environment the command fosters. So I have a very positive impression of the workforce here."

"What these people do here every day... maybe they do know, but I don't think they really understand how much they mean to this country overall and how much they are helping the Soldiers in the fight," Marriott said. "You can sense that there is a great deal of pride here, but the one thing I would comment on is how proud I am of the people here and the work they do."

This was a common theme among most of the attendees and echoed by the Deputy to the JMC Commanding General Jyuji Hewitt, who said, "They are making a difference. They are supporting Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in every way. They are putting out a quality product. They are doing it effectively and they are doing it with the Warfighters in mind. And we cannot thank them enough. I always want to let folks know, that behind the men and women in uniform is a dedicated workforce like these civilians here at Crane supporting them. They are doing a great job."

Pillsbury closed the conference by stating, "I leave Crane with a couple of things. Number one, it is in great hands leadership wise - both civilian and military leadership. And number two, Crane meets the mission safely, on time, virtually every time."

CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.