MILAN, Tenn. - "I don't like the word 'closing' because we're not closing. As you all know there's a time to downsize and right size and then there's a time to transform; and I think that's what's happening now," said Lt. Col. Maria Eoff, commander, Milan Army Ammunition Plant.

During an Aug. 23 meeting with the Milan Business and Professional WomenAca,!a,,cs Association Eoff addressed Milan AAPsAca,!a,,c current status and expressed optimism about the future.

Eoff has been asked countless questions over the course of the last several months. Recently, when she was asked to speak to the Milan Business and Professional Women's Association, she gave an answer everyone could accept.

The women of the local association are a mix of Milan leaders from business owners, nurses, realtors and current or retired plant employees. The longstanding organization empowers working women to achieve their full potential and partners with employers to build successful workplaces through education, research, knowledge and policy.

As a working woman with an Army career spanning 20 years, six countries and more than 12 assignments, Eoff has seen change on many occasions.

As a commander, Eoff knows times such as these require honest answers and frank discussion.

"I think this is going to be a bit of a trying time for us right now in Milan. I've always felt as long as we're persistent and we're true to our core competencies and our capabilities, I think things will turn around eventually.

"I can tell you no earmarked, no BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), and no government equipment will be moved up to Iowa without--obviously--the government's permission to do so. They've not unbolted anything: we would know about it," said Eoff.

Released in June, the Environmental Assessment includes a proposal to relocate production of munitions and subassemblies from Milan AAP to Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, prompting further concern over the status of Milan AAP and the local community.

As part of the EA, there was a public comment period. Eoff and her staff have read, counted and categorized all 2,000 comments.

Milan AAP's higher headquarters, the Joint Munitions Command at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., is conducting a thorough review of the comments as well, as the next step in the EA process. At this time, there is no specific date of completion for their evaluation.

And while everyone waits, Eoff remains optimistic and equally proud of the contributions of the Milan AAP workforce--past and present.

"I'm very proud of what the Arsenal has done for our National Defense and I want other people to see my staff and how well they're doing, and of course the contractor (American Ordnance) and what they're doing.

"We want to advertise the Arsenal. I think that's very important," said Eoff.

As commander, she's Army strong and with numerous assignments within operations, plans and previous commanding experience, Eoff has the credentials to lead Milan AAP during this time. She expresses her idea that Milan's time in the spotlight comes with some positives.

"I think it's good that we have this opportunity to look at ourselves and to look at our process--look at our competencies--and start looking at other ways which we can continue to be relevant," she said.

Milan AAP currently produces the 40-millimeter (40 mm) family of munitions, M112 Demo Block, Mine Clearing Charge(s), SPIDER grenades, 60mm and 81 mm mortars as well as mortar components. Milan AAP has been recognized within the Army Materiel Command for its safety and force protection practices.