Pantex Blog

Pantexans Spread Twice the Holiday Cheer

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 00:00

Pantex volunteers are spreading holiday cheer this week during two celebrations for local organizations.

Pantexans helped residents and staff of Martha’s Home celebrate Christmas at a party Tuesday sponsored by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS). About 55 guests enjoyed food, music and family photos. Each woman and child received a gift from Santa.

Martha’s Home

For more than 25 years, Martha’s Home has provided shelter for homeless single women and mothers with children.

The festivities will continue Thursday at the Ussery-Roan State Veterans Home Christmas party sponsored by CNS. About 300 residents, staff and their families will all enjoy food, music and family photos. Santa will present each resident a new bath robe and hand out candy canes to the children.

Ussery-Roan State Veterans Home

When asked what gift the staff would most appreciate, they said a lift to help raise bedridden residents. CNS representatives will be on hand to present the veterans home with a $3,000 donation for the purchase of the equipment.

Ussery-Roan State Veterans Home Christmas Party

The Amarillo facility provides long-term care to nearly 120 Texas veterans and their spouses.

CNS Sponsors Thanksgiving Lunch for Senior Center

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 - 00:00

Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC sponsored a Thanksgiving lunch at Hilltop Senior Citizens Center in Amarillo, Texas.

Allison Roberts cuts cakePantexans and Hilltop staff, along with volunteers from the Potter County Deputy Sheriff Association and Vista College, served the traditional Thanksgiving fare. About 500 Hilltop members, family and community friends enjoyed turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, vegetables and an assortment of cakes and pies. Staff members even delivered meals to about 40 homebound seniors.

This is the sixth year Pantex has sponsored the meal.

Founded in 1974 by a group of African-American seniors, Hilltop Senior Citizens Center offers daily meals and activities to a population diverse in age and race. Many of the center members are on fixed incomes and enjoy coming to the center to play games and attend classes.

Hilltop Senior Citizens Center

Members of Hilltop Senior Citizens Center and community friends enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving lunch provided by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC.

Madelyn Creedon recognizes Pantex SPOs

Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 00:00

Madelyn Creedon, NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator, recently recognized Pantex Plant Security Police officers Jessie Longoria and Lt. Zach Mayo for providing off-duty aid to a shopping mall security guard in disarming and detaining an alleged assailant earlier this fall.

Creedon recognized the Pantex officers for risking their personal safety and for helping to protect the public while being off-duty from Pantex.

Gary Wisdom, Senior Director of Pantex Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services, said Pantex security police officers are some of the best trained and dedicated people within the NNSA enterprise. “That these two individuals risked their personal safety to save others is consistent with what I know of both and typical of the caliber and character of people we have protecting the Plant,” he said.

Pantex Security Police officers receive intense training which helped aid in their swift response to the shopping mall incident. The Pantex officers are uniformed individuals authorized to carry firearms and are able to make arrests at Pantex without warrants. They are employed for the protection of special nuclear material, or other government property.

Lt. Zach Mayo (left) and Jessie Longoria were recognized by Madelyn Creedon

About the photo:
Pantex Security Police officers Lt. Zach Mayo (left) and Jessie Longoria were recognized by Madelyn Creedon during a recent site visit. Each officer received a signature Pantex insignia ball cap as a token of NNSA’s appreciation for their off-duty heroics.

Pantexans support career conference

Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - 00:00

Step Up to Success

Pantexans are dedicated to encouraging the next generation of technical professionals, skilled trade workers and first responders.

Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC was a sponsor for the recent Step Up to Success conference for area high school students. Students attended two sessions of their choice with professionals from career fields such as healthcare, business, engineering, agriculture science, criminal justice, law, communications, information technology, culinary arts and skilled trades.

Engineers, sheet metal workers and firefighter paramedics from Pantex Plant shared the education and skill requirements for their jobs.

Los Barrios de Amarillo, a civic organization established by Hispanic community leaders, hosted the bi-annual event for more than 700 high school students in the Texas Panhandle. Los Barrios also offers a middle school conference in the spring.

Wild Pantex – Tarantulas on the Move

Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - 00:00

Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist

In a previous blog, I mentioned that spiders were not my favorite critter to have to deal with. My family will even try to sabotage my tough guy act by telling that I might jump and scream should a spider jump while I am trying to deal with it – which I will neither confirm nor deny.

Now tarantulas I find interesting. At least they are big enough that you can see them. We just came through the period where I get lots of calls and comments in regard to ‘the tarantulas are “migrating.”’ This annual happening in the tarantula world occurs in the early fall, particularly September. While attending Texas Tech University, I distinctly remember impressive numbers crossing the highway during the fall while in the Canadian River breaks and valley during my many trips between my hometown of Dalhart and Lubbock. Some sources also describe a surge in activity during June.

The “migration” is simply the period of activity where males leave their burrows and go searching for females, who pretty much hang out in burrows of their own. Upon finding a female in her burrow, the “gentlemen caller” will approach the female's shelter cautiously, tapping and vibrating his legs. The female will be "lured" out of her burrow, perhaps thinking prey is causing the vibrations, and the rest is history. Sometimes the female may capture and eat the male, but regardless, the male will typically die in the weeks following a successful mating.

The tarantula found in the Amarillo area is the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi), which is often also referred to as the Texas Brown Tarantula or the Missouri Tarantula. This spider was observed in all three upland shortgrass prairie sites during a macro invertebrate study conducted at Pantex by West Texas A&M University during 2000 and 2001. Its distribution includes the prairies of Oklahoma, extreme northeastern New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, southern Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and in Northeast Mexico. A second species of tarantula can be found in the extreme southern Panhandle (for example, Caprock Canyons State Park and the Childress area). This is the Texas Black Spot Tarantula (A. armada) and its range encompasses inland California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Nevada and Texas.

Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas are a burrowing spider with a leg span of about four to six inches at maturity, which they reach at seven to 10 years of age. Males rarely live more than three months after they have matured (and mated), while females are long-lived, capable of living into their thirties.

In nature they primarily live in burrows, sometimes under wood or flat stones, although they can also be found in the abandoned dens of other small critters. They line the entrance of their home with webbing, rigged in a manner to carry them the vibration of passing prey. Prey includes beetles, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, and even lizards, toads and mice.

A behavior that I find fascinating about tarantulas is a symbiotic relationship that they have with the Great Plains Narrow-Mouth Toad, which can be found as close to Pantex as the row of counties to our south. In one study, researchers found that 75% of burrows of the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula were also occupied by 1–3 Western Narrow-Mouthed Toads. These tiny 1.5-inch long toads likely derive protection from their host tarantula, while the spider may benefit from having their nests kept free of ants, which could harm the spider’s eggs and spiderlings. Reportedly, while other animals are quickly attacked when entering a tarantula’s burrow, the narrow-mouthed toad is greeted with a “quick touch with an inquiring foot” and then is allowed to remain in the burrow. The toads even seem to “attack” ants when they get close to the spider’s eggs.

Now that is cool!

Oklahoma Brown Tarantula

Photo: An adult male Oklahoma Brown Tarantula. Photo courtesy of W. David Sissom