Pantex Blog

Looking back at paying it forward

Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 00:00

Consolidated Nuclear Security employees at Pantex in Amarillo and Y-12 in Oak Ridge made major impacts in 2015 donating both time and money to worthy causes throughout their communities.

Leading the way at Y-12 was the 12th annual Volunteer Day, with 32 employee-inspired projects from painting, landscaping, cleaning, repairing and even providing learning experiences for young people, all supported by CNS.

Volunteer Day

Pantex community projects included volunteering with the Amarillo Public Library, cleanup and maintenance of park trails at Palo Duro State Park and Wildcat Bluff Nature Center, and even a few Pantex employees working with a group of Girl Scouts to build a “tiny home” for a mother in need.

“We’re breaking away from the traditional STEM classroom approach,” said Brandy Ramirez, a facility engineer in System Engineering at Pantex. “We’ve put the tools in the girl’s hands allowing them to install new doors and windows. Having a part in building strong, smart, caring young women is very rewarding.”

Education is a strong focus for CNS with Pantex contributing a total of $30,000 to fund multi-level robotics programs at both Amarillo and Bushland Independent School Districts allowing students to take learning high-tech.

Hundreds of students and more than 50 robots, faced off in “the varsity Sport for the Mind™” at the fifth annual Smoky Mountains Regional FIRST Robotics competition in Tennessee. As in previous years, Y-12 employees volunteered as competition judges and as team coaches and mentors to help students design, program, and build a competition robot.

Volunteer DayPerhaps the biggest show of fostering education takes place each February as CNS host regional Science Bowls on behalf of the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Middle school and high school students across Texas and Tennessee demonstrate their academic proficiency with the winning teams going on to compete at the National Science Bowl® competition in Washington D.C.

“Science Bowl gives students who love math and science an event designed especially for them.” said Michelle Reichert, CNS Vice President and Pantex Site Manager. “They are the next generation of scientists and engineers who will one day help support our important mission.”

This year, CNS President Jim Haynes challenged the Oak Ridge community to match CNS’ $25,000 donation to replace the roof at the Boys & Girls Club of the Clinch Valley. The community responded.

Y-12 Site Manager Bill Tindal presented ADFAC, Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties, a check for $10,000 allowing the agency to continue its efforts in supporting children and families in need in the area. The donation followed an employee-driven effort where hundreds of dollars and items were collected to replenish ADFAC’s “Crisis Cupboard.” Y-12 employees Elaine Warren and Joy Evans coordinated the effort.

“This donation from Y-12 will go a long way to provide comfort to many families in need,” said Warren. “I know there will be a lot of mothers who will be happy to see diapers and wipes on the shelves at ADFAC,” she added.

CNS also helped to alleviate hunger by presenting $10,000 to the High Plains Food Bank’s Kids’ Café with additional support during December’s Together We Can food drive where employees collected donations of food and cash from the local community. CNS also worked with the Metal Trades Council to help the food bank provide turkeys to families in need during the Thanksgiving holiday.

2015 marked the 17th year for the partnership between Y-12 and Atomic Trades and Labor Council to aid the March of Dimes by donating $15,000 to their campaign. In Amarillo, more than 60 Pantex employees spent a day on the green as CNS contributed $8,000 to sponsor the 25th Annual March of Dimes “Tournament of Eagles” golf tournament.

This year, CNS employees continued their support of the HonorAir flights to Washington D.C., which provides free flights to war memorials for local veterans of World War Two, Korea and Viet Nam. Since 2011, Y-12 employees have turned out for the return flights, wishing our veterans a welcome home and thanking them for their service to our country.

Volunteer Day

Pantex and Y-12 employees broke a sweat for a good cause at this year’s Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, which saw more than 100 employees at Pantex and Y-12 take part. Curtis Chamberlain, a production manager at Pantex, ran with his 11-year-old daughter and said it was a “good opportunity to spend quality time with her and support a worthy cause.”

CNS and its workforce in Pantex and Y-12 are proud of the support we gave to our communities in 2015 and look forward to even greater good deeds in 2016.

Wild Pantex - From deer tracks to reindeer in the Texas Panhandle

Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 00:00

Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist

I write to you from a snow-covered Texas Panhandle and wonder if another round of wintery weather might be timed just right to give us a white Christmas. The season and a line of deer tracks in the snow outside of my office building gives me the idea to focus this edition of the blog on reindeer. I can honestly say that I have never had the opportunity to see a reindeer – for sure, not the flashing red-nosed variety.

Jim Ray walks up to a caribou bull in the arctic tundra

Jim Ray walks up to a caribou bull in the arctic tundra after being told that with hands above his head like caribou antlers, he would be able to do so –sure enough it worked!

I have, however, seen caribou, and some biologists lump caribou and reindeer together as one species (Rangifer tarandus). Caribou and reindeer are quite different in appearance. Reindeer are smaller and were domesticated in northern Eurasia about 2,000 years ago. Arctic peoples in Scandinavia and Russia still herd reindeer today, depending on them for food, clothing, shelter, and even the company they can provide as pets. Caribou and reindeer are unique among the deer family in that both sexes grow antlers, and like other North American deer, they shed and regrow them on an annual basis.

A caribou making landfall after crossing the Inglis River in the Arctic Circle. Although, not reindeer, per se, I did get to experience seeing and interacting with caribou in their natural habitat in the past when I worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I was able to join a crew sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Service that was banding geese on the Boothia Peninsula in the Arctic Circle. For two weeks during July 1994 we worked out of a helicopter locating and capturing geese along the Inglis River (this is another story in itself). I was more than 3,900 miles from home, but still an astonishing 1,700 miles from the North Pole. While searching for geese from a helicopter our field of view almost always included from one to several hundred barren-ground caribou. While on the ground banding geese, caribou would, at times, curiously approach but always stop short and watch us from a safe distance.

Focusing back on the Pantex Plant, which by the way, receives a very similar amount of snow annually as the North Pole, it is very unlikely that anyone will ever observe a caribou or reindeer here. However, we do have mule deer and white-tailed deer on the facility and elk sightings are not all that rare here in the Texas Panhandle. Our region even has a record of a moose that wondered into the northern part of our area for a brief period back in the late 1980s.

Mule deer in velvet at the Pantex Plant

Mule deer in velvet at the Pantex Plant.

The deer tracks in the snow, a mere few feet from my building, brings to light a special reality about Pantex. Wildlife sightings are common, as are remarks that I hear from people that are along the lines of, “one of the great things about working at Pantex is the wildlife that we get to see.” Naturally that is music to my ears.

Here is to hoping that you get to enjoy the natural world wherever you may be, that you and yours have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

Together We Can feed Amarillo’s hungry

Posted: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 00:00

Ask a Pantexan to help and often the reply is, “Tell me when and where.” Recently, the High Plains Food Bank in Amarillo benefitted from Pantexans’ giving hearts. A team of about 40 Pantexans and their family members packed food boxes alongside other community volunteers.

Robin McLaurin

Pantexan Robin McLaurin volunteers her time to pack a food box for the High Plains Food Bank.

The High Plains Food Bank provides food boxes for families who live in areas of the Texas Panhandle that do not have food pantries or partner agencies that provide hot meals with goods from the food bank. The food bank distributes about 1,200 boxes monthly. The Pantex team helped pack 456 boxes, which are shipped out almost as quickly as they are packed. While this event supported the food bank, the volunteers also benefited.

“Packing boxes to feed the less fortunate is a great way to give back to the community. It’s amazing how many communities that the Food Bank provides for especially since they were short in donations this year,” said Pantexan Patti Knipp.

Chelsey Westfall brought her family to help. “I’m so glad that my children and I got the opportunity to make a difference for somebody in need by helping pack food boxes for the High Plains Food bank. Hunger is everybody’s problem, and those of us who are able should all help out wherever we can,” she said.

Megan Reed, Laura Bailey, Michelle Reichert, Zach Wilson

Pantexans Megan Reed, left, and Laura Bailey, joined Pantex Site Manager Michelle Reichert, right, in presenting a donation to Zach Wilson, HPFB executive director.

CNS and the Metal Trades Council also recently joined forces to provide a donation to the High Plains Food Bank just in time for Thanksgiving. Zach Wilson, HPFB executive director, said the requests for food have greatly increased this year while donations have decreased, leaving a large gap. Michelle Reichert, CNS Vice President and Pantex Site Manager, teamed up with the MTC for a combined donation of $3,250 to help bridge the gap and meet the needs of the Texas Panhandle during the holidays.

And CNS recently served as a corporate sponsor during the High Plains Food Bank’s Together We Can food drive Dec. 7-12, providing 16,000 meals, which helped surpass the food bank’s 500,000 meal goal.

“CNS and MTC’s donations show that the company and employees support the Amarillo area and understand that the basic needs are the most important,” said Laura Bailey, Pantexan and High Plains Food Bank board member. “Hunger kills productivity and potential. Providing food helps people in our community to be healthy, active and more alert. This is especially necessary for children, who need to focus on schoolwork so that they can grow to be healthy, productive adults.”

Providing turkey and cheer in Amarillo for the eighth year

Posted: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 00:00

While most people spent the Saturday before Thanksgiving packing for a road trip or grocery shopping for the big meal, a group of Pantexans spent the day lending a hand in the Amarillo community. For the eighth year in a row, they teamed up with the Hilltop Senior Citizen Association to offer a holiday meal to homeless and low-income families.

Pantexans Lisa Fajardo, left, and Amber Burnam

Pantexans Lisa Fajardo, left, and Amber Burnam serve drinks during the Hilltop Thanksgiving lunch.

“I really enjoyed the chance to give back to the community and meet new people,” said Amber Burnam, a business services analyst in Ethics and Employee Concerns.”

Nearly 500 HSCA guests enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving feast sponsored by CNS. Volunteers also delivered meals to about 40 homebound seniors.

Pantex volunteers, including some family members, were joined by the Potter County Deputy Sheriff Association and a host of other community volunteers.

Human Resources Business Partner Clarissa Baker said, “My mother and I volunteered and had an awesome time. It was fun working with coworkers in a totally different setting and making new friends. Both of us were very blessed to have been able to participate.”

Since 1974, the Hilltop Senior Citizen Association has offered entertainment, educational opportunities, and outings to seniors primarily in the north Amarillo area. Clara Westmoreland, executive director, stressed the importance of the holiday meal to many of their senior members on fixed incomes and low-income families living near the center.

“For some, this is the only Thanksgiving meal they will have,” said Westmoreland.

She said the need is so great in the neighborhood that HSCA volunteers have begun serving hot meals for the neighborhood children, as part of the High Plains Food Bank’s KidsCafe program.

All of the Pantex volunteers, from the servers to dishwashers, expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to serve and their desires to return again.

Burnam said, “Everyone was so appreciative and it was a great experience. I look forward to doing it again next year.”

Demystifying Pantex for Amarillo leaders

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 00:00

About 50 local business leaders made the second of their two annual trips out to Pantex recently, getting the chance to go tour the plant that remains a mystery for some many local residents.

The organization that arranged for the trip, Leadership Amarillo and Canyon, has been going strong for almost 40 years, providing tours of businesses and industries throughout the region for 10 months out of the year.

Amarillo and Canyon business leaders in front of a replica of the first atomic bomb, Fat Man

Amarillo and Canyon business leaders in front of a replica of the first atomic bomb, Fat Man.

They kicked off the tour hearing from Pantex Site Manager Michelle Reichert followed by the history of the plant by Interim Historian Monty Schoenhals. Then the group loaded up in their tour bus and drove over to a replica of the first atomic bomb, dubbed “Fat Man,” where they got a group picture.

Over lunch, those on the tour say being out here and seeing this first hand helps remove the cloud of mystery that seems to hang over Pantex for most residents.

Jeremy Roark, Director of Surgical services at Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital says, “I get to put something physical with what you hear about in regard to Pantex. I overhear people talking about Pantex who come into BSA, and being here, gives us an association … it’s more of a reality than a mystery."

Technical Program coordinator for Amarillo College, Jerry Terry, agrees. “Being on the tour demystifies Pantex. It’s good to come out here and allows it to be something real for us.”

And if all goes according to plan, the next group of 50 new business leaders from the area should be touring their way through the front gate in about 6 months, excited to learn more about the plant.