Veterans Day is when we remember the sacrifices and service of our veterans past and present. We are proud of the large number of veterans who choose to continue their service to our country by working at Pantex and Y-12.
Every veteran has their own story, and oftentimes, transitioning from military to civilian life can be a challenge. Two female veterans shared their journeys, and though each has a unique story, both share similar themes throughout their lives—service above self, tenacity, and dedication to excellence.
Lisa Torres, Pantex
As summer fades and autumn arrives, some like to listen to the crackle of a fire, but others, like Lisa Torres, welcome the sounds of Friday night football with her husband and watch their children play the sports they love. Her four kids, who love adventure and being active, don’t fall far from the tree. They exhibit the tenacious energy their mother did when she was a child.
“I remember being a little girl and writing down in a keepsake book what my future goals were. I distinctly remember writing down ‘I wanted to be in the military’,” said Torres. “It always appealed to me; there was just something about it.”
So, after falling in love with her high school’s Marine Corps ROTC program, she went on to serve in the Air Force for four and a half years. Her experience in ROTC confirmed her belief she was meant to join the military; she thrived in an environment focused on discipline and service before self. Above all, she appreciated the intensity.
“I’ve always been very competitive and enjoy setting goals to challenge myself,” said Torres. “I loved my time in the Air Force, and it was a very tough decision not to re-enlist.”
As the saying goes, life happens while you’re making other plans. When the time came for Torres to re-enlist, Pantex was recruiting in San Diego, California. Torres made the difficult decision to change careers and accepted an offer as a Pantex security police officer in 2006. Though she was nervous to begin life as a civilian, she found the atmosphere at Pantex to be similar to that in the military. Security personnel operate on similar ideals—service above self. Many officers are also veterans, which made the transition from the military easier. There is a camaraderie among the officers, as they each know the challenges to overcome after they leave the military.
Her experiences as a SPO were a strong foundation as she continues her career at Pantex. Now, she serves as the Value Stream Element Team program manager within Lean Six Sigma. In this role, she develops and sets up continuous improvement cross-functional teams focused on identifying and implementing sustained improvements. She’s grateful she can make a difference in Pantexans’ daily work and for the constant challenges her job presents.
“Change can be difficult, but once we can make peace with the idea that there might be a better way, it ignites new ideas and improvements,” said Torres. “It’s also always a learning experience for me, so while I get to meet and help folks across the site, it’s also a personally fulfilling role.”
Torres’ dedication to serving others extends to her community. A Panhandle native, she volunteers at the High Plains Food Bank, Snack Pak for Kids, and Hillside Church. She worked to help launch the Pantex Veterans Affinity group Serving Our Service Members and also is a board member for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“We are all in a very intense season of life right now with the ongoing pandemic and other issues in our nation, but it’s important there is a community for everyone,” said Torres. “That’s what the military taught me: If you serve others and work with others with similar goals and passions, life takes on meaning and gets easier.”
Torres hopes that other veterans and veteran supporters can find their own communities to thrive in. Her goal for the new affinity group is to be a source of encouragement for service members and their families, and aid others in the transition from the military to civilian life.
Congratulations to Pantex firefighters (from left) Josh Brown, Jeremy Baker, and Kris Hickman who have received Fire Officers credentials from the Center for Public Service Excellence.
Three Pantex fire captains — Josh Brown, Kris Hickman, and Jeremy Baker —are proudly displaying new professional designations from the Center for Public Service Excellence.
Brown, Baker, and Hickman received their Fire Officers credentials, while Scott Johnson and Mike Brock have both renewed their Chief Fire Officer designations.
These new designations reflect their experience, education, professional development, professional contributions, and technical competence. It means they have officially met the high standards set by the center, reaching a level of performance excellence that is uncommon throughout the United States. To date, nationwide there are only 1,554 Chief Fire Officers and 560 Fire Officers. Locally, the city of Amarillo has one Chief Fire Officer and no Fire Officers.
“The standards for Fire Officer and Chief Fire Officer designations are over and above any state certifications that any firefighter at Pantex has already earned,” said Pantex Fire Chief Mike Brock.
Professional credentials for its firefighters are an important part of the Pantex Fire Department’s focus on meeting or exceeding its readiness requirements. The department participates in regular internal and external reviews of its compliance with federal and industry regulations, including a Department of Energy-required baseline needs assessment every 3 years that’s used to evaluate if the fire department’s staff, training, and equipment are ready respond to the site’s fire hazards.
Scott Johnson with Pantex Fire Department
Chief Mike Brock displays his Chief Fire Officer Credentials
Lisa Torres (left) and Brandi Leach
Congratulations to a pair of Pantex employees who are being recognized by the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce with Top 20 Under 40 awards. The awards, presented by the Chamber annually, recognize professionals who demonstrate excellence and bring extra value to the Amarillo community.
Pantexans Brandi Leach, director of Process Engineering, and Lisa Torres, Lean Six Sigma, were chosen to receive the award. To be considered, the nominees, all under the age of 40, must be employed in the Amarillo area and in the same field for at least three years.
Leach has been at Pantex more than 13 years. She leads the organization responsible for developing reliable, repeatable, executable processes for nuclear explosive, special nuclear material, and non-destructive evaluation operations at Pantex.
“Pantex is unlike any other place on earth because you could work here for two lifetimes and never learn it all. I do know I can spend the rest of my life working as hard as possible and never be able to repay what Pantex has provided for me,” said Leach. “I mostly want to continue my career learning about all of the different aspects of the mission and always embody the #TeamPantex attitude.”
Leach and her husband serve as life group leaders through their church, The Church at Bushland. She is also active in their women’s and children’s ministries as well as volunteering as a guest connect team member. Additionally, she supports Snack Pack 4 Kids.
Torres joined Pantex in 2006 after serving in the United States Air Force. She started her career as a security police officer and now serves as the Value Stream Element Team program manager within LSS. In this role, she develops and deploys continuous improvement cross-functional teams focused on identifying and implementing sustained improvements.
“I have such an amazing opportunity to truly partner with folks all across the plant and help teams think through problem-solving, work towards reducing their frustrations, and pursue excellence. I feel completely humbled to have been selected for this award,” said Torres.
Torres is a native of the Panhandle area and is engaged in her community by volunteering at the High Plains Food Bank, Snack Pack for Kids, United Way, Eveline Rivers, and Hillside Church, where she has been the youth ministry leader for years. She is working to help kick off the Pantex Veterans Affinity group and serves as a board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Pantex has been well represented since the Chamber began its Top 20 Under 40 program in 2009. Seven Pantexans have been chosen: Josh Cunningham, Brandy Ramirez, Eddie De Santiago, Ryan Johnston, Christopher Whitmer, Jeremy Baker, and Kimberly Bush. This year, Pantex was the only organization to have dual-award winners.
The Chamber’s Annual Banquet and Business Excellence Awards is scheduled for December 9 when the Top 20 Under 40 recipients will be officially recognized.
Through online training and interacting with Craig Marianno, deputy director of the Center for Nuclear Security Science and Policy Initiatives at Texas A&M, 28 interns received a nuclear security certificate this summer.
This year’s interns were offered an experience that not only broadened their awareness of what we do but also gave them something unique for their resumes.
Consolidated Nuclear Security coordinated a nuclear security certificate program through Texas A&M University and offered the training for free to interns with support from the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program.
A total of 28 interns — 7 from Pantex and 21 from Y-12 — benefitted from online training and interaction with Craig Marianno, deputy director of the Center for Nuclear Security Science and Policy Initiatives at Texas A&M. He recently closed out the program with an in person session at Pantex and a virtual session for Y 12 interns.
Ashley Stowe, CNS university relations program manager, said the program gives interns a leg up in their fields of study.
“The nuclear security certificate program provides interns with an excellent overview of the various aspects of nuclear security that Y-12, Pantex, and the Nuclear Security Enterprise consider every day,” he said. “This broad perspective of nuclear security topics combined with the interns’ specific summer projects gives them a unique advantage in their careers.”
Stowe said that while more than half the interns who participated were MSIPP students, all CNS interns were eligible to partake in this professional development opportunity.
In the paragraphs that follow, interns share why they participated.
“I chose to participate in the program because I knew certifications in any field are useful and can further my career. My interest in Y-12 is another reason why I decided to obtain the certificate, as I can see myself working here for some time! I have gained a new awareness from the program. It taught me different things to be aware of that I can use on a daily basis. It was a great experience overall, even though the modules were long.” — Noah Thomas, Y-12
“I really wanted to learn more about the fundamental and essential elements that make up a national nuclear security program, so participation in this program was the perfect opportunity to gain a better understanding of who we are and what we do.
“It has definitely increased my awareness of how important securing nuclear and radioactive material of all types is, whether it’s in use, storage, or transport. The emergence of cyberthreats and other new technologies that might be used in attacks has also increased understanding of the need for nuclear security. We all have a part in supporting the mission, and I think that’s absolutely incredible.” — Marena Soulet Vargas, Y-12
“I chose to participate in the program because I enjoy learning new things, and I believe it lines up well with my field of study. Eventually, I want to end up in cybersecurity at Pantex, so having knowledge of nuclear security is a great first step.
The program is great for helping to understand the importance of nuclear security and safeguards and their relationship to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. It also goes over a variety of threats that pressure the facilities from the outside and how to mitigate or ward off their efforts.” — Matthew Smith, Pantex
“I decided to participate in the certificate program to expand my knowledge of nuclear related material.
“The program has allowed me to see from a different perspective how beneficial nuclear material can be to humanity by creating clean energy and effective deterrents. The program also made me more aware of the drawbacks of nuclear technology if it gets in the wrong hands or is improperly used. I have learned how nuclear technology originated, which nations possess such capabilities, and the kinds of regulations that must be met for a state to possess it. The program has really helped me to understand what we do here at CNS and how nuclear technology has contributed to worldwide peace and our freedom.” — Chris Freire, Pantex
“I have had the opportunity over the past 2 years to learn about nuclear safety in our country. By taking this course, I am able to showcase what I have learned by being rewarded with a certificate that shows just a small piece of the dedication that I have to this field.
“This program has given me a chance to apply myself further in my internship by reinforcing my daytime working hours with nighttime study hours that push me to have a greater focus and understanding of the mission I have here as an employee, even if my employment is just seasonal.” — Matthew Fleck, Y-12
“I chose to participate in the certificate program because of the opportunity to gain new knowledge and understanding. Nuclear security is very important, and I wanted to take advantage of this program to broaden my awareness and comprehension of this topic.
“After completing the program, I now understand nuclear security in a more detailed way. I believe the program has helped me to develop new perspectives that will aid in my contribution to the overall mission.” — Cason Worthy, Y-12
Congratulations to the Bechtel Global Scholars with ties to Pantex, Y 12, and the Uranium Processing Facility.
The 2021 Bechtel Global Scholars program awarded a total of $75,000 in college funds to 25 students in six countries. The $3,000 scholarship goes to students in their first year of studies at an accredited college, university, vocational institute, or technical school.
Among the 25 students receiving the scholarship this year, five are a child of a Consolidated Nuclear Security or Uranium Processing Facility Project employee:
- Jocelyn Espinoza, daughter of Pantex’s Andrew Espinoza
- Olivia Horner, daughter of Pantex’s Robbie White
- Nathan Nelson, son of UPF’s Jeanne Grozdanich Nelson
- Alexandria Perry, daughter of Y 12’s Douglas Perry
- Oviya Shanmugam, daughter of UPF’s Nambi Shanmugam
Oviya Shanmugam thanked Bechtel for the opportunity. “I consider it a great honor to have been chosen as a recipient of this scholarship,” she said.
Her father, Nambi Shanmugam, said, “I appreciate Bechtel for identifying, recognizing, and rewarding young achievers on their first step toward higher education. It is especially encouraging after overcoming a very challenging last year.”
Parent Robbie White also expressed his appreciation to Bechtel. “We feel honored for the selection and thankful for the aid during this transition year as our youngest daughter leaves the nest,” he said.
Jocelyn Espinoza said the scholarship will help further her education. “I am very excited to have been selected for this award, and it will go a long way to help me achieve my goals,” she said.
Bechtel Group Foundation funds the scholarship, which is managed by Scholarship America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging global educational achievement. This year, 160 students from eight countries applied for the scholarship. Scholarship America reviewed each application before the final selection.
The opportunity is open to students in all fields of study, with preference given to those pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math. Bechtel scholarships are awarded each year for full-time study at an accredited institution of the student’s choice. However, current undergraduates are not eligible for the program.
Since its start in 2001, the Bechtel Global Scholars program has awarded $1.3 million in college funding to 486 students.
Quotes from the scholars
Jocelyn Espinoza: “I am very excited to have been selected for this award, and it will go a long way to help me achieve my goals.”
Olivia Horner: “I’m very thankful for this investment in my future. I am very thankful for the recognition of my hard work throughout high school. I am incredibly excited to pursue my business degree at Texas A&M University!”
Nathan Nelson: “My family and I are both grateful to be considered and awarded this scholastic opportunity to help further my education. Thank you very much!”
Alexandria Perry: “It is an honor to be chosen to represent my high school and my family in accepting this generous scholarship. I feel a remarkable amount of support and personal enthusiasm as I begin my collegiate journey, and I am very thankful!”
Oviya Shanmugam: “I am thankful to Bechtel for the opportunity and consider it a great honor to have been chosen as a recipient of this scholarship. This award will be a great addition to support my college tuition.”