I have sometimes wondered what goes into designating a day an American holiday. Armed Forces Day, which is May 15 this year, began in 1949 after the armed forces were unified under one department — the Department of Defense. As someone who served in the Air Force, I have seen the benefits of people unifying for a purpose. This intangible force generates success, particularly in chaotic and uncertain times. We all agree 2020 was COVID chaotic, and 2021 will present uncertainty with the contract transition. The guiding light in these times will be steadfast adherence to our unified values; what Armed Forces Day represents. Let me clarify this.
While assigned to Air Mobility Command in 2009 at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, I oversaw the health of the pilots, maintainers, other flight line operators, and their families. AMC,/abbr> tasked Charleston AFB to deliver cargo all over the world. Charleston provided airlift of troops and passengers, military equipment, cargo, and aeromedical equipment and supplies worldwide. In other words, the airlift mission flew to all continents, delivering people and cargo, beans and bullets, anytime, anywhere. However, let me tell you a secret.
The actual operation of a successful airlift mission is about as glamorous as drops of water on stone. There’s no frenzy, no flap, just the inexorable process of getting the job done. In a successful airlift, you don’t see planes parked all over the place; they’re either in the air, onloading or unloading, or being worked on. You don’t see personnel milling around; flying crews are either flying or resting so they can fly again the next day. Everyone else is also on the job, working quietly and efficiently.
The real excitement from a successful airlift comes from seeing lines climbing steadily on PowerPoint charts — tonnage delivered, aircraft utilization, and so on (while lines representing accidents and injuries remain down). That’s where the glamour lies in air transport. It is this beat, this precise rhythmical cadence, which determines the success of an airlift. Nevertheless, it’s not enough.
One key factor for success of an airlift (or any large operation) is everyone working toward unified goals. On a cold, windy January night, I was making rounds on the flight line (my rounds were not only in the hospital) because the mission called for launching 20 or so C-17s at 3 minute intervals — a colossal orchestration. I knew 3,000 or so airmen would be working 24 hour operations under floodlights toward this task. I always thought making myself available to the pilots and crew members, seeking them out and listening to their complaints, gave me insight into the true health and operations of the mission, which I could never have gotten sitting at my desk reading e mails and secondhand reports.
“How’s it going?” I asked an airman, who looked about 18 years old, as she crouched over a wheel well to tighten some bolts. She looked up, quite perturbed, and said, “Sir, I can’t talk. If I don’t finish this, we won’t launch these 20 birds.” Then it dawned on me that this 18-year-old sensed mission success depended on her. She knew her responsibility involved working collectively toward a mission. Seeing her dedication, I was reassured all 20 planes would launch at the precise time as ordered.
It’s this perspective that affects my current mission here at Pantex. That’s why I took particular pride when the American Association of Ambulatory Health Care inspected our clinic on April 30 and the inspector said, “It is very clear that your staff are aligned with the higher calling of national security that is the mission of Pantex.” I cannot imagine a higher praise.
We unify for a purpose — across all of CNS — despite the challenges we’ve faced this past year and the uncertainty ahead. As a doctor, I care about the health and welfare of people, and as a Pantexan, I contribute to achieving our mission — a mission that unifies us and embodies what Armed Forces Day celebrates.
The Pantex Wind Farm has allowed the site to consistently exceed DOE goals regarding the use of renewable energy and reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Pantex continues to acquire electronics products that are environmentally sustainable. During FY 2020, Pantex received the EPEAT Purchaser Award for purchasing approximately 95% of monitors, computers, telephones, televisions, and other imaging systems that met the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool criteria established by the Green Electronics Council. Nearly 100% of all computers and monitors save energy by using power management tools. Pantex Sustainable Acquisition also received the DOE Greenbuy award for purchasing eight green products in three different categories.
Recycling to prevent waste
During FY 2020, Pantex recycling efforts resulted in a total 1,265,048 pounds in recycled material. The following quantities (in pounds) of waste shipped to various recycling companies:
- Batteries 73,967
- Cardboard 95,360
- Electronics 22,451
- Lamps 2,857
- Other 140,937
- Paper 48,200
- Plastic 6,720
- Scrap Metal 814,316
- Scrap Tires 29,620
- Used Oil 30,620
Employing renewable energy
The plant continues to use renewable energy-powered equipment such as solar-powered aerators in the wastewater lagoons, solar-powered lights at parking lots, and solar-generated power to emergency notification towers. Since the summer of 2014, the Pantex Renewable Energy Project or “wind farm” has allowed the site to consistently exceed DOE goals for using renewable energy and reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. The wind farm also provides both Pantex and Y-12 with renewable energy credits, which help exceed DOE sustainability goals.
Reducing energy intensity
Pantex has reduced energy intensity by 20% since 2015 primarily through the use of the Pantex wind farm. Energy intensity is the amount of energy used per square foot of plant’s footprint. By 2025, the goal is to reduce energy intensity at Pantex by 30% from the 2015 baseline. Energy savings in projects such as the HVAC Strike Team replacements and security lighting upgrades will further Pantex’s progress in reducing energy consumption.
Conserving water resources
The groundwater remediation program at Pantex focuses on pumping water from the perched aquifer and limiting the amount of recharge back into the perched aquifer. When contaminated water is pumped from the perched aquifer, it is treated to remove contaminants. This treated groundwater is then mixed with treated wastewater from the rest of the plant. Over the last two years, Pantex has renovated a subsurface irrigation system that, under a permit from the State of Texas, allows this treated wastewater to be beneficially reused for crop irrigation. Using the treated wastewater for irrigation increases crop production and reduces the amount of recharge going back into to the perched aquifer. On a typical day, between 900,000 and 1 million gallons of treated wastewater will be used in the subsurface irrigation system.
Following the rules
The State of Texas has issued Pantex an environmental compliance rating of “high,” which is the best rating that is offered by the state. The rating is based on Pantex’s compliance with its permits and authorizations and all of the environmental laws and regulations applicable to its operations. In addition, the state has classified the Pantex water supply and distribution system as “Superior.” This is also the highest rating offered by the state and is based on performing operations that go beyond those required by regulation.
Pantex continues to use digital technology, such as the X-ray machine in the Pantex Occupational Medical Department, to eliminate silver-contaminated film wastes and reduce annual radiography waste. Electronics equipment is dispositioned through certified recyclers, transferred, or donated to other sites and/or educational institutions through various government programs. Accordingly, 99% of electronic equipment was kept out of landfills. In addition, more than 95% of all Pantex printers have duplex printing capabilities to save paper use.
Sharing Hope Ministry received $10,000 in 2020 from the Pantex Community Investment Fund to support its mission to assist at risk and incarcerated women in changing their story by sharing hope through Christ’s love.
“We do this by sending the Life Recovery Bible and Bible studies to women in prisons and rehabs across the country,” Stevi Larson, special events coordinator at Sharing Hope Ministry said.
Locally, Sharing Hope also has Patsy’s Place Transitional Home which is a 12 month Christ-based home that mentors women as they are released from prison or jail in hopes of setting them on a more positive journey. The grant funds from the Pantex Fund went specifically to Patsy’s Place Transitional Home.
“The funding has been instrumental in our program’s ability to provide materials for classes, medical, mental and dental assistance, events, GED books and supplies, food, hygiene items and assistance with housing, transportation and medical expenses for post-offending women in Amarillo,” Larson said.
Sharing Hope Ministry began locally in 1999 and operates locally to this day.
“A group of women at a local church had been praying for an outreach project when they received a request from a woman in one of our local jails asking for Life Recovery Bible,” Larson said. “They granted her request and as she shared where she got the Bible, it became clear that this was the outreach that God had intended for them.
In 1999, Sharing Hope gave out 2 Bibles, but by the end of 2000 they had given out over 2,000 Life Recovery Bibles.
“The church we were originally associated with saw the importance in the work that we were doing and told us to become a separate non-profit organization,” Larson said. “We gained non-profit status in 2001, and since our beginning we have sent out over 165,000 Life Recovery Bibles.”
Grants through the Community Investment Fund are awarded by an employee-led committee, and Larson said she’d like to share a big thank you to those who were part of the committee.
“I know that the people on this committee do it voluntarily and that it can be a hard task to listen to all of the non-profits and make a decision on who gets funding,” she said. “I know that they take being a part of the committee very seriously and I just am very grateful for each and every one of them. And thank you Pantex for caring enough about our community to make this amazing opportunity available!”
Consolidated Nuclear Security established the Pantex Community Investment Fund and has been helping local organizations since its inception in 2016. The Pantex Fund is a partnership with the Amarillo Area Foundation, which assists in the distribution of funds. In 2020, 16 nonprofits in the Texas Panhandle received grants equaling over $121,000 from the fund during a virtual ceremony.
From the beginning, Pantex created an employee advisory committee to determine distribution of the grants that target charities and non‑profit organizations that offer assistance with basic needs, children, youth, families, community development, education, financial literacy, as well as health and wellness.
Martha’s Home in Amarillo helps single mothers and their children rebuild their lives.
Martha’s Home is much more than a homeless shelter. Since 1987, it has been a place for Amarillo women, including single mothers with their children, to re-build their lives and break the cycle of poverty. The organization offers life skills training, case management, counseling, life recovery classes, mentoring, and thanks to a $10,000 grant from CNS, they have the ability to continue moving mountains.
“These things are not just a blip in their budget, it’s a mountain,” said Martha’s Home Executive Director Connie Garcia. “When you have a choice between paying car insurance and feeding your children, having someone remove that barrier can make a very tangible impact. They can drive to work without fear of getting a ticket.”
The organization has earmarked the grant funds to take care of special needs for residents, which could include car repairs, insurance, or registration.
Imagine fleeing a domestic violence situation and needing a new driver’s license or birth certificates to enroll your children in school. In Texas, birth certificates are approximately $22 each, which can add up for multiple children. Martha’s Home helps remove that barrier. It also provides special clothing or shoes needed for new jobs as the women get back on their feet.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Garcia. “This is an incredible blessing, and we are more grateful than words can say.”
The organization, named after Martha in the Bible, serves approximately 100 women each year in one of their five homes. The women receive more personal attention than at a temporary shelter and stay approximately three to four months before moving out with their housing deposit paid from the special needs fund.
Martha’s Home accepts donations of household items or monetary gifts. They also raise funds by hosting annual fundraisers like the popular Second Chance Prom and the Slack-A-Thon 0.5K Run/Walk.
The $10,000 was awarded by the Pantex Community Investment Advisory Committee, comprised of CNS employees. Through the Community Investment Fund administered by Amarillo Area Foundation, CNS has invested more than $850,000 in local nonprofits in the Texas Panhandle since 2016.
“We chose Martha’s Home to receive a Pantex Community Investment grant because of the lasting positive impact the organization has on helping homeless women in the Texas Panhandle,” said investment committee member Channing Sparks. “It was important for us to support a fund that directly helps single women and women with children with any issues that may arise while pursuing employment, housing, or education on their journey to being successful members of our community.”
Pantex Staff Meteorologist Steve Kersh checks out a MesoNet weather gathering site that will soon be utilized across the region to supply Pantexans and Emergency Management staff with updated, real-time weather information.
What’s the temperature outside? How much rain has fallen? Those questions may appear to have easy answers, but at Pantex where the closest official meteorological station is located at the Rick Husband International Airport, accurate answers can vary greatly over the 16-mile difference.
Our weather can and does change quickly; it may be raining here at Pantex, while less than a mile away, the sun is shining. We can gather real-time weather information from our few weather stations, but access to the data may be limited or not available to everyone due to security measures. That’s all about to change.
Pantex is scheduled to have a West Texas MesoNet site installed just east of FM 2373 within the next few months. The site will be an official meteorological station, updating every five minutes. It will provide the usual readings such as temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind direction and speed, and barometric pressure, but readings will also include soil temperatures and moisture, solar radiation information, red flag fire danger index, and wind data from three different heights: 6.5, 20, and 30 feet. All the instrumentation will be classified as official by the World Meteorological Organization.
“I think it is important to have an official meteorological station for many reasons,” said Pantex’s newly hired staff meteorologist, Steve Kersh. “Primarily, Pantexans will be able to view current conditions at work before they leave their homes. Secondly, the data from the Pantex West Texas MesoNet will be readily available online. No matter where you are, you will be able to see Pantex weather conditions anywhere, anytime.”
The data will also be a benefit to Emergency Management and the Pantex Fire Department, which will now have a way to measure the “Red Flag Index” of vegetation here on site.
“In addition to employees being able to see the weather condition, the Pantex Fire Department will now have five-minute updates throughout the day on the ‘Red Flag Threat Index,’ which measures the fire danger instantly, thanks to the MesoNet’s constant monitoring of soil moisture and temperature,” Kersh added.
With the ongoing Texas Panhandle drought and the upcoming fire season, the information is invaluable. Knowing how much it rained and the current temperature compared to what is predicted down the road will also be useful to groups monitoring storm water runoff, environmental impacts, and meteorology.
Additionally, the Amarillo National Weather Service office is excited about the future Pantex West Texas MesoNet. Due to our proximity with official equipment, the Pantex site will be their backup site should their equipment fail.
The West Texas MesoNet is a project of the National Wind Institute, located on the campus of Texas Tech University. The National Wind Institute began after the deadly F-5 tornado struck Lubbock in 1970 and has been vital in providing weather data, including information used in constructing lifesaving, in-home tornado shelters.
Whether at home, traveling to work, or halfway around the world, employees will be able to access the Pantex MesoNet data via the West Texas MesoNet app, which can be downloaded for free in the App Store for Apple devices and in Google Play for Android devices, or simply by going to the West Texas MesoNet site.