By John B. SnyderDecember 17, 2009
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. - More than 300 Arsenal employees heard something this month in the post's historic "Big Gun Shop" that they haven't heard very often in nearly 200 years - a thank you from local and state leadership.
The Albany County Executive, Michael Breslin; City of Watervliet Mayor, Michael Manning; and New York's Director of Veterans' Affairs, retired Army Col. James McDonough; traveled to the Arsenal on Dec. 10 to reaffirm the Capital District's and New York State's commitment to Soldiers, their families, Department of the Army Civilians, and to Veterans.
Arsenal Commander Col. Scott N. Fletcher hosted this year's Capital District's Army Community Covenant Ceremony, which is the second ceremony of its kind to be conducted in the Albany area.
Last year, the mayors of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Watervliet hosted the Arsenal's first Community Covenant Ceremony in downtown Albany. The ceremony was moved to the Arsenal this year so that more of the workforce could attend.
Breslin, who saw service in Vietnam as an infantry company commander, talked with emotion as he listed name-by-name the fallen servicemembers of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
He also talked about the history and tradition the Arsenal workforce has shown for nearly 200 years.
"Arsenal workers provide the best possible weapons and your support is vital to our servicemen and women," Breslin said. "I am honored to sign this Covenant on behalf of the people of this community."
Manning, a Navy Veteran, explained to the workforce that what they do has a tremendous effect on the local community.
"The Arsenal has been connected to the City of Watervliet since its inception. The products you manufacturer have not only increased the lethality of our Army, but they have also enhanced the survivability of our Soldiers," said Manning.
McDonough, who recently retired, spoke as if he was still in command of a unit with his motivational remarks.
"There is no more important work today in this world than caring for an Army family. And that Army family includes you," McDonough said as he was making a point that Department of the Army Civilians are an integral part of the broader Army.
Fletcher explained to the guest speakers how the workforce has clawed its way back from the bleak years of the 1990s when the workforce suffered nine reductions in force.
"The Watervliet Arsenal workforce has been the community's silent professionals having proudly supported every American conflict since the War of 1812. As silent professionals, we have not sought nor have we heard the praise from the community very often. And so, it truly means a lot to us today to hear from local and state leaders about the Arsenal's importance to the community," Fletcher said.
During a show of hands of Veterans in the audience, nearly 50 percent of the more than 300 who attended were Veterans. Active duty Soldiers, their families, and Veterans from the local community also attended.