Pantex Blog

Women's History Month - Part 2

Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015 - 00:00

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 two of the series is from the December 1942 Pantexan.

Fear Turned to Enthusiasm as I Watched Women Load Bombs

By Lillian Corse

I WAS SCARED. When I was asked to come from the downtown employment office to get a story over in Zone 11, I accepted with alacrity. Then I started thinking and the more I thought the more goose pimples popped out on my arms – Zone 11 is a bomb loading line!

Upon arrival at the reservation, I was handed a pass and sent on my mission, accompanied by Bob Canning, Pantexan staff photographer.

Almost before I knew it I was being searched for matches at the line time office. Leaving my purse with a guard, we headed for the change house cafeteria. Bye the time I was fortified with some food I felt more at ease. Also the jovial mood of the employees who were eating helped. They seemed to be having fun.

Then came the real test. We were moving down the ramp closer and closer to actual operations. For six month, I had been signing people up as line workers. Always with the question of danger came up I had assured, women and men alike, that it was very pleasant work and definitely no more dangerous than crossing the street might be. It was all a matter of statistics anyway.

By the time Bob and I, accompanied by D.A. Murphy, superintendent of Zone 11, reached the guard at the receiving room, my feeling of tension had relaxed, but I still had a tendency to hold my breath, walk on tiptoe, and talk in a whisper. After the heels of my shoes were taped, I knew there was no turning back then. The die was cast. I think at first I felt as a parachute jumper must feel the first time he plunges headlong into space.

I had “jumped” and as we entered the big receiving, painting and inspection room my feeling was one of mingled awe and elation. Women, I had been told, were “manning” this line, and there they were – operating hoists, driving a little yale electric truck, in fact doing practically all the work.

They were enjoying their work, too. True, they were taking it seriously. They were people with a job to do and from all reports were doing it well. Here I lost all feeling of fear and became intensely interested.

Juanita Fowler, Rosie Barnes and Naomi Middleton

There's nothing to it" say Juanita Fowler, Rosie Barnes and Naomi Middleton (left to right). But there is - plenty!

One of the safety signs I read seemed to typify to me the entire attitude. The sign read “foresight is a darn sight better than no sight.” These people were exercising care and foresight, but they were all at ease and obviously enjoying the work.

There were these women, most of whom I had talked with at some time – housewives, school teachers, cooks, sales girls – all doing their part toward the war effort by making bombs. To some it was possibly “just a job.” To most, however, it was a job to help win the war.

To Jewel Visage, an appealing girl who is a puddler, it’s a way to get back at the Japs.

“I love my job.” She explained, and her bright eyes glistened. “It sure makes you feel good to know that every day’s work helps avenge Pearl Harbor, Bataan and the rest. That’s especially true,” and her face took on an expression of determination, “when you have lost your only brother at Bataan.”

As I went through the line, I was impressed with the fact that so many people were cleaning – mopping, sweeping and washing. Everything was immaculate. This clean-up brigade is leaving little chance for stray bits of explosive dust to be about. They will be some of the real heroes of this war, mostly unsung but definitely appreciated. Even the white coveralls worn by the workers contribute to the appearance of cleanliness.

There is no smoking on the line. The only place employees are allowed to smoke is in the change house cafeteria and there they can’t use matches. Electric lighters are placed about on the walls.

Some of the few men in Zone 11 are the Ordnance inspectors, men who are working under civil service, inspecting the bomb cases when they come in and the finished bombs when they go out.

But back to the women, for this is really their story. They have convinced the men that they can load bombs and load them fast and well, and frankly, most of the men were very skeptical to begin with Mr. Murphy wasn’t for had seen women succeed at this job before. Vilas Bewby, shift B superintendent, was skeptical at first and admitted as much. When I talked with him he was most enthusiastic.

“Given a little more time and experience these women can produce as much and hold their own with any line using only men.” Mr. Newby said.

Mr. Price, an Ordnance inspector, admitted that he too had been very doubtful about using women, but he was ready to “take back” all he’s ever thought. In fact, everyone in authority I talked with was enthusiastic about the work the women were putting out. In the tail pour room, the girls were proud of the output for the day and to me, the uninitiated, it sounded good for us and bad for our enemies. Each day’s output could, well placed, put many strategic bases out of operation.

Ella Lee Singleton of Borger, a former sales girl, and Gertrude Ball, a housewife, also of Borger, were painting caps and liking it.

As I walked into one room, Ethel Carpenter of Lubbock, who had never been employed other than as a housewife, drawing hot TNT in to a container. She was as nonchalant as if she were watching dishes and yet no one sensed that she knew it was smart to talk all necessary precautions.

A sense of awe again overpowered me as I stood in the amatol pouring room and watch one man and five women filling a bomb with deadly amatol. There was so much potential power there than precautions reached a maximum, but again one is conscious of the fact that although these people know it’s smart to follow “all the rules,” they are not afraid.

I wasn’t afraid anymore either. I had great respect for the place, yes, but no fear. As I came to the end of the line, I had a great feeling of pride in these women. They are truly WOWS in more than one sense of the word. They are succeeding and they are turning out many pounds of destruction daily. As I walked contemplatively down the long ramp I thought, “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” And never, perhaps more so than now.

CNS addresses employees’ benefits concerns

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 00:00

More than 400 Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) employees at Pantex met with vendor representatives last week during on-site consultation sessions to address issues, questions and concerns they were experiencing with the administration of their health care benefits.

Michelle Reichert, Pantex Site Manager, viewed the consultations as a step in the right direction, “Over the past two months, many of our employees have experienced issues with the administration of their health care plans, specifically prescription drugs, medical and dental plans – this is not acceptable,” she said. “Bringing the vendor representatives to Pantex for on-site, 30-minute, one-on-one sessions gave employees a confidential setting to ask questions, address issues, get information and learn how to make their benefits work for them.”

Future health care benefits consultation sessions are also being scheduled at Y-12.

CNS is also improving its health care benefits communications and advocacy for employees. In addition, CNS is forming an internally-focused working group to review current plans and evaluate whether adjustments can be made to the plans while still meeting Department of Energy contract requirements and the future implications of the Affordable Care Act.

While changes in benefits were and remain necessary under the CNS contract, employees at Pantex and Y-12 provided feedback that the challenges faced when using their benefits were not acceptable. As a result, CNS has increased efforts to actively work with its providers and demanding more from them to address health care benefits issues.

Women's History Month - Part 1

Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 00:00

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

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

Ernestine O’Brien uses a micrometer to ensure exactness in production.

Air Force Visitors Tour Pantex

Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 00:00

Michelle Reichert, Jim Haynes, & Sec Deborah Lee James

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.

Wild Pantex – Going Hemispheric with Migratory Birds – Part 2

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 00:00

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.

A map of the southward migration of eight Purple Martins

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.