Construction continues day and night on the High Explosives Science and Engineering (HESE) facility.
Under a beautiful West Texas starry sky, crews recently placed the first of three 2-foot-thick concrete mat slabs at the High Explosives Science and Engineering (HESE) project’s HE Lab Building. The milestone required 10 concrete trucks to make more than 86 trips to the site.
“In my 16 years at the plant, I have never placed this much concrete,” Project Manager Chris Howard said about the 869 cubic yards of concrete.
The effort was originally planned for a May evening to take advantage of cooler night weather but was delayed three weeks due to historic Texas Panhandle rainfall. When the weather dried up, the steadfast construction support cast of Security, Safety, Construction Management, Quality, and Engineering pulled an all-nighter with design engineering firm Burns & McDonnell and subcontractor Hensel Phelps.
S. Kemp, subcontract technical representative, said great attitudes and participative decision-making made this placement a success, and he’s excited for the future.
“We continue to gain momentum and mesh together as a unit,” he said.
The team compiled lessons learned to apply to future concrete placements, as the project is expected to use more than 11,751 cubic yards of concrete.
When complete, the HESE will replace 15 obsolete facilities at Pantex, the average age of which is 68 years old. It will support the Pantex HE Center of Excellence for Manufacturing mission for NNSA by providing laboratory space, classified and unclassified office and meeting areas, and a shower and change-out area for HE Operations personnel all in closer proximity to HE manufacturing operations.
Take 5 minutes to learn about Russell Daniel, Project Management senior director at Pantex. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
Russell Daniel, senior director for Pantex Project Management, said the people are what he missed most about the Texas Panhandle.
“After 15 different moves, and no matter where I went – I can’t find a better group of people than those in the Panhandle,” Daniel said.
The Tulia, Texas, native graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He amassed a wealth of experience from across the Department of Energy on projects in Hanford, Washington, and at the Savannah River Site. He also spent time at Pantex leading Engineering and Facility and Design Engineering in the early 2000s.
Now back at Pantex for a second time, Daniel says leading with a focus on the people is driving mission success.
“From my time in the Marine Corps and in positions across the DOE complex, I know it is critical for leaders to support their teams and allow them to make decisions and take actions to execute the work,” Daniel said.
He and the Project Management team are transforming the landscape of the Pantex site through a multimillion-dollar portfolio of new construction and recapitalization projects.
How does patriotism factor into your life? Did your level of patriotism change after working at Pantex?
Patriotism and the need to do what was required for my country was always there. Coming to Pantex the first time gave me a chance to see how the site supports the overall national security mission. Returning to Pantex is truly the ability to get back to what are we doing to protect the United States and provide overall security that ties back to the early days I had in the military.
What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
For the last seven years, I have run the chains for the U.S. Navy home football games including the Army-Navy game every other year. My Naval Academy roommate was part of the chain gang when I moved to Virginia, and he asked me to join the chain gang. It’s a neat spot to watch the game, and I only had one major mistake on national TV.
Pantex was recently honored with the Business and Leadership Council Engagement Award from Amarillo College (AC). This award was in recognition of Pantex’s diligent efforts over the past year to support a wide range of AC's Business and Leadership Councils (BLC), including manufacturing, computer information systems, engineering and physics, and chemistry.
“We are thrilled to honor Pantex with the prestigious Business and Leadership Council Engagement Award,” said Ryan Francis, Amarillo College Workforce Innovation Network coordinator. “This esteemed recognition is a testament to Pantex's active participation and unwavering commitment to engagement, as evidenced through their consistent attendance, outstanding representation at various BLCs, in addition to their valuable class visits.”
Amarillo College is ranked as the #1 college in the nation by the Aspen Institute, is a significant supplier of talent at Pantex, and the leader in university transfers for the Panhandle.
“BLCs present a vital opportunity for Pantex leadership to provide guidance and feedback to AC's programs and curriculum so that they are meeting industry needs,” said Zuleyma Carruba-Rogel, Pantex Educational Partnerships & Talent Pipeline Development recruiter.
Over the past year, Pantex has increased collaboration with AC through these BLCs to help AC design beneficial programs for students that prepare students to fill real needs at Pantex, other Nuclear Security Enterprise sites, and similar industries. Key Pantex organizations that supported the program include Operations, Mission Engineering, Infrastructure, High Explosives, and Information Solutions and Services.
“AC recognized our efforts to support and influence their programs, in addition to a range of info sessions, career fair support, classroom visits, and program events such as women in manufacturing, and new student orientation,” said Carruba-Rogel. “We certainly appreciate this recognition and look forward to our continued partnership and support.”
To many CNS employees, the Sandia Weapon Intern Program, like much of the work at Pantex and Y-12, is shrouded in secrecy. From the name alone the uninformed could be forgiven for assuming the program is a pathway for aspiring young people into the United States’ nuclear weapons complex.
Yet, while WIP affords its alumni no end of career-advancement opportunities, the word “intern” scarcely captures even a portion of the reality of this yearlong adventure.
“The Weapon Intern Program, from my perspective, [is] more of a deep dive into the enterprise and almost a graduate-level course on the complex business we do,” said Josh G.
In short, this 11-month internship is among the Nuclear Security Enterprise’s best-kept secrets.
“I had heard about this program through several sources and knew a few people in my department who had participated in the past,” said Alaina H., a 2023 Pantex WIP participant. “I was really interested in the opportunity to visit the other sites that contribute to our nuclear deterrence and learn from [subject matter experts] across the complex. In particular, I was interested in visiting the [Department of Defense] sites to see where the finished product ends up and to learn about potential use cases and what factors the navy and air force care about most in the weapon designs.”
WIP was created in 1998 to accelerate learning by blending classroom and multimedia-based instruction from more than 250 SMEs. Participants complete both individual and team research projects, visit numerous NNSA sites, and have access to mentors who provide a direct link between the complex’s past, present, and future.
It’s an intriguing notion, but especially given everything facing today’s enterprise, why create a program that takes employees away from their jobs nearly an entire year? According to NPO's Yessica F., a Nuclear Explosives Safety program manager and Howard’s peer in the 2023 program, the answer lies at the crossroads of past, present, and future.
“Sandia’s responsibility associated with its nuclear weapons’ mission requires the continuing transfer of decades of nuclear weapon-related knowledge and experience to new generations of nuclear weaponeers,” she said.
Duty. Honor. Country. It is a theme in David Turner’s life. From achieving Eagle Scout status as a young man to a 35-year military career concluding as a highly decorated retired brigadier general, Turner’s goals often derive from his desire to lead and serve.
“I feel as if I’m repeating that pattern in the work I’m now doing,” said Turner, who recently assumed the job of Vice President of Operations Support. “The mission we do for our country is so critical. It’s an honor for me to be a part of it.”
But Turner readily admits that he was not always the mastermind of his own destiny. Charting the course of his life has often involved the advice of mentors and teachers who saw something in him that he did not.
“You want to align yourself with people who have an interest in you,” he said. “They can see things in you that you may not and help you maximize whatever that may be.”
Who influenced you most in your life?
My grandmother was, without a doubt, a huge influence in my life. She was my Yoda. She was incredibly knowledgeable about so many things in life. I also had two mentors in my military career that were instrumental in guiding me. They still are involved in my life, and I continue to value their input.
What advice would you give to young people who don’t know exactly what they want to do?
Be open to advice and suggestion. I didn’t even know what an Eagle Scout was, but my best friend’s mother told me I would be one. I went home and looked it up, and I decided that I actually would become an Eagle Scout. I not only made Eagle Scout, but I held every possible leadership level in the Boy Scouts. I have never regretted listening to that suggestion. I also believe the Science, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematical (STEM) programs offer so many ways to learn about potential futures