ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Col. Marvin Walker, Anniston Army Depot’s commander, held a town hall meeting March 10, bringing together depot leadership to speak with the workforce about various topics.
To adhere to social distance guidelines, seating for the event was limited to depot leaders. Col. Walker relaxed the mask mandate for speakers at the podium to ensure hearing impaired employees could receive all of the information presented.
Questions from the workforce were solicited prior to the meeting and were addressed at the end of the town hall.
The commander began his remarks by acknowledging the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic and thanking the workforce for their dedication. “It’s been a long and different year,” he said. “But I want to thank everyone for their continued dedication to the mission and each other.” Walker also recalled that a year ago command staff began implementing policies to protect the workforce and adjusting to COVID-19 protocols. He added that in spite of it all, ANAD was still able to meet its mission and take care of each other. He said, “I want to applaud everyone for that.”
Walker encouraged everyone to take advantage of the vaccine and to get one as soon as they are able. He also reminded everyone of the mask mandate. “The mandate is still in place,” he said. “Everyone is required to wear a mask while on the installation.”
Weather and Safety Leave employees are slated to return to work on March 15. Walker emphasized that employees on Weather and Safety Leave were not out due to any fault of their own; they were deemed the highest risk employees. He also stressed that improving conditions made it possible for those employees to return to work. “Now that we have a mask mandate, vaccinations and better posture in the community and on depot, I think we can bring those employees back,” he said.
Walker also provided an update on the health protection condition for ANAD. “In the next week or so we will likely change the HPCON back to normal,” he said. “As long as we continue to progress the way we are, we’ll likely see more things get back to normal.”
“We’re on track this year,” Walker said regarding workload for fiscal year 2021. According to data provided, the current workload for FY21 is 3.3 million direct labor hours. “Last year we were at about 3 million direct labor hours,” he recalled.
Concerns regarding hiring and overtime were also addressed. Walker noted that jobs are posted based on workload requirements. Overtime is also determined in the same way. “We’ve cut down on overtime significantly since we have enough people to do the work required. The staff and directors are doing a really good job managing this,” he said.
Walker closed his remarks by reminding the workforce of the purpose of town halls. “I want to have a conversation,” he said. “And under normal circumstances, town halls present a platform for two-way dialogue. It’s important that we periodically address the workforce.”
Leaders share depot status
The depot’s acting Safety Chief, Rob Cunningham, provided safety statistics for FY21. According to Cunningham, the number of recordable injuries is down 15% year to date from 2020; recordable injuries are down 33% ytd from 2019.
Yet, he noted there is always room for continuous improvement.
“The current injury trends we have are for lacerations, cuts and punctures; especially of the hands,” Cunningham said. He encouraged employees to be employees to be careful when reaching for materials and to always ensure they are wearing proper personal protective equipment when doing a job. “If you’re working in a building that requires safety glasses, hearing protection or any other PPE, please wear it and wear it properly,” he said.
Reporting injuries was also highly encouraged. According to Cunningham the sooner incidents and injuries are reported, the faster the Safety office can investigate and determine why the incident happened. This allows Safety to come up with measures to prevent future injuries.
Other safety concerns included proper labeling and packaging of cadmium laundry and safe driving on depot. Plans for an Occupational Safety and Health Administration Challenge training are also in progress. Part of that training will focus on learning the four elements of the OSHA Challenge.
Upward Mobility Program
An update regarding the Upward Mobility Program was provided. According to Thyris Banks, Chief of Business and Support Operations, the program is making great strides. One position has already been filled.
The program, open only to ANAD employees, exists to identify exceptional candidates inside of ANAD to allow them the opportunity to apply for positions with increased career potential. “The purpose of the positions is two fold,” Banks said. “To fill critical indirect positions and to provide growth opportunities for ANAD employees.”
Four additional positions are expected to be filled within the next week; with an additional three to four positions yet to be filled.
The selection process for the program strives to provide a fair process for all candidates. “Resumes are redacted and there is a panel process,” Banks stated. “We want this program to be as transparent as possible.”
The program is moving swiftly to fill positions. Bulletins are sent out through all user emails. Employees are encouraged to pay close attention and apply.
The Civilian Personnel Advisory Center will determine the eligibility and qualification of all candidates.
Banks stressed that this is a great opportunity for ANAD personnel that the command staff has put in place. “It’s up to you to take advantage and apply,” he said.
ANAD Chief of Staff, Phil Trued, outlined the depot’s new installation management command.
“Almost every installation has an installation management command which manages base operation functions,” Trued said. This includes directorates such the Directorate of Public Works, Directorate of Emergency Services, etc.
He pointed out that the Army decided to transition all depots and arsenals to IMCOM; a transition that Trued said would be transparent to the majority of the workforce. “Everyone will remain a TACOM employee,” he said. “There are no visible changes.
Trued also emphasized that there would be no funding changes and that administrative actions such as GAP awards would remain status quo. He also noted that a few employees would be reassigned to a new directorate or cost center but they would maintain their positions. Those employees will be notified soon of those changes.
The planned organization will become provisional on April 1, with the effective date still to be determined.
Questions from workforce
During the question portion of the town hall, questions submitted prior to the meeting were answered by depot leadership.
Many employee questions were answered during the town hall including questions regarding IMCOM and return to work policy for those on Weather and Safety Leave.
Trued provided clarity on inquiries regarding Total Employee Development trainings for ANAD employees and contractors.
“As government employees we have mandated training,” Trued said. “Contractors adhere to this guidance regarding training requirements.”
Questions regarding Material Expediter positions were posed multiple times. Todd Dishman, Director of Production Management, took the time to explain the process for filling those positions.
“We only had about 25 material expediter positions available, but we have a lot more term expediters than that,” he said. “We chose to have everyone compete for the positions as the fairest way to fill them.”
In order to maintain fairness, command staff and directors choose to fulfill those positions by using redacted resumes and a panel for interviewing. Additionally, CPAC made referral decisions.
“We interviewed 100 percent of the applicants that CPAC referred,” Dishman said.
Walker echoed Dishman’s sentiments citing the number of positions and applicants lead them to choose the fairest method to fulfill the positions.
Other topics covered at the town hall were the Civilian Harassment Intervention Program. Patricia Boothe, CHIP program manager, provided information on how to distinguish between CHIP, the Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program and Equal Employee Opportunity. Booth pointed out while all three programs work with one another, each serves a distinctly different purpose. Booth encouraged employees to continue utilizing all of the avenues available to them in the case of a harassment or sexual harassment claim, and to remember to remain respectful of other another in work centers to avoid issues.
Danny Garrick, Emergency Manager in the Depot Operations Office, shared information about severe weather awareness. Garrick encouraged employees to begin preparing for severe weather now as tornado and hurricane seasons are fast approaching. For more information on preparing for severe weather season, see page 5 or contact Garrick at Ext. 4769.
George Worman, the depot’s chief legal counsel, reiterated the Army’s policy for flags and symbols. According to Worman, the policy is in place to ensure that employees are focused on getting the job done and are not distracted by things that could lead to discord or divisive discussion in the workplace. For additional information on the Army’s
policy on flags and symbols, contact the Legal office at Ext. 6518.