Since the days of World War II, women have played an important part in accomplishing the Pantex mission. While their loved ones fought on the battlefield front lines, they did their part on the Pantex assembly line.
Women dubbed the “80s Ladies” worked the Pantex assembly/disassembly line during the Cold War.
Today, hundreds of women engineers, scientists, technicians and professionals, including the first female Pantex site manager, help ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we will look back at four historical articles about women at Pantex.
Part one of the series is an October 1942 article from the Pantexan, an employee newsletter.
Women on the Job
Capable hands will nurse the booster line into operation
Moselle McDaniels (left), Margaret Deal, Josephine Eubanks and Betty Solomon build boosters.
With the christening of the Booster line comes the advent of the use of women in actual production work at Pantex.
Every day more and more women are being employed in the nation’s war industries. Married women with husbands in Australia work beside girls with sweethearts in Ireland. Pantex Ordnance Plant is following the national trend of using women workers whenever possible. They will be the backbone of production in Zone 6, outnumbering the men about five to one.
Although the baby area in size, the Booster line has a man-sized job to do. Line Superintendent Frank L. Poeltler and his crew have shown in their preparations that they are capable of fulfilling that obligation.
The supervisory staff has spent much time in insuring the best of working conditions. All wearing apparel for both men and women is furnished and is serviced in the respective change houses. It is laundered regularly to insure cleanliness. Men wear the regular powder suits and shoes.
Careful consideration has been given to the problem of women’s working apparel, paying attention to the factors of comfort, safety and convenience. The outfit decided upon is a neat appearing combination of style and utility.
The women wear white cotton gabardine culottes, which button from neck to hem so that a skirt effect is produced when buttoned. These may be left only partly buttoned for more freedom.
A full cap with a jaunty bill which may be worn straight or tilted is the standard headwear. It is notable that no two of the women wear their caps alike.
White lisle stockings and two-toned powder shoes complete the visible ensemble. The same care was used in the selection of the unmentionables as was used for the rest of the outfit. It may be that the uniform will be changed to slacks and anklets later on, if found to be more practical.
In Booster building jobs requiring nimble fingers the women are more capable than men, and are equally competent in many other duties. There are several types of operations involved, from strictly manual to completely mechanical. The women have shown the greatest interest in operations involving a machine or mechanical “gadget,” and have shown greater aptitude than men in the use of micrometers and balances in the quality control operations.
Much false information has been spread, by persons unqualified to have opinions, about the dangers of this work. When the facts are explained by well-informed instructors, these fallacies are seen to be ungrounded.
Whatever dangers are inherent in this department, as well as in other departments, are well guarded against by safety regulations, which, if carefully followed, minimized the possibility of accident or illness.
Strict cleanliness is one of the safety regulations and makes for health, happy working conditions. The assembly rooms are kept cleaner than most parlors and are really quite pleasant.
Steam heat will be used to combat the “northers” which could be quite and Axis ally otherwise. Enclosed ramps and change house stairs will add their bit towards subjugating Old Man Winter.
All in all, the best conditions obtainable are being provided, so that no occupational accidents or illnesses can interfere with the women who are helping in building up Uncle Sam’s ammunition supplies.
Ernestine O’Brien uses a micrometer to ensure exactness in production.
Michelle Reichert, CNS Vice President and Pantex Site Manager (at left), and Jim Haynes, CNS President and Chief Executive Officer, welcome Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, to the Pantex Plant.
Pantexans rolled out the red carpet last week for several Air Force visitors.
Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, visited the Pantex Plant for a mission familiarization tour. She observed operations in several mission-vital facilities
Six personnel from Sheppard Air Force Base, near Wichita Falls, Texas, also visited the Plant last week. In addition to a Plant overview and history presentation, they toured facilities where Pantex production technicians build Joint Test Assemblies (JTA).
After the meticulous work on the JTAs is complete, the mock weapons are sent to the military for test flights. The valuable information gathered during these tests ensure the weapons function as designed and allows scientists and engineers at the national laboratories to validate the nuclear stockpile to the President of the United States.
Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist
The following was taken from an abstract produced in association with the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award nomination process. It is Part 2 of 2:
The Pantex Plant initiated and built a long-running program beginning in 1999 that contributes to migratory bird conservation through means that include research, partnerships and outreach. The facility and its partners have definitely gone international – even hemispheric.
A banding program funded by the U. S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration in cooperation with Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC., enabled Pantex staff to promote migratory bird conservation across the Southern Great Plains of Texas and Oklahoma, and more than 10,000 eastern Purple Martins (Progne subis subis) were banded in the process. This information helped increase the information base on the eastern subspecies on the western extremity of the range.
Comprehensive work was initiated with West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) on the effects of wind energy development on migratory birds involving the monitoring of birds in plots before, and after, turbine installation. The work will also include determination of mortality levels and carcass disappearance rates. WTAMU developed a comprehensive literature review of the impacts of wind energy on wildlife and shared it with Federal and state natural resource agencies prior to the research. Hopefully, the work will produce recommendations that will minimize bird and bat mortality at wind farms and information useful to those who make decisions on where wind farms are placed.
That project also involves the study of the year-round ecology of Swainson’s Hawks using Platform Transmitter Terminal/satellite transmitters; how productivity and habitat use may be impacted by nearby wind farms; and how the hawks might be affected by wind farms even during their time in Central and South America. The U.S.G.S. Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit/Texas Tech University is the lead entity on that work.
To expand its work on Purple Martins, Pantex approached a continent-wide partnership studying the connectivity of this songbird’s breeding and wintering range, offering to insure the inclusion of Texas Panhandle populations in that endeavor. This adds a site in a critical area along the western extremity of the partnership’s region of interest. Pantex now purchases and deploys geolocator- and G.P.S. tag-data loggers, and collaborates with the partnership that hopes to further this and other songbirds’ conservation through research and education in important stop-over and wintering areas in Central and South America. This study’s results could benefit other less accessible species that have similar migration strategies. The partnership is ever-growing, most recently with the awarding of a 2014 Disney World Wide Conservation Fund Grant to the Purple Martin Conservation Association for the project, Connecting Songbird Conservation Across Hemispheres. Other partners in this work include the University of Manitoba (Canada), York University (Canada) and many others, including Pantex, due to its collaboration in the project.
In 2014, DOE sponsored a Raptor Research Foundation Conference in Corpus Christi. That group has a global membership.
To date, Pantex collaborations have resulted in six Master of Science degree theses, eight journal and magazine articles, and five more manuscripts are in draft or press. Presentations have been made at 21 professional meetings across the United States and are also provided locally to various organizations.
Photo: A map of the southward migration of eight Purple Martins carrying geolocator data-loggers. Most martins from other areas of the range will be in the tropics within a week of leaving their nesting sites. The area marked in yellow shows that these Texas Panhandle birds head east and spend several weeks "catching up" nutritionally, before continuing on to the tropics and ultimately the wintering areas in the Amazon basin of Brazil.
Pantex’s Shaun Ashley (left) and Kirk Spear identify lock out/tag out isolation points on a steam piping system prior to performing work.
Employees in Consolidated Nuclear Security’s Infrastructure organization have worked more than 3.2 million hours since a lost-time injury. For electricians, carpenters, machinists, riggers, welders and other craft personnel at the Pantex Plant and the Y-12 National Security Complex, the “office” is often atop a ladder or in a bucket truck working on high-voltage lines. That’s why working safely is a daily, if not hourly, preoccupation.
“It’s hard to pin down one or two things we’ve done to be successful,” said Scott Underwood, head of Y-12’s Infrastructure group with more than 900 employees who combined have worked more than 2.5 million hours without a lost-time injury. “We’ve leveraged all the people, processes and tools we have in place to make a difference.”
Foremost, explained Underwood, safety is not about a program; it’s about people. “You’ve got to care about your own personal safety and the safety of others. That’s where it starts,” he said. “We’ve also made improvements in some of our processes. When problems do arise, managers, front-line supervisors and craft personnel actively work together to find solutions.”
City of Oak Ridge employees and Y-12 Infrastructure and Environmental and Safety Programs workers gather for a pre-lift safety brief to repair a 24-inch water line on-site at Y-12. Though the recently completed project involved hazardous work, no injuries or negative events occurred.
Finding solutions is part of Steve Passmore’s job. “Every day, people call me and tell me their safety concerns,” said Passmore, one of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council’s safety officers assigned to Y‑12’s Infrastructure group. “We maintain a log, and we work the issues. If it’s a true safety issue, we find the money to get it fixed. However, some issues can be fixed without the need for additional funding. It’s just a matter of getting the right communication to the right people. Then I always get an answer back to those who call.”
Pantex Infrastructure manager Bob Asbury also knows a thing or two about closing the loop on safety suggestions, concerns and solutions. “It is critical that when issues are raised by employees they are welcomed by leadership, but more importantly the loop has to be closed with the employee,” he said. “You owe the employee an answer, and that is best delivered face to face.”
Asbury’s organization of about 375 employees has worked more than 330 days — more than 717,000 hours — without a lost-time injury. He attributes that track record to employee ownership of safety issues and solutions, supervisory engagement and an effective Plan of the Day, or POD. The POD, an electronic document prepared by Maintenance craft workers and management, serves as a daily risk-based review of work activities that then leads into a pre-job briefing.
Pantex’s Maintenance organization implemented the POD three years ago, and the idea has since caught on in other groups at the site. “The response has been truly amazing,” said Shane Feagan, Metal Trades Council safety officer at Pantex. “The POD now reaches people across many organizations at the plant. The most important thing the POD brings to the table is that it ensures we all receive timely and accurate information.”
Taken together, the Y-12 and Pantex processes, tools and people undergird the CNS Infrastructure organization’s commitment to creating and maintaining a continuously improving safety culture.
Y-12’s Ron Sharp (left) and Josh Howard (both heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning, or HVAC, mechanics) look over a job package before performing work on an HVAC system. Behind both men is one of the newly installed heat pumps to reduce utility costs and increase reliability.
Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist
The following was taken from an abstract produced in association with the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award nomination process:
The Pantex Plant – a Department of Energy (DOE) /National Nuclear Security Administrations (NNSA) facility— initiated and built a long-running program beginning in 2002 that contributes to migratory bird conservation through means that include research, partnerships and outreach. Works have and continue to result in attributes of conservation that include 1) the updating of management plans/strategies for species of concern; 2) the determination of use and management implications of a highly persecuted habitat type [prairie dog colonies]; 3) the evaluation of the effects of wind energy development on birds; 4) the development of risk models for Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) and wind farms in North, South and Central America; 5) the banding and identification of migrational stopover and wintering areas of a migratory songbird that is declining in parts of its range; 6) the contributions of findings and management implications to the scientific literature; 7) the development and turning-out of students experienced and versed in migratory bird conservation; 8) and the production of various forms of outreach that promote migratory bird conservation to professional and lay groups. Projects have been long-running, major in scale, involving special status or high profile species or issues, and many involve the whole suite of migratory birds that, nest, winter or pass through the study areas during the course of their life cycle.
While some of the work has been accomplished by Pantex staff members, most projects intentionally involve collaborations/partnerships. These have included Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC; Texas Tech University, Natural Resources/Biological Sciences; USGS Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit/Texas Tech; West Texas A&M University, Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences; York University (Canada); University of Manitoba (Canada); Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the Purple Martin Conservation Association; and many private landowners and volunteers. Recently, Pantex successfully urged DOE headquarters to provide sponsorship of a National Raptor Research Foundation Conference and provided representation at that conference.
Program elements at Pantex developed beyond habitat and proactive protection strategies in 2002 through the funding and participation in collaborative research partnerships studying the western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) and the whole suite of migratory bird species that use black-tailed prairie dog colonies and control plots. With study sites across the extensive High Plains of Texas, this now-published work has resulted in the better understanding of the ecology and management needs of the burrowing owl, a species of concern, as well as the importance of this habitat to the diversity of the shortgrass prairie of the Southern Great Plains. It has also led to the development of protection strategies on Pantex lands.
This Common Nighthawk is just one of 202 bird species documented at Pantex.