Colby Yeary, acting manager of Mission Engineering
When Colby Yeary, acting manager of Mission Engineering, joined the Nuclear Security Enterprise as a process engineer 15 years ago, he envisioned a set of experiences to further his career development.
“I was very fortunate, in that my first role as a process engineer, provided me a solid foundation for how the NSE, a set of unique sites, comes together to support common goals and missions,” he said. “This business has its own lexicon, and understanding the language takes time and assistance from those who are fluent. The role, training curriculum, and my mentors helped me immensely.”
His goal was to learn as much about engineering, program management, and operations at Pantex to give him the well-rounded background necessary to offer value to the NSE in a leadership role.
As his experience grew and the NNSA’s contract included combining Pantex and Y-12, he took an enterprise position where he found Pantex and Y-12, while very diverse in their purposes, both have exceptional people and capabilities.
“It’s fascinating how similar the people at these two sites and states we reside in are,” he said. “Genuine, hardworking, intelligent, and patriotic people.”
Through his experiences with CNS, Yeary has always maintained that mentoring is key to success.
“Most, if not all of us, can reflect on our past and think of individuals who made positive impacts in our lives and careers. Many of these individuals are considered mentors. Think of the times when:
- You would have done something incorrectly, had it not been for ’Jane‘ explaining how to do it.
- You were in a stressful situation, and ’Joe’ reached out to lend you a hand and describe how he had experienced something similar.
- You learned how to do something more efficiently, sought out career advice…..the list goes on.
“For me, I clearly recall the names, faces, and conversations with the people who have helped me when I needed it – I am forever grateful to them. Similarly, I have always made it an area of personal focus to help others who can benefit from my advice and encouragement. We’re teammates helping each other.”
Why are you mission success?
I am mission success not for who I am or what I have become, but for what I provide for others and the nation. I have found it interesting that as time passes, our ambition and perspective on life can change. It’s a humbling experience.
What daily task (specific meeting, report, etc.) lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission? How/why does that task let you know you’re working toward the mission?
There are many gauges that provide these indications. If I were to pick one, it would be a weekly meeting Mission Engineering conducts internally referred to as the WAR (weekly activity report). Each week, the Mission Engineering leadership team reviews progress we are making toward our Business Operating Plans and our specific Business Area Plan for the organization; we make adjustments along the way to ensure we are optimizing our value. A tremendous amount of content is covered in an hour’s time, and when I reflect on the steps we take toward our goals and objectives each and every week, it’s a great indication of progress being made.
What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
One of my favorite aspects of my work environment is learning from others and helping others learn. The old adage, “iron sharpens iron” comes to mind. From my perspective, if we can all help each other raise our individual games, then our collective game to fulfill the mission is raised as a result. It’s a snowball effect, and that’s part of why I advocate so strongly for mentorship.
What work advice would you offer someone who is new to Pantex or Y-12?
First, this is a complicated business, and these two sites are no exception. The number of requirements, processes, systems, and interfaces can be daunting at first glance. My advice is to establish a support system of mentors, in some cases with the help of your supervisor making the connections.
A common misconception is that you only need a single mentor. However, there are role-specific mentors that help you do your current job, but also mentors that can help you make the important decisions that will shape the next opportunity and those to come. When the opportunity arises, pay it forward by helping others with your experiences. Work hard, be patient, do what’s right for the nation, and the personal satisfaction will not disappoint.
What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
Although I have worked in and traveled to many places, I am from the Amarillo area (a small town not far from Pantex called Borger). While growing up I had heard the term “Pantex” and knew roughly where it was located, but I had no idea what Pantex did until I was out of college and working in Houston.
Dr. Paston (center) talks to Geoff Beausoleil, manager of the NNSA Production Office, and Michelle Reichert, CNS president and chief executive officer, at the vaccination clinic.
After more than two months of seeking approval, planning, and preparation, Pantex began administering COVID‑19 vaccines on site February 2 to high‑risk employees; based on the feedback received, it has been an overwhelming success.
Dr. Michael Paston, Pantex occupational medical director said, “it was beautiful.”
“We worked with Emergency Management to develop a plan, then we drilled the plan last week,” said Don Morris, senior manager of Pantex Occupational Health Services. “We walked through the process several times to make sure the flow would work well, and we made a couple of adjustments.”
This type of emergency response vaccine distribution was more than a year in the making. In 2019, Pantex began collaborating with Amarillo Public Health to develop a point of distribution plan for national medical emergencies.
“In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, that POD plan was evaluated for use to deliver vaccines and a vaccine plan attachment was developed,” said Daniel Gleaves, manager of Pantex Emergency Management.
In order better prepare and to see a vaccine setup first hand, OHS and EM staff met with Amarillo Public Health in January 2021 and walked through the city’s vaccine setup.
“We walked through their process and got some good takeaways from them. They shared their lessons learned with us,&38221; Morris said. “We made some adjustments, because we couldn’t use some of their suggestions based on the line of work we do.”
The staff conducted several drills to ensure the process ran smoothly.
“It went like clockwork, and we didn’t have to change anything,” Morris said.
“Leading up to today, the team used this year’s flu shot distribution to test the plan, conducted a tabletop drill, and held two separate dry runs in addition to just-in-time training for the staff to prepare for the POD,” Gleaves said.
In November 2020, Pantex began the process to obtain approval from the Texas Department of State Health Services to be able to receive and administer the COVID‑19 vaccine.
“Dr. Paston was our primary contact. He gathered information the state needed and submitted the forms to be reviewed by the state before they would certify us to be a vaccine provider,” Gleaves said.
The effort to receive the state’s approval was supported by many CNS groups, including Supply Chain Management; Information Solutions and Services; Management Assessment; OHS; Environmental Services; Environment, Safety, and Health; and Safeguards and Security. The NNSA Production Office also supported CNS’s efforts to obtain approval.
The vaccine administration began February 2 in the John C. Drummond Center Auditorium with a steady crowd of Pantexans receiving their first doses all day.
“We administered 243 on the first day, and it went swimmingly,” Paston said.
“Our plan was to thaw out 240 doses the first day, then adjust for the following days,” Morris said. “We ended up having a few extra doses, so we got people down to the auditorium to receive those so we didn’t have to store any,” Morris said.
“The first day’s turnout was in line with what we expected,” Gleaves said. “We realized that we can deliver many more vaccines than previously estimated. We had estimated that approximately 30 individuals can be vaccinated every hour, but based on the first day’s performance, it is now estimated we can deliver approximately 60 vaccines per hour.”
The initial order will provide more than 1,100 doses of the vaccine. “Either later this week or early next week, we expect to finish administering all we have and will reorder,” Morris said. “We’ll try to submit the reorder form before we run out.”
Dr. Paston also mentioned that they’ll be reordering the booster doses next week as well, so those will be available for employees to start receiving on February 23.
When asked how quickly the entire plant site, beyond those who are considered high risk, will have access to the vaccine, Paston said he sees that happening soon.
“We are going to go pretty quick because our workers fall into first responders, critical workers, etc.,” he said. “We follow the state of Texas’ rules and when Texas opens up the next phases, we will follow those phases as well.”
On February 2, staff of Pantex’s Occupational Health Services began vaccinating high‑risk employees with the Pfizer COVID‑19 vaccine.
Tessa Pendergraft, Pantex wellness coordinator, received her vaccine last Tuesday and, because of an anxiety of needles, she was nervous going into it.
“They did a great job — I hardly felt it! This is a big deal to me because I get very anxious due to my illnesses as a young child,” she said. “I did have some soreness in my arm, which was to be expected, and a mild to moderate headache later in the day, which could’ve also been attributed to not having my coffee. Both of my symptoms improved or resolved in less than 24 hours.”
Tessa Pendergraft, Pantex wellness coordinator (right),
shares her anxiety of needles, as the medical provider
reassures her prior to receiving her COVID 19 vaccine.
Pendergraft also said the setup and flow worked well.
“I know that a lot of people were involved in the planning of this clinic, so I’d like to thank them for making this possible and for keeping us safe during the process.”
Pendergraft said that because of her background in science, she seeks out the research behind recommendations and additional information from credible sources to make the most educated decision she can.
“The evidence was strong enough for me to have confidence in receiving the vaccine,” she said. “I don’t fear for my safety nor that this will have any impact on my ability to bear children in the future. If you have questions or concerns, ask your primary care physician and they can help you make the best choice for you.”
Michelle Reichert, CNS president and chief executive officer, receives her COVID‑19 vaccination from a Pantex medical provider
Michelle Reichert, CNS president and CEO, and Geoff Beausoleil, manager of the NNSA Production Office, received their vaccines on February 3.
“It went so smoothly today,” Reichert said. “We got our shot, and it didn’t hurt. The team was very well prepared.”
“It was wonderful,” Beausoleil added. “OHS and EM did an excellent job with planning and coordinating the practice, so as soon as a patient would come through [the door], it worked like clockwork.”
Reichert said that the flow went extremely well and that was in large part because the team practiced.
“This team laid it out, they walked it down, and they drilled it together so when the vaccine arrived, we were ready,” she said.
Reichert said this was an opportunity to take some of the burden off the local community.
“We applied to the state to be a POD, and given the unique work that we do and as well as the size of our workforce, it takes some of the burden off of the local community to give the vaccines,” she said. “It was a real opportunity for us to work with the State of Texas and local health providers to get us set up.”
She said having the team and staff to make it happen, and after receiving the needed equipment, we were ready to go.
“Pantex employees are always important to our national security mission and being identified as essential workers made sense, nationally and for our support of our military,” Reichert said. “So, since the beginning of this pandemic, we have found ways to keep each other safe throughout, which we have successfully done, and kept the mission going.”
NNSA Production Office manager
Beausoleil said that we are proving the controls put into place over the last 11 or so months work.
“The actions that we’ve taken to adapt and deliver, we’ll continue to refine those and be more efficient with what we do,” he said. “We’ll be more protective of our workforce, more protective of our community, and be an example for our community and our workforce for how to do it right.”
Beausoleil expressed his gratitude for those involved in getting the approvals and making this process work.
“I have a huge amount of appreciation and admiration for Drs. Sayre and Paston and their staff in OHS for taking on this challenge and performing better than anybody expected and then some,” he said. “I can’t express my appreciation any more. They were fantastic. They were given the full support of Michelle Reichert, Bill Tindal, Todd Ailes, and Gene Sievers, and they had our full support and we are fully online with what they’re doing for us. It is just heartwarming.”
Dr. Michael Paston,
Pantex site occupational medical director
The COVID‑19 pandemic has brought the science and profession of public health to the forefront of communities nationwide. Pantex and Y‑12 are fortunate to have physician medical directors, Dr. Warren Sayre and Dr. Michael Paston, who have extensive public health backgrounds.
Preventive medicine, which includes public and occupational health, has often played second fiddle in the U.S. healthcare system, said Sayre, CNS corporate medical director and Y-12 site occupational medical director. Sayre earned a master’s degree in public health in addition to his medical education and certifications.
Paston, the Pantex site occupational medical director, served in the U.S. Air Force, which imparted vast public health experience. He also served at the Pentagon where he produced health policies, programs, activities, and resources for preventive and occupational medicine for the 9.7 million Department of Defense personnel.
“I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact on productivity at Pantex by guarding the health of every person who comes on the site,” Paston said. “That means providing accurate and actionable information about COVID-19.”
In addition to the medical directors, OHS also employs several physicians and healthcare professionals who have extensive public health training and experience.