Modernization is main focus of TACOM Depot and Arsenal Commanders’ Forum

By Scott WakefieldNovember 10, 2021

U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command’s commanding general and depot and arsenal commanders take a moment away from discussing modernization during the TACOM Depot and Arsenal Commanders’ Forum Oct. 26-28 to pose for a group photo.  From left to right: Lt. Col. George Kloppenburg, commander Joint Systems Manufacturing Center-Lima, Col. Eric McCoy, commander Anniston Army Depot, Col. Earl Schonberg, Jr., commander Watervliet Arsenal, Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, commanding general TACOM, Col. Shari Bennett, commander Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, Col. John Kredo, commander Red River Army Depot, and Lt. Col. Amy Cory, commander Sierra Army Depot. (Photo by Carl Jones, TACOM)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command’s commanding general and depot and arsenal commanders take a moment away from discussing modernization during the TACOM Depot and Arsenal Commanders’ Forum Oct. 26-28 to pose for a group photo. From left to right: Lt. Col. George Kloppenburg, commander Joint Systems Manufacturing Center-Lima, Col. Eric McCoy, commander Anniston Army Depot, Col. Earl Schonberg, Jr., commander Watervliet Arsenal, Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, commanding general TACOM, Col. Shari Bennett, commander Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, Col. John Kredo, commander Red River Army Depot, and Lt. Col. Amy Cory, commander Sierra Army Depot. (Photo by Carl Jones, TACOM) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Depot and arsenal commanders from U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and other members of the TACOM team discuss modernization with Harold Sears, Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Manager
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Depot and arsenal commanders from U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and other members of the TACOM team discuss modernization with Harold Sears, Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Manager (Photo Credit: Scott Wakefield) VIEW ORIGINAL

DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — Modernization is a current priority in the Army. To that end, Army leadership at all levels are having the conversation on what needs to be done to reach that end goal.

Recently, Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, commanding general U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command gathered the depot and arsenal commanders together at the TACOM Depot and Arsenal Commanders’ Forum to discuss modernization.

Werner wanted the commanders of Anniston Army Depot, Red River Army Depot, Sierra Army Depot, Watervliet Arsenal, Rock Island Arsenal – Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, and Joint Systems Manufacturing Center-Lima to come together and help develop the framework for how TACOM will achieve modernization across the enterprise.

The goal for Werner was to bring people into the process, which will make modernization real, and not just a catchphrase.

“We need to clearly understand where the future is going to take us,” said Werner. “This begins with a vision, if you don’t have an end goal you have nothing.”

He encouraged the depot and arsenal commanders to focus on what they want their organizations to look like in the future, develop a vision, and then take care of the requirements needed for modernization.

Werner stated that another focal point is to concentrate on the people by training the current workforce, and initiating an effort to recruit a future workforce already trained in the new technologies.

“There must be a specific return on investment,” said Werner. “We have to have precision on everything we do.”

The vision isn’t the end goal of the commander’s process, according to Ed Burke, TACOM’s deputy chief of staff for operations.

“The end-state is a modernized arsenal or depot,” said Burke.

“The investments that we are making today, must feed into our vision,” Werner said, adding to Burke’s statement.

According to Werner, we have the capability to project where we will be in the future with current technologies. This will help us make decisions to change our vision when needed. Werner also stated that Army Materiel Command can help us understand what we need to do to meet the Army’s future goals.

“As new technologies come about we need to have the conversation with our higher headquarters on how we will incorporate those into the way we do business,” said Werner.

Prior to the primary discussion on modernization, the TACOM team took the commanders on a field trip to the Ford Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan. While there, Jason Riska, Ford’s Manager of Technology and Development, explained how they focused on modernization by concentrating on three things: people, facilities and equipment.

Training was a topic of discussion about how to get individuals ready to produce using new technologies and further modernization capabilities.

Werner added it was important for depot and arsenal commanders to make sure that they are hiring the right people that can do the job they are applying for.

“We have to hold our employees accountable for the skills they say they have,” Werner implored.

Werner reiterated that our arsenal and depots shouldn’t be focused on being a high volume organization. He stated that was the responsibility of industry. Our arsenal and depots should be focused on low-volume quality production that helps meet the Army’s mission where industry can’t.

“If we let the past define our future, then we will start reliving the past,” said Ahmed Mawari, deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering, and environmental.

Mawari said that the arsenal and depot commanders need to have a plan in place to look at the infrastructure and equipment to know when it needs to be replaced so that their organizations can continue the process of modernizing.

“Each of you are trying to incrementally improve your organizations over time,” Werner said. “I’m looking to [the commanders] to handle getting rid of equipment that their installations don’t need, so that when the time comes we have room for what we need to modernize.”

He compared what he is asking them to do with playing chess…they need to look two to three moves ahead so that the organization can react within days and weeks and not months and years.

The commander’s also received a briefing on information technology roles that will drive modernization, because some accreditation requirements on IT processes can add to their modernization timelines.

Jamison Bourque, TACOM’s Information Assurance Manager, stated that the commanders need to make IT requirements a priority to help them better develop their modernization strategies and still meet their deadlines.

“When you are building out your IT plans take into account the capabilities and possible need to expand,” said Bourque.

Keeping future capabilities and needs in mind, according to Bourque, will help the arsenals and depots adapt to future technologies and requirements smoother.

Werner encouraged the depot and arsenal commanders with the statement “there’s no challenge we can’t overcome.” He reiterated that these challenges can come at any of the stages in the modernization plan.

“These are just hurdles and road blocks,” Werner said. “We just have to focus on the purpose and on what we need to do at each installation.”

To finish up the discussion, Dr. Valerie Devries, TACOM deputy chief of staff for human resources, talked about how the depot and arsenal commanders unconsciously drive requirements within the education system in their communities.

“When you release information through press releases or social media talking about skills of your workforce, it tells individuals within your communities that they need to possibly train individuals in certain skills to provide job opportunities for the younger generation still learning those future skills,” said Devries.

She encouraged them to hold conversations with the educational institutions in their area to help drive curriculum so that in the future, when their installations are looking for a qualified workforce, future employees will have the skills they need to enter the TACOM workforce.

“We need to build strategies for individuals that come inside the organization to get them where we need them, and where they want to be,” said Werner. “Not everyone that comes to us will become, nor want to become, a leader within the organization, some just want to come to work and do a good job.”

Werner reiterated that sometimes you have to pull your workers out of their comfort zone and train them so they can focus on what the enterprise needs them to do in the future.

“We can’t wait for things to happen, it’s not just the same-old, same-old. If you’re sitting still you are dying,” said Werner. “We have to move into the future.”