S. Norton, delivering for the mission, as the only female teamster for Y-12 Construction.
In 1943, the same year of Y-12’s groundbreaking, artist J. Howard Miller produced the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster to encourage females to join the skilled trades workforce.
More than 75 years later, the can do spirit of Y-12 Construction’s female pipefitters, sheet metal workers, carpenters, electricians, painters, teamsters, laborers, and other trades proves that Miller’s wartime message resonates today.
Made for more
Growing up, M. Lewis’ days consisted of exploring the outdoors and finding hands on adventures. She joined Y 12 in 1986 as a carpenter, keeping her childhood passion of “working with her hands and figuring things out.” Only this time, it meant making a difference for the nation.
As a CSR lead, M. Lewis is responsible for eliminating hazards and implementing safety precautions.
“It’s important to join a profession that you love and that you are passionate about. When I started, it was the old adage that women shouldn’t be in the construction industry,” said Lewis, a craft safety representative lead. “It was hard being a female in what was considered a ‘man’s trade.’”
Over the course of 29 years, Lewis’ responsibilities have evolved into what she likes most about her role as a CSR lead; she is responsible for eliminating hazards and ensuring safety precautions are implemented while on the job.
“I enjoy having the ability to help others be as safe as possible and go home accident free,” she said.
We can do it too
For L. White, beginning her career as an electrician for Y-12 meant joining the family business, as her father and grandfather both served as electricians at the site. After 18 years, White is now a general forewoman.
“Being a female in the skilled trades pushes you a lot of times out of your comfort zone,” White said. “It’s good for you because it shows that we are just as capable.”
Although she has advanced to serving as a general forewoman, White said she feels part of an even larger family of brothers and sisters at Y-12.
B. Murphy, Y-12 laborer, works hard to preserve Y-12’s infrastructure.
Y-12 laborer B. Murphy echoed White’s comment. “All of us are a big family,” she said. Murphy initially looked for only temporary work at the site. Thirteen years later, Y-12 has given Murphy a “home away from home” and provided a better life for her family.
“If you wait for someone to hand you an opportunity, it won’t happen,” Murphy said. “My biggest piece of advice to future generations is to strive to be your best. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something that you have set your mind to.”
The key to success
S. Norton, a Y-12 teamster, knew that keeping a strong level of determination in the trades industry would bring her closer to home and take her far in her career. Previously, Norton spent her days and nights as an over-the-road truck driver. Today, Norton is behind the wheel delivering items and supporting warehouse facilities at Y-12. She also occasionally operates the fuel truck. Norton says that her experience has been a “joyous adventure,” traveling to on site locations and supporting workers who execute the mission. As the future workforce transforms the “man’s trade” adage, Norton says she is shown respect as the only female teamster for Y-12 Construction.
“You pioneer through the industry and it makes it easier to help pave the way for other females in the trade,” Lewis said. “If you work hard and do your best, you can be a success.”
K. Hamilton, a Y-12 painter, believes it is important to encourage and educate young women about job fulfillment from skilled trades. Whether she is in the sign shop or in the field, the combination of creating and refurbishing signs has made Hamilton proud of what she is able to achieve and improve for the site’s infrastructure.
“At the end of the day, you get to truly notice the work that you are doing,” she said. “It’s a great feeling because you can physically see something that you have accomplished.”
Y-12 air condition and refrigeration mechanics, from left, stand beside the crimping tool (on top of an air conditioning unit) that allows the team to work more safely and efficiently.
Where do the best ideas come from? At Y-12, they often spring from the “voice from the floor,” from those who are closest to the work.
The site’s air condition and refrigeration mechanics recently came up with a safer, more efficient way for routinely applying a fitting to a copper pipe, a task the AC&R crew often perform when installing, repairing, and maintaining refrigerant lines and humidity control systems.
The usual method for fusing the metal includes a brazing torch, which involves lots of paperwork and preplanning (analysis of job hazards, a “hot work” permit, a fire watch on standby) and donning sometimes bulky personal protective joining equipment (fire retardant clothing, leather gloves).
“We have to sand and prep the fitting and pipe, make sure all flammable and combustible materials are at a safe distance, and have our fire extinguisher and fire watch person with us,” explained mechanic A. Chittum. “We use a light torch to heat up the area we are brazing and braze the fitting on the pipe and then let it cool. For just one fitting, this task can take about five minutes, depending on pipe size and location.”
Chittum and the rest of the AC&R crew knew of a better way to accomplish most fusing jobs: a flame-free, off-the-shelf crimping tool to create a seal. Though not suitable for every application at the site, the tool can be used in areas where it can be difficult to obtain a burn permit (such as the Destruction and Recycle Facility with its high paper content and dust) or where a burn permit cannot be issued (storage areas with highly flammable materials).
“Using the tool, it takes eight seconds to crimp the fitting on the pipe with no cool down period and with a lot less preplanning and PPE and fewer hazards,” said mechanic M. Carter.
The crew presented their idea to Infrastructure’s Proactive Safety Team, led by Scott Underwood, senior director of Y-12 Infrastructure. The team, which aims to prevent injuries before they occur, reviewed and readily approved the mechanics’ idea. Within two months, the crew were using the new tool.
“Our management supported our idea from the very beginning,” said mechanic M. Owens. “We all felt that this device would enhance our ability to perform our work and provide better protection. Technology is always changing. The more we introduce it to our everyday tasks, the more efficient and safer we become.”
B. Williams, section manager of Balance of Plant maintenance work activities, said he was proud of the AC&R crew for applying the latest technology to their work.
“This technology saves time, money, and makes Y-12 safer for both the crew and the facilities where they are working,” Williams said. “The crew’s effort displays the serious approach Infrastructure is taking to better support our on site customers and Y-12’s mission.”
Infrastructure’s Linda Fiore, team lead for the Proactive Safety Team, echoed Williams’ sentiments.
“We can always reply on the vast experience, knowledge, and skill sets of our bargaining unit employees to come up with ideas and best practices to help create a safer, more productive work environment.”
Elena Garlea’s work was recently published in Journal of Material Science and Engineering: AM as part of a larger effort carried out in collaboration with other NNSA sites and the University of Tennessee.
Everyone wants to work in a field that keeps them engaged and on the cutting edge. Elena Garlea of Y-12 Development is one such person.
“My field of material characterization is very exciting,” Garlea said. “There is a great appreciation for new technologies at Y-12, which allows me to do cutting edge, fundamental research.”
In her research, she’s found one important aspect for metal additive manufacturing technology is the porosity that develops in the part during fabrication. That porosity can have a significant effect on its performance. She’s led research projects to advance understanding of the AM technology with the focus on porosity.
“During 2019, I published four journal articles; two of which were on AM. This month, a third article was published on this AM series,” she said.
Her latest paper, “Influence of defect characteristics on tensile deformation of an additively manufactured stainless steel: Evolutions of texture and intergranular strain,” can be read online.
“The article reports on the type of pores and their role on deformation to failure of test samples. The AM metal, likewise the conventional metal, is made out of grains (microscopic crystals) that have a certain orientation due to processing conditions,” Garlea said.
Grain orientation is the most important characteristic that defines the strength of a material. The novelty of this work was to use a special load frame equipment purchased by Y-12 Plant Directed Research and Development, and the team went to the Advanced Photon Source at the Argonne National Laboratory for the experiments.
“This facility provides high energy, high resolution synchrotron X-ray beam to monitor grain orientation and porosity at the time the deformation takes place (in situ),” she explained. “This effort was coupled with results obtained using other specialized technologies, like Resonant Ultrasound Spectroscopy, available in Development.”
Garlea said this research allows for the understanding of how processing conditions influence the orientation of these grains and the level of porosity that can become detrimental.
“This project was part of a larger effort carried out in collaboration with other NNSA sites and the University of Tennessee. Funding was provided by PDRD and NA-123 programs. This type of study helps advance the understanding of the technology that can be transferred to fabrication of other materials.”
Through Tom Smith’s vision, strategic planning, and perseverance, the Pantex and Y‑12 skylines are forever changed.
Lauded as the most influential person guiding physical transformation at Y‑12 and Pantex, Tom Smith recently retired. The mastermind behind the John C. Drummond Center, Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, Purification Facility, Uranium Processing Facility, New Hope and Jack Case centers, Emergency Operations Center, and the planned Lithium Processing Facility, among other buildings, Smith’s legacy will be felt by generations of Y‑12ers and Pantexans.
Smith served as the senior director of Enterprise Strategic Planning. He led strategic planning, site master planning, project development and integration at both sites. During his 52‑year Y‑12 career, he’s held senior leadership roles in engineering, project management, and strategic planning. His work has spanned multiple U.S. Department of Energy missions, encompassing weapons programs, uranium enrichment, fusion energy, and work with other federal agencies.
Best wishes to Tom Smith for a wonderful retirement.
Smith orchestrated the novel, third‑party financing approach to build the Jack Case, New Hope, and John C. Drummond centers. He also lent his expertise to the Oak Ridge community, where he lives. He assisted a special task force in developing a 10‑year community strategy for housing and residential development. He also led the Oak Ridge Chamber’s Executive Committee, Finance Committee, and Board of Directors and served on the Board of Directors of the Oak Ridge Economic Partnership and the Board of Leadership Oak Ridge.
For all of his accomplishments, it is not what he did that coworkers admire most; it is how he did it. Tenacious, integrity, smart, kind, humble, hard worker are just a few of the accolades they use to describe him. Read on as friends share impressions of his leadership style, memorable moments, and retirement wishes.
Tom really thinks through things before taking action. I don’t think there were many times I was in the office when Tom wasn’t working away (no matter how early I came in!). Of course, Tom had a wealth of knowledge with Y‑12, but he was able to come up to speed very quickly on Pantex facilities, line‑item projects, and other information. His expertise and experience with the Jack Case and New Hope centers are the main reason that Pantex has JCDC.
— Larry Backus, Enterprise Strategic Planning
Tom has a knack for setting a vision but also seeing a path to get there in achievable chunks. This means, at times, having the courage to explain that an elephant can’t be eaten all at once … but one bite at a time. I think of Tom’s approach to work in the same vein as another influential, legendary Y‑12 figure, Dave Bryant … work the detail, don’t be distracted by all that’s going on around you, keep moving to the finish line, be a gentleman at the end of the day. Tom brings experience and knowledge to the table, not just with technical issues but with strategies for driving change within organizations large and small.
— Steve Laggis, Infrastructure Integration and Y‑12 Infrastructure Programs
Tom exemplifies exactly the kind of mentor a person needs in their career. I have learned so much from him. He is a professional in every aspect. He cares for his employees, is very respectful to everyone, and has so much knowledge! He is an encyclopedia of how the line‑item and third‑party financing aspects work, the requirements for when and how to submit proposals, and how to interact with management, customers, and coworkers. Tom has a way of saying something that makes you stop in your tracks — sort of an uh‑oh moment. Then gives you a big smile and a laugh and “I got you!”
— Jane Nations, Enterprise Strategic Planning
I’ve known Tom for about 25 years. He’s been my boss and I have been his. He’s creative in developing a vision and strategy to achieve that vision, never gives up, and works well with broad groups of people to make it happen. He has really been the founding father of our modernization effort. When I first started working for Tom, he was the epitome of the engineer’s engineer — dress pants, crisp shirt, boring tie. It was difficult to get him to smile. I picked on him mercilessly. The more I got to know him, the more I saw he has a wonderful sense of humor, but you almost had to drag it out of him. Now we pick on each other and his smile and sense of humor are ever present.
— Michelle Reichert, president and chief executive officer
Tom is ingenious, persistent, and a true man of character and a pleasure to know and work with. He is always in the office Monday through Friday working diligently to modernize our sites. One Friday when I came to speak to Morgan on a subject, he told me the “Smith Brothers” would get right on it. I loved that, and it has stuck with me because I do not know of two men who are more dedicated to excellence and willing to give their all to make things better.
— Teresa Robbins, NPO Deputy Manager
Tom is truly an icon, a recognized leader. I have worked with him since my arrival to Y‑12 in the early 2000s and return in 2016. He has been the Y‑12 visionary, architect, and strategist behind our efforts to transform and modernize Y‑12. Many of us have benefited from his vision, touting and selling this compelling vision of a Y‑12 transformation in gatherings, conferences, to congressman and senior government decision‑makers. The story, so compelling, it received universal support, and we are observing the transformation at Y‑12 firsthand today.
— Ted Sherry, Performance Excellence
Tom has shown the importance of maintaining priorities in the workplace. He has been extremely supportive of his personnel. He is an old‑school gentleman of impeccable character and integrity. He is patient, willing to answer questions, and can be counted upon for rational counsel when work issues complicate a project. Tom always keeps an even keel. He is focused on long‑term results and evaluates circumstances on the basis of impact and potential to the long view. He is never given to knee‑jerk reactions. Tom can always be counted upon for a measured, well‑reasoned response regardless of the situation.
— David Will, Enterprise Strategic Planning
Karissa Sampson is the 2020 Y-12 recipient of the Jackie Kelly Award for Administrative Excellence.
Karissa was nominated by her supervisor Kevin Corbett, who is director of the CNS Quality organization.
“Karissa has demonstrated her dedication to learn since she arrived several years ago. She came to CNS without any Y-12 experience and immediately immersed herself into understanding our mission, supporting the organization, and her follow employees,” said Corbett. “Additionally, Jackie Kelly, the person this award was named after, worked for me just before her passing. It took me a long time to hire someone who I felt could carry on as professionally as Jackie did, but with Karissa, we hit the jackpot. She embodies all of the same beautiful attributes that Jackie did, as well as her work ethic.”
CNS established this award three years ago in honor of Jackie Kelly, who met every challenge head on, including the cancer that ultimately took her life. Nominees are evaluated by five Pantex and Y-12 leaders on these criteria:
- Dedication: to the mission, their organization, and their fellow employees;
- Conscientiousness: to the quality of their work;
- Caring: building relationships and a concern for other’s success;
- Can-do attitude: “never say no” approach and helping to make a difference; and
- Capability: aptitude in roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountabilities.