Pantexan Maria Holt was the first intern-to-employee in the SkillBridge intern program, a partnership of the Department of Defense and CNS. After 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, Holt now works at Pantex in Environmental Compliance.
More than two years ago, Pantex and Y-12 began a partnership with the Department of Defense SkillBridge internship program to help service members transition to civilian employment by spending their final six months of active duty as interns. SkillBridge interns complete a specialized training program that fits their background and career goals, as well as the partnering organization’s goals.
Since March 2020, Pantex and Y-12 have hosted 31 SkillBridge interns, and 25 of them have transitioned to full-time employment. Another 11 are currently completing internships, with nine more scheduled to begin interning soon.
Emily Graber, director of Engagement, Inclusion, and Performance, is the program manager for CNS's SkillBridge. She said partnering with DOD on the program builds the sites’ capabilities. CNS can tap into a talent pool of transitioning service members to recruit not just interns but employees who understand the foundation of CNS imperatives and values.
“The program is a wonderful opportunity for service members to easily transition into a new norm of life after their commitment to our nation during their time with DOD,” Graber said. “It is an honor to see the success of our partnership with DOD and each and every SkillBridge intern as they continue their service to our nation in a slightly different capacity.”
Maria Holt at Pantex was the first SkillBridge intern to transition to full-time employment through the CNS program. She retired from the U.S. Air Force in August 2020 after 20 years of service in bioenvironmental engineering. By then, she had already completed her internship and was hired by Pantex Environmental Compliance as an environmental science specialist.
The goal of SkillBridge is to ensure that service members have employment set up well in advance of their military departure. Holt said her transition process began two years before she left the military. She selected Pantex for its proximity to her hometown of Dumas, Texas, where her husband is a police officer, as well as for its patriotic mission.
“It’s been a good transition,” Holt said. “DOD and DOE are similar in how they manage, so I still apply the ideals of teamwork and completed staff work. I just don’t have to wear a uniform anymore.”
After spending 29 years in the U.S. Army, Jay Aspray is now the recruiter for all SkillBridge interns at Pantex and Y-12. Aspray said he was able to quickly align his vast military experience to the Y-12 mission.
“The benefits of the program are significant in that it allowed me to be fully operational by the time my internship was complete, so I could immediately begin providing Y-12 with meaningful and impactful work once I was hired full time,” he said.
John Toliver III spent 14 years in the U.S. Army before deciding to take another path, becoming one of the first three SkillBridge interns. He is now the program manager for U.S. Special Operations and Interagency Partnerships. He said learning the language and culture of Y-12 reminds him of learning to speak Arabic to better understand the culture of his partner forces.
“Learning the language and culture of the NSE, CNS, and Y-12 is priceless as I join this dynamic team,” Toliver said. “The internship helped me determine that CNS was a right fit for me and my family and that I was a right fit for CNS.”
Due to the nature of the work done at Pantex, severe weather, especially area lightning strikes, will halt production. To monitor weather conditions, Pantex subscribes to two lightning-detection networks for cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strikes.
One of those lightning-detection networks is Earth Networks, which has lightning-detection systems located all over the United States. Pantex added additional lightning-detection sensors that include weather stations to the four corners of the Texas Panhandle. The cities of Texline (northwest), Follett (northeast), Friona (southwest), and Childress (southeast) were selected to meet that need.
These four new weather stations update every 30 seconds, and new photos from an HD SkyCam are updated every 15 minutes to a webpage that local schools can embed on their websites. The weather data can be used by the students and teachers at the respective schools to teach lessons such as basic meteorology, mathematical skills, and of course, earth science. It can also be a vital component in the schools’ use of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the classroom.
“I looked into these weather stations, the equipment they use, the range of the lightning-detection sensors, and how easy they are to deploy and use. I found that the equipment used is identical to the 250+ SchoolNet sites that I installed more than 20 years ago at a local TV station,” said Pantex Meteorologist Steve Kersh. “When we contacted the superintendents of the four schools to see if they were interested in helping us, they jumped at the idea, and it was approved quickly. I see this as a way to promote Pantex, to increase the sensitivity and reliability of the lightning network, and to give the schools a way to teach their students about the weather, math, and science.”
Kersh and Electromagnetics employee Wayne Blodgett visited each site and got the new equipment installed and working perfectly. The equipment is placed on top of the schools with the SkyCam pointed toward the horizon.
In Texline, Superintendent Terrell Jones was excited about the new weather station and sent Kersh an email once it was up and running. “I love the new station,” he said. “It is instant and has lots of very good information.”
The Texas Panhandle covers approximately 25,600 square miles (more than the state of West Virginia with 24,230 square miles), and weather conditions across that large an area can vary greatly. Pinpointing weather to one small area is very beneficial to people in that location. And that’s why Pantex allows public access to these sites as anyone with an internet connection can monitor local weather. There have already been reports that farmers and ranchers are using the local data to assist them with their livestock, along with preparing and maintaining crops.
Finally, it helps Pantex and many area students interested in STEM. By expanding the number of lightning sensors, and in turn, the stations, the effectiveness, range, and quality of the lightning data monitored and reported continues to increase. Going forward, all eyes are on the SkyCams and the possibility of adding more sites to gather weather data.
Check out the websites below.
A $10,000 donation to AmTech Career Academy by Pantex is furthering the site’s relationship with the school and will support the academy’s E-Sports and Robotics programs.
Kenny Steward, Pantex Deputy Site Manager, learned a bit about ESports from students during a recent visit.
AmTech is a state-of-the-art facility that serves students in Amarillo Independent School District in grades 9 to 12.
Engagement with the school helps CNS promote career opportunities for area students and may serve as a talent pipeline for hiring into Pantex careers, which is something that’s also being explored with other area high schools.
Assisting with mock interviews and advising senior engineering projects are just a few ways Pantexans are already engaged on the volunteer front.
Melissa Spence, a member of the Pantex Metrology group, is of several technicians who
calibrate on-site electronics.
The Pantex Metrology Department works daily to provide leadership and excellence in the science of measurement and its application in support of national security interests. Victor Cardoza and Melissa Spence are Metrology technicians in the electronics lab at Pantex. They and their coworkers calibrate all electronics used throughout the plant.
Victor Cardoza is a member of Pantex Metrology.
Pantex volunteers made a difference for four community members with ramps built for the Texas Ramp Project during the 2022 United Way Day of Caring
On April 29, Pantexans participated in the United Way Day of Caring. Teams built four ramps for individuals needing assistance getting in and out of their homes. The Day of Caring is a community-wide event and an opportunity for volunteers to make a real difference. CNS donated $4,000 to sponsor the projects.
Pantex Acting Deputy Site Manager Kenny Steward said, “As one of the largest employers in the Amarillo area, we have a responsibility to support our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens in our local communities. We are honored to give back, whether through financial contributions or sweat investments, to those in need.”
There are Pantex employees who participated in Day of Caring because they feel it is important to give back to the community for personal reasons too. Alexi Khashan, section manager with Pantex Infrastructure, said, “My mother received a ramp from Texas Ramp Project, and it is important to me to be able to give back to the community.”