WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- The Army's Benét Laboratories this month marked its 50th anniversary with a ceremony on May 9 that was attended by a number of former leaders and workers whose service to the Army dates back more than 50 years. This was a rare celebration in that Benét Labs' culture does not believe in self-promotion, but such a significant milestone could not go unnoticed, said Lee Bennett, the director of Benét Labs.

Prior to the ceremony, Bennett said "Although we were organized with the official Benét Labs name on May 9, 1962, we have actually been providing weapons research, design, and development for our military since 1887 at the Watervliet Arsenal. When the Arsenal began cannon production in the 1880s, we were there to help design the first 12-inch and 16-inch guns."

Benét has changed a lot since 1962, in that it has grown from a mostly a large caliber research and design facility to an organization that provides a full spectrum of software and engineering design and support for a diverse Army.

"We still design large caliber weapon systems because that is our core mission, but we also develop such products as Tank Crewmen Cooling Kits and 3D medical modeling for military and for civilian application," Bennett said.

But above all else, Bennett said his team loves a challenge.

"We thrive on the challenge of solving problems that no one else can solve," Bennett said. "Because we are on call 24/7, we have to be able to tackle any problem and we do so very well."

During the ceremony, Benét Labs leadership honored the thousands of engineers, scientists, and researchers who through the years have helped make Benét Labs a world leader in not only large caliber weapons development, but also in many other product developments that have helped make our troops either more lethal or more survivable on the battlefields.

It goes without saying just how valuable Benét Labs has been to the workforce and to our Army. Nevertheless, a few charter members of Benét's freshman class felt compelled to talk about their thoughts that they had.

Ralph Mischitelli, who started working at Benét Labs after he was discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1962, said that he has spent more time with Benét Labs than he has with his family over the last 50 years.

"My coworkers have truly become my second family and I couldn't be more proud of them today," Mischitelli said.

Glenn P. O'Hara, who started working at the Arsenal in 1961 and then became part of Benét's freshman team in 1962, said the anniversary makes him think about how much Benét has grown from a large caliber research and design facility in 1962 to a major Army research center that it is today.

"In the early years, we truly struggled to get established and weren't sure if we could make Benét a viable organization," O'Hara said. "Look at us today, we have done quite well providing broader support to the troops than we could have imagined in 1962."

This week's anniversary may be more significant than many in attendance may have believed, and its significance was touted by several elected officials who were in attendance.

Former U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty took a few moments at the ceremony to say that although he has retired from Congress that he will never stop fighting for the Watervliet Arsenal and for Benét Labs in the halls of Congress because those two organizations are too important to the Army and to the community.

New York State Senator Neil Breslin added that Benét Laboratories is one of the best kept secrets in upstate New York and that he, too, will fight to ensure that Benét grows and prospers.

Dan McCoy, the Albany County Executive, said that what President Obama talked about during a visit to Albany this week in regards to public-private partnerships is exactly what Benét Labs has been doing for more than 100 years.

These types of public-private partnerships, according to the President, are the model for rebuilding the U.S. economy.

McCoy added that as a former tank crewman he has used several products that were designed and developed by Benét Labs and so, he has firsthand knowledge of just how important Benét Labs is to the Soldier.

Given their age, there are some things that the charter members may have forgotten through the years, and that is truly understandable. But the one thing they have not forgotten is their service to Benét Labs and to our nation.

Benét Laboratories is a Department of the Army research, development and engineering facility located at the Watervliet Arsenal. It is a part of the Weapons & Software Engineering Center (WSEC), Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

Benét employs more than 250 workers.