WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- While Soldiers in Afghanistan are clearing buildings and roads as part of a battle drill, nearly 6,700 miles away in a small Army arsenal in upstate New York there is another type of battle drill often being played out to provide those Soldiers with the products that will improve their chances of coming home safely.

The Watervliet Arsenal has been in continuous operation supporting our Army since 1813. During those nearly 200 years, the Arsenal's product lines have ranged from packing flannel cartridges during the War of 1812 to manufacturing 16-inch guns for U.S. Battleships during World War II to providing lightweight 155mm cannons to our troops in Afghanistan.

But what few people know is that behind the brick facades that have withstood the elements of time is a dedicated and highly skilled manufacturing workforce that the Army may immediately shift to accommodate an urgent operational needs requirement.

This is when the Watervliet Arsenal goes into a battle drill.

Under normal circumstances, when a request for a quote comes to the Arsenal for such things as a 120mm gun for an Abrams Tank or a 60mm lightweight mortar base plate, the quote process may take about 10 days and delivery may not be for up to two years, said George Roach, an Arsenal production planner.

When an urgent operational needs request comes in to support a warfighter, the quote process may take as few as three days and the manufactured product shipped in just days from the acceptance of the quote, Roach added.

Urgent operational needs requirements often come to the Arsenal because it is an Army-owned and -operated facility with the "warm" capability in critical skill sets and experience to respond to an urgent wartime need when no one else can. Additionally, responding to an urgent need often requires the Arsenal to modify its production line to manufacture a non-standard product.

"When we receive an urgent needs request, we bring together an integrated product team consisting of every slice of the Arsenal's manufacturing, from procurement to packaging to production planning, to focus on this requirement," Roach said.

"Just recently, we responded to an urgent need request for critical components that were needed for MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle exhaust kits," Roach said. "We received the request on April 3rd and by April 13th, we had shipped our first set of kits."

This was the first time the Arsenal had made this product.

Immediately following that order, there was another request, but this time for Gunner Restraint Systems for Stryker vehicles. This order, too, was shipped within weeks of the request for a quote.

This was the first time the Arsenal had made this product.

Responding to an urgent operational needs request is not something that can become routine because it does absorb much of the Arsenal's production team's focus and energy over a short period of time, Roach said.

Nevertheless, the Arsenal's capability transcends traditional manufacturing by its proven effectiveness meeting urgent wartime needs. For Fiscal Year 2012, the Arsenal accelerated 12 weapons programs and successfully supported two Joint Urgent Operational Need Statements, which speak volumes about the responsiveness and capability that resides at the Watervliet Arsenal.

The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet") is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high tech, high powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.