ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - Depot Commander Col. S. B. Keller was a keynote speaker July 28 at the Third Annual Heavy Vehicles Summit held during three days at Tysons Corner, Va. The colonel spoke to industry leaders about Anniston's modernization and sustainment initiatives within the U.S. military's combat vehicle fleet.

"This is not your great grandparents' depot," said Keller. "What started in the 1940s as a storage depot for conventional weapons is now the Army's Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for tracked and wheeled vehicles in addition to small arms and artillery."

During the 40-minute presentation, Keller shared the stage with ANAD's General Manager of Production Operations Michael Burke and welder Corey Abernathy, a cooperative education student slated to graduate from Gadsden State Community College in December.

The manager of thousands of Department of the Army civilians responsible for the repair and reset of combat vehicles and weapons, Burke described the partnerships that make programs like the Stryker and the Assault Breacher Vehicle successful. He said Anniston was one of the first depots within the Department of Defense to form a public-private partnership under the statutes and regulations facilitating direct sales, workshare and facility use agreements.

"Partnering with industry and with other branches of service has allowed DoD to avoid costs and find the highest quality in products since the program manager is given source of repair options while both parties benefit from each other's skill sets and capabilities," said Burke.

Keller plugged partnering opportunities within the organic base of depots and arsenals, showing the successes ANAD has had doing business with Tobyhanna and Red River Army depots and with Rock Island Arsenal and Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC.

Partnerships allow maintenance depots to preserve their core capabilities by working with companies or other government sites to agree on terms that retain or increase the workload and utilize facilities at bases and installations.

With the Stryker reset program, in particular, the work is divided equally between the partners-Anniston Army Depot and General Dynamics Land Systems. Using the depot's facilities and the expertise of both partners, the best value is given to the Army's Stryker Program Manager.

"This is the first time a P3 contract here has split the work 50/50; our agreements usually reflect disproportionate work-split combinations," said Burke. "We had a lot of naysayers in the beginning who were concerned that ANAD and GDLS would have a hard time incorporating the business practices of two different types of organizations, but we worked through the challenges and successfully completed the first order."

ANAD also shares work with GDLS on the Stryker combat- and battle-damage repair program, and the depot leases facilities to GDLS for the production of new Strykers. GDLS, Honeywell and BAE Systems are just three of a dozen companies that have partnered with ANAD since the depot started P3s in the early 1990s. Since then, ANAD has entered into 86 P3 programs; 37 are active.

One attendee during the summit had something to say about the depot's industrial merit: "Good briefing. If you were a private company, I would want to buy stock."

Abernathy links serving, welding

Keller concluded her portion of the presentation touting the depot's workforce revitalization initiatives by drawing attention to the Student Educational Employment Program, which provides jobs to students studying to attain degrees at all levels-high school, vocational and technical, associate, baccalaureate, graduate and professional.

Keller then turned the room's attention to Abernathy, who spoke to the conference attendees about his cooperative education experience and his place in the depot's mission to produce heavy combat vehicles.

Abernathy, a 2008 graduate of Cherokee County High School and the depot's Career Academy, has worked his way into the depot's Nichols Industrial Complex where he welds components for the M1 Abrams tank beside journeyman welders.

"The co-op program has given me opportunities I would never have imagined five years ago," said Abernathy.

"Not only has the depot made it possible for me to better my education, it's given me a safe and friendly work environment where I get to support our nation's troops." Abernathy has enjoyed a relationship with the Army since age 17 when he went for basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. He's a specialist in the Army National Guard with the 1334th Chemical Company out of Fort Payne, a city in northeast Alabama.

In April 2009, he deployed to the Middle East where he served one year as a gunner. His brigade ran operations at the main check point for NATO troops on the border of Iraq and Kuwait.

Welding supervisor Randall Holbrooke said Abernathy's deployment with the National Guard changed the student's work ethic "greatly for the better."

He said Abernathy is an asset to the depot, and he's asked the student to share with co-workers how combat vehicles welded here are treated in theater.

"(Abernathy) had seen firsthand in a combat zone what the vehicles he had worked on at ANAD were doing in combat and had seen how severely these vehicles could be damaged," said Holbrooke. "He began to understand why we stressed quality so much in the rebuild process at ANAD."

"I'm proud to say I am a part of Anniston Army Depot," Abernathy said.