Pantex Blog

I am mission success: Michael R.

Posted: Monday, April 8, 2024 - 09:16

Pantex custodian Michael R.
Take 5 minutes and learn about Pantex custodian Michael R. He’s only been here at Pantex for a few months, providing a fresh perspective of beginning a new career here with pride in the job. Whether it’s working directly on a weapon or helping co-workers keep their area clean, every job done successfully moves us one step further down the road to Mission Success. And as we discover with many fellow employees, Pantex may not have been on their occupational radar when they started out, but they’re extremely glad to be part of the team now.

“Working at Pantex was never on my radar when I was younger,” according to Michael. “In fact, I did not know about Pantex until I moved up here about 8 years ago. When I was younger, my goal was to become a math teacher. I was able to accomplish that goal but it only lasted for 3 years when I realized it wasn’t what I had envisioned.”

Michael went back into his original career of retail management, and like so many others was working his way up that corporate ladder when he was promoted and transferred to the Texas Panhandle.

“At that time, I was in management for a large retail company, but God had a different path set for me about 1 year ago, and well, the rest is history. I am a born-and- raised Texan and have always loved my country. I grew up in a time where you said the pledge of allegiance in school everyday. That instilled a pride for my country at an early age that has not wavered no matter how much times have changed. Knowing what we do out here at Pantex for our country gives me great pride in my work.

Being at Pantex only a few months allows him to offer a fresh perspective you only get when starting a new job, and he has some sound advice for anyone beginning a career here.

“For a new employee, have patience with the company. Things move a bit slower out here compared to other jobs. I would encourage anyone to remember where you came from before you were hired on out here, so you can reflect on how much a blessing it is to work here. “

Why are you mission success?
“My dad taught me to work hard, be honest, respect those around you, do your best if not more, and to work well with others. It wasn’t always easy, but having those expectations instilled in you at a young age has helped me become a part of mission success.”

What is the greatest strength you bring to your organization?
“I believe my greatest strength I bring is my work ethic. I believe what I do for Pantex will make it a better, cleaner, and more functional work place than before.”

As an employee, how do you want to be remembered?
“I am a people person and getting to know people on my job and seeing what their needs are allows me to take care of them. I know when they are taken cared of, that makes their day better which in turn allows them to be more productive for Pantex. All I want to be remembered for is that when I leave Pantex, it will look and function better than when I first arrived.”

What would your coworkers be most surprised to learn about you as you plan for retirement?
“I was a high school math teacher and coached UIL Math and Number Sense team. I enjoy reading, working in the garden and spending time with the grandchildren. Reading relaxes me, the garden allows me to take satisfaction in growing something, and I love my grandchildren. I think the one thing I am looking forward to when I retire is spending more time with my grandchildren. And, to travel to Europe and to experience the history there. Also, find a hobby. I have known several people who retire that get bored after awhile who didn’t have a hobby or two to make the transition a bit easier.”

Why is teamwork an important aspect when working at Pantex?
"We all have a job to do and accomplish here at Pantex. In reality, we cannot do it alone. Jobs can be stressful, burdensome, and sometimes we can get overwhelmed when accomplishing our task for the day, week, or longer. Relying on others to share the load, the burden, or even the stress allows us to concentrate more clearly, become less overworked and enjoy the sense of accomplishing something together. Having the knowledge that someone else is watching my back as my day or week progresses allows me to focus on the task at hand and relieves any stress related to the job.”

Pantex Fire Department response to wildfires reveals benefit of mutual aid

Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2024 - 08:52

  Pantex firefighters respond to local wildfires under mutual aid agreement.
Pantex firefighters respond to local wildfires under mutual aid agreement.

Wildfires are an unpredictable threat that can occur with little warning and leave massive damage behind. To combat wildfires and other emergencies, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Pantex Fire Department (PXFD) have established vital mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities. During emergencies, these agreements effectively multiply and strategically direct resources to the affected fire departments, enabling them to surpass their own response capabilities.

PXFD is exceptionally fortunate to have a fully staffed, paid fire department capable of immediate deployment to assist our mutual aid partners at any hour, day or night—a luxury not afforded to the volunteers we support,” said PXFD Captain Joshua B. said. “These agreements not only enable our highly trained members to continually perfect their skills, but also facilitate their crucial support for the surrounding communities.”

The significance of these mutual aid agreements with Carson, Armstrong, Hutchinson, and Potter counties was evident in recent weeks amid the rise of wildfire activity. PXFD rapidly responded to a call for mutual aid to fight the Windy Deuce Fire—a significant fire north of Pantex—alongside the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which became the largest wildland fire in Texas history. This devastating fire consumed over a million acres, equivalent to nearly 2,000 square miles—an area surpassing the entirety of Delaware.

“Pantex employees live in each of these counties, adding personal significance to our emergency responses,” Captain B. said. “Numerous times, we’ve found ourselves extending aid to Pantexans’ family members, or even our own, either through medical assistance, or emergency response to car accidents or house fires.”

During the PXFD deployment to fight the Windy Deuce Fire, the firefighters found themselves patrolling one of the hardest-hit areas. Amid their duties, they even provided vital assistance to the parents of one of the Pantex fire captains; the parents faced evacuation and feared the loss of their home and livestock.

“The PXFD firefighters prevented the impinging fire from reaching their residence and contained the fire’s spread to the exterior of the home,” Captain B. said. “To this family and many others, PXFD and its members are a godsend.”

The “mutual” part of the agreement means both parties can receive aid. The Windy Deuce Fire got uncomfortably close to the Pantex site, but thanks to changes in weather conditions, the actions of the Pantex response team, and mutual aid partners from neighboring communities, the fire never reached the site boundary.

“We’re not just responders; the PXFD seeks to be an integral part of the communities surrounding Pantex,” said Captain B. “Whether it’s you, your family, or our neighbors in need, PXFD will respond when called upon.”

Forecast calls for severe weather safety

Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2024 - 12:53

Series of lighting detection photos of one storm that rolled across Pantex in August 2019 composited into one image.
Series of lighting detection photos of one storm that rolled across Pantex in August 2019 composited into one image.

Severe weather season is unpredictable, scary, and can be dangerous if not prepared. It is important to know what to do if severe weather hits. Y-12 and Pantex meteorological programs monitor weather conditions. Pantex Meteorologist Steve K. and Y-12 Meteorologist Matthew S. provided insight on how to prepare for spring and summer severe weather.

Understanding the importance between a tornado watch and warning is vital for the safety of yourself and others around you.

Steve said, “a tornado watch means that conditions are right for a storm to develop and produce a tornado. A tornado warning means that either a thunderstorm is rotating and could produce a tornado at any time, or a tornado has been sighted by law enforcement, a storm chaser, or some other trained storm spotter or meteorologist.”

In the case of a tornado warning, people should secure shelter. At home, people and pets should go into a basement or the most interior room of the house. Covering yourself with blankets and pillows will help protect you from debris should a tornado hit. Having access to a weather radio or electronic device where you can monitor weather reports is important.

There is always the possibility that a tornado could form while someone is driving.

“If you cannot drive away from the tornado, then get out of the car and get into a ditch or low place on the side of the road and cover your head,” said Steve. “Do not get underneath overpasses for protection as winds will actually be stronger underneath an overpass during a tornado as the air tries to squeeze itself into a smaller space under the overpass.”

Heavy rains and flash flooding are also common severe weather threats. The National Weather Service has the common saying, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” If you drive up to an area with cars already underwater, you are most likely going to face a similar fate if you try to drive into that water.

“Tires are filled with air and air does not like being below the water; it wants to be above it. So, with only 1-2 feet of flowing water, a car will start to float and become a really bad boat—with no steering mechanism to move it along,” said Steve.

Hail is also possible with thunderstorms.

Matthew said, “Hail is something we monitor for closely when severe storms roll through as it typically comes with more major weather outbreaks.” As with tornados, Steve emphasized that an underpass on a highway or interstate is the worst place to take shelter during a hail storm.

With rain and hail comes the potential for lightning. The sound of thunder can travel approximately 10 miles away from where a lightning strike occurs. Therefore, if you hear thunder, lightning is near and you should stay indoors.

“If you are outside and you feel your hair stand up or see the hair of someone else stand up, what you are witnessing (or feeling yourself) is electricity going up from the ground to meet static electricity coming down from the cloud,” Steve said. “You have enough time to crouch down like a catcher behind home plate as this will lift your heels off the ground to where only your toes are touching the ground. Put your hands over your ears and close your eyes. If you are struck by lightning in this position, the electricity will enter through your head or back and exit through your toes. If you are lying flat on the ground, then a greater amount of your body will suffer electrical burns from the lightning strike.”

When struck by lightning, people will often need immediate CPR due to the shock stopping the heart. Others may exhibit violent shaking and muscle spasms. Witnesses should call 911 immediately and start CPR, if necessary.

Pantex and Y-12 have meteorological towers and detection systems in addition to meteorologists monitoring weather at all times. Both meteorological programs collaborate with the National Weather Service and local stakeholders to keep up-to-date with the latest forecast.

Matthew said, “It is key to plan ahead and make sure coverage is there to protect materials, infrastructure, and most importantly, life safety.”

A lasting legacy treating Pantexans

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2024 - 10:23

After working as an Occupational Health Services nurse for approximately 52 years, Betty retired this year.
After working as an Occupational Health Services nurse for approximately 52 years, Betty retired this year.

Life looked a lot different for Betty S. at Pantex in 1972––she was one of three on-site occupational health nurses, she had to dress in all white, and she was not allowed to wear pants. However, one thing that did not change was her continuous dedication to treating patients.

“I liked the things I was doing to help increase the health and well-being of the people at Pantex. It was a journey that I’m glad I took,” Betty said.

That journey lasted almost 52 years. Betty was hired at Pantex straight out of nursing school and recently retired at the beginning of 2024.

“It was challenging, but my goal was to do the best I could. Life gives you ups and downs, but you just work with it and try to make sure every day counts,” Betty said.

Building 12-2 was where Betty started her career. It was the brand-new central health facility, and she worked in that building until 2018––when Occupational Health Services moved to the John C. Drummond Center. Each decade brought changes that Betty had to adapt to.

“In the late `70s, they decided we could wear pants, which was more comfortable than skirts, and then in the `80s, we could wear colored uniforms,” Betty said. “In the `90s, I became the head nurse.”

Betty remained diligent in being trained to take care of everything from yearly physicals to emergency situations. She was even on-site during the 1977 explosion.

“We heard this boom, and then just right after, we knew that it was a major explosion,” said Betty. “When the fire department notified us they were bringing in casualties, we got set up for that and took care of the patient they brought to us that was still alive, and we ended up stabilizing him and got him to the hospital.”

Throughout her time at Pantex, Betty is proud of what she did to reduce occupational injuries and raise safety awareness.

“We worked with safety to help people become aware of what they needed to do so they would not get hurt,” Betty said. “You’re doing a job, and you want to do it well, but you want to do it safely.”

When asked if she had any advice for current and future Pantexans, Betty emphasized the importance of continuing education, training, and having a questioning attitude.

Betty said, “You are already trained for what you know how to do. When something comes along that you do not understand, ask for help.”

Introduce a Girl to Engineering exposes young minds to the possibilities in engineering

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2024 - 14:05

Introduce a Girl to Engineering
It was another captivating year for middle‑ and high‑school‑aged girls at Pantex and Y‑12’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering.

Annie P. is only an eighth-grader at Panhandle (Texas) Junior High, but as she participated in Pantex’s annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering event last month in Amarillo, she was already thinking big.

“We get to learn about science and engineering and how it helps the world and how we can help the world, too,” Annie said.

Annie was one of more than 900 girls that participated in Introduce a Girl to Engineering events at the partner sites of Pantex and Y-12 on February 22. In all, girls from 63 schools filled the lobby of Y-12’s New Hope Center and the event area of AmTech High School in Amarillo to engage with staff, visit booths, and broaden their understanding of the possibilities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

This year marked the 11th IGTE event at Y-12 and the seventh at Pantex. Each event showcases Consolidated Nuclear Security’s (CNS) commitment to supporting and educating the communities around the sites.

“I didn’t realize how many different fields there are, and it was cool getting to talk to other people who went through the college experience,” said Emily C., a sophomore at Sweetwater (Tenn.) High School.

Emily said she enjoyed learning about the different engineering disciplines available to her. Educating girls like Annie and Emily about opportunities in STEM career fields is the goal of these events.

NNSA Production Office Manager Teresa Robbins shared her energy and enthusiasm for STEM fields with the next generation.

“We need the best and brightest to continue our national security mission,” Robbins said. “I hope many of these ladies come and work in the Nuclear Security Enterprise in the next 10 years. I would love to see one of them work through their career and replace me someday.”

Students started their day at Y-12 in an engaging panel discussion with four women engineers sharing their experiences led by Julie C. Students asked thoughtful questions about what to expect in college, career, and life. Following the panel, students interacted with booth participants showcasing a wide range of STEM career disciplines and experienced engineering principles in action with activities like building marshmallow launchers.

Meanwhile at Pantex, junior high and high school girls visited interactive STEM booths, run by women, to encourage them to get more interested in STEM career fields.

Marina Y. said “the hands-on activities can teach girls creative and problem-solving skills and help maintain their interest in STEM areas to build the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Stefanie C. worked with her team to help girls build catapults and had a competition to see who could build a foil boat that held the most pennies.

“I wish this type of event was around when I was young,” Stefanie said. “There are more women in STEM careers now, and it is so encouraging to see the interest these young girls have in learning more about it. The hope is that we can inspire even just a few girls to pursue a STEM career and show them what they can do with it and how to keep going.”

According to Pew Research Center data, fewer women are graduating and working in STEM fields than their male counterparts, despite the potential to earn more than in traditionally female-dominated fields. Though they make up half of the workforce, only 26% of individuals currently working in STEM fields are women, making events like this incredibly important for the future of young women.

“Events like this help CNS and our local communities in bold ways,” Mission Engineering Vice President Tony Boser said. “It allows us to invest into eighth grade and high school students and introduce them to possible career paths. It also gives our folks the chance to give back. Our volunteers are passionate about showing how engineering can be fun and how it makes a difference in the things we do every day.”

CNS is the Managing and Operating contractor for the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, TX and Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN.