Duty. Honor. Country. It is a theme in David Turner’s life. From achieving Eagle Scout status as a young man to a 35-year military career concluding as a highly decorated retired brigadier general, Turner’s goals often derive from his desire to lead and serve.
“I feel as if I’m repeating that pattern in the work I’m now doing,” said Turner, who recently assumed the job of Vice President of Operations Support. “The mission we do for our country is so critical. It’s an honor for me to be a part of it.”
But Turner readily admits that he was not always the mastermind of his own destiny. Charting the course of his life has often involved the advice of mentors and teachers who saw something in him that he did not.
“You want to align yourself with people who have an interest in you,” he said. “They can see things in you that you may not and help you maximize whatever that may be.”
Who influenced you most in your life?
My grandmother was, without a doubt, a huge influence in my life. She was my Yoda. She was incredibly knowledgeable about so many things in life. I also had two mentors in my military career that were instrumental in guiding me. They still are involved in my life, and I continue to value their input.
What advice would you give to young people who don’t know exactly what they want to do?
Be open to advice and suggestion. I didn’t even know what an Eagle Scout was, but my best friend’s mother told me I would be one. I went home and looked it up, and I decided that I actually would become an Eagle Scout. I not only made Eagle Scout, but I held every possible leadership level in the Boy Scouts. I have never regretted listening to that suggestion. I also believe the Science, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematical (STEM) programs offer so many ways to learn about potential futures
Jonathan Fleury, a section manager in Fabrication at Y-12, began his site tenure in an apprenticeship program, one gateway to a career at Pantex or Y-12.
Jonathan Fleury enjoys maintaining highly complex machines that craft material to exacting specifications. A section manager in Fabrication at Y 12 and a former Marine, Fleury has held various positions maintaining equipment at the site, where he appreciates a good challenge.
“I got out of the Marines and saw a newspaper ad. I applied for an apprenticeship program and was one of the first 50 people they hired,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like this before.”
The synergy of challenge and opportunity is alluring to many potential employees, explained Ricky Aiken, senior manager of Mission Systems and Integration at Y-12.
“With the advancements in technology, many industries are now relying on complex electrical systems that require skilled electricians to install, maintain, and repair them,” he said. “The rise of electric cars and renewable energy sources has also increased the demand for electricians with specialized knowledge in these areas. This truly goes for all skilled tradespeople like pipefitters, outside machinists, machinists, and carpenters, which remain in demand. Pursuing a career in a skilled trade is a viable option for those looking for job security and a stable career path. You have a skill you’re going to be able to use no matter where you go.”
A Y-12 apprenticeship is just one gateway to a career at Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), which manages and operates Y-12 and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas. At Pantex, the AmTech Career Academy trains high school students who can then pursue a degree at nearby Amarillo College before finally applying what they learned in the Pantex workforce.
The partnership between Pantex and AmTech positions students as future production technicians, according to Zuleyma Carruba Rogel, a Pantex recruiter.
“If a student has that program credential, they qualify to test here,” she explained. “From there, it’s really where their talent takes them.”
The partnership is part of a long-term strategy, and Carruba-Rogel and her peers recognize the potential promise the collaboration holds for CNS, which gains a better-prepared future workforce, and the students themselves.
“Some of these students can graduate … out earning their parents,” she said.
Aiken agreed the opportunities are many for potential employee and company alike.
“Recruiting and training the next generation for skilled trades positions is beneficial for both the individual and the industry. Training young people for skilled trades jobs is essential for addressing the skills gap that exists in many industries. Many skilled trades jobs require specialized training and knowledge that is not easily transferable,” Aiken said. “By recruiting and training the next generation, Y-12 can ensure that we have a skilled workforce that can meet our country’s mission needs, both now and in the future.”
Dave Thomas, a high explosives manufacturing supervisor at Pantex, appreciates the benefit of workers who bring a higher degree of skill from their first day on the job.
“Our mission to assemble and test the nation’s nuclear deterrent demands that we seek out and retain only the finest men and women within the manufacturing world, whether it be for formulation, machining, or direct assembly,” Thomas said.
Part of that demand for the best and brightest is in hiring those who know the latest in technology.
“Since technology is changing on a daily basis, we have a responsibility to stay on top of the job market and bring those folks into our family,” Thomas said.
Apprenticeship programs are not just for new employees, either.
“By offering training programs and career-development opportunities, Y-12 can retain valuable employees and help them achieve their career goal. Providing opportunities for career development and advancement can also improve employee morale and job satisfaction,” Aiken said. “When employees feel that their employer is invested in their success and growth, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their job and be motivated to perform well.”
Chafin H. pulls double duty when it comes to serving others; he works at Pantex and is a lieutenant colonel (select) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Once a month, Chafin H. loads up his Suburban and points the truck north toward Colorado Springs.
Chafin is a project manager in Construction Projects at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, but he’s also a lieutenant colonel (select) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. And while the trip usually takes about 6 hours and covers more than 350 miles, there’s not a lot of distance between the two missions he performs: National security is the priority.
“For U.S. veterans, a career at Pantex or Y-12 is a continued service to our nation. By working at Pantex or Y-12, we help ensure the reliability of our nation’s greatest deterrence against authoritarian aggression—the U.S. nuclear triad,” said Chafin, who has been an instructor pilot in the Air Force Reserve for 8 years after 9 years of active-duty service.
Pantex and the Y-12 National Security Complex, which are managed and operated by Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), often offer sought-after vocations for those who have or continue to serve in our armed forces. It’s no surprise that 29% of the Pantex workforce and 18% of the Y-12 workforce have former military experience.
Like Chafin, more than 30 employees remain active in the armed forces, often through the reserves, serving double duty for the nation.
“Serving in the military and working a full-time civilian job is tough and very busy,” said U.S. Navy Reservist and Y-12 Quality Technical Procedures Specialist Scott B. “We are always on the go, but most of us wouldn’t change a thing. I am very proud to have the opportunity to wear our nation’s uniform, but we are just regular people who have had the opportunity to help our country the best way we know how.”
In recognition of Armed Forces Day, celebrated on May 20, some employees shared how their roles at the sites allow them to continue service to our nation.
“The operation and functionality of our sites have a direct impact on national security,” said Jonathan C., an engineer in the Facility Design Group at Y-12 and a first lieutenant in the Tennessee Air National Guard. “If the operational status of the facilities and the sites is impacted, then we may miss key objectives, which have second and third order effects.”
“In the Army, I dealt with nuclear targeting, nuclear disablement, and counterproliferation,” said Jimmy M., a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, who is a SkillBridge intern working in Y-12 Product Manufacturing Engineering. “At CNS, I can support the other end of our nation’s nuclear deterrent and assist in the training of other DoD elements. I continue to serve because I enjoy the challenge, and I feel as though I am supporting my country.”
Scott thanked CNS and his colleagues for supporting those who remain active in the armed forces.
“Y-12 and CNS have been the most supporting companies I have worked for since transitioning from active duty to the reserves,” Scott said. “I know that my team always has my back when I have to be out on orders for the Navy. I’m able to complete my training and return seamlessly.”
Mike F., a master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force National Guard and an instructor in Production Training, agrees the support of the company, coworkers, and even DOE are important.
“I have had several supervisors support me in my role to serve our nation. I’m also thankful to our DOE headquarters leaders who feel strongly in supporting us serving our nation,” Mike said.
U.S. Army National Guard Second Lieutenant Robert M., who is a Y-12 Project Controls scheduler, added, “I definitely feel like working at Y-12 allows me to continue to serve the nation. When I come to work, I get to actually see America’s nuclear deterrent actively being used. From the history of the plant to the individual projects and individuals who make things happen, it is incredible to see.”
His peer Allison D., a captain in the Tennessee Army National Guard and a Project Controls scheduling associate, said, “My role at Y-12 has allowed me to continue to serve the nation through providing the products through which we are interfacing with foreign nations. By doing so, I’m understanding their capabilities and threats they can bring to the world.”
“Being in the guard has helped me become more confident and able to think on the move,” Robert said. “A popular saying is that ‘No plan survives first contact,’ so being able to prepare contingencies and to think and adjust on the move has been a very valuable skill that the Army has taught me. I personally like to remind myself that I may not be able to control every situation, but I can always control how I react to it.”
“The National Guard helped me develop a positive self-improvement mentality and taught me to aim for excellence in all I do,” Jonathan said. “I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and to bounce back when you hit a wall and keep moving forward. It changed the way I view the world and taught me to appreciate the small things. It has made me into a better leader, a better follower, and a better communicator. All these aspects turned me into a better friend, family member, and (soon to be) husband.”
These Y-12ers remain dedicated to serving others. From left: Jonathan C., Allison D., Scott B., and Jimmy M.
The HEUMF Connector (HCON) will connect HEUMF and UPF, providing a more efficient way to transport production material between the two facilities.
San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County, New York and New Jersey have the Lincoln Tunnel, and in the near future, Y-12 will have the HEUMF Connector (HCON) to UPF.
January 2023 marked 13 years since HEUMF became fully operational. During a four-year construction project, a rough-graded site was transformed into the massive concrete and steel structure that serves as our nation’s central repository for uranium. Approximately 300 ft. x 475 ft., HEUMF has areas for receiving, shipping, and providing long-term storage of uranium.
Before HEUMF receives the uranium, uranium “recycling” currently takes place in Building 9212, a large chemical processing facility that was built during the 1940s in the early era of nuclear weapons production. Since then, it has been modified many times to meet changing national security missions. It was optimized for the large nuclear weapons production mission necessary during the buildup of U.S. thermonuclear forces in the 1950s and 1960s.
Moving the uranium from Building 9212 to HEUMF requires coordination between the two facilities, and material is transported on a special nuclear material vehicle (SNMV), endearingly nicknamed “the goose” by those who work with it routinely. Security police officers accompany the SNMV, and transports have to be scheduled well in advance based on the logistics associated with delivery.
For Special Nuclear Materials Operations production specialists like Bill Hale, the transport game changes once the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) and HCON are complete and in operation.
“It’s going to be night and day as far as efficiency goes,” said Hale. “UPF Integration is leading teams to ensure HEUMF has a process to support UPF.”
UPF will provide new floor space and consist of processing capabilities for uranium casting, oxide production, and salvage and accountability operations to support the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, defense nuclear non-proliferation, and naval reactors. On the east side of UPF's Main Process Building, material will be transported directly to HEUMF through HCON. Material will be delivered to the HEUMF dock and transported through HCON; UPF will then be able to accept the material through a door.
From a construction standpoint, HCON really is a mammoth. At completion, HCON will be 475 feet long and contain 180 tons of steel, over 13,000 feet of conduit, and 5,300 cubic yards of concrete. To put these numbers into perspective, the steel weighs more than the Statue of Liberty, the length of conduit is four times the length of Navy Pier in Chicago, and the concrete could fill 25,000 bathtubs.
UPF and HCON are an engineering feat and, once operational, will be a huge win for Y-12 operations.
“We’ll have a straight line between HEUMF and UPF to transfer material that is protected from the elements and devoid of any other site obstacles. Being in a secure, protected environment also will alleviate the need for a security police officer to accompany the material transfer,” said Julie Huff, Y-12 Operations. “Fulfilling the mission requires us to optimize our strategies, and HCON truly is all about efficiency.”
A new scale, left, is now about 10 ft. away from the rolling mill, right, at Third Mill. A forklift manipulator, far right, carries depleted uranium plates to the scale. Before the new scale was installed, the forklift had to travel about 150 ft. to reach the scale.
A new scale at Third Mill shows a project does not have to cost millions of dollars to hold a lot of weight at Y-12. The device was installed in Building 9215, where depleted uranium is processed. The scale cost about $3,000 and has shaved 32 minutes off each individual billet campaign, which translates into many hours saved each year and increased productivity.
The scale replaces an older one that was located more than 150 ft. away from the rolling mill where the billets (bars of metal) are rolled into plates. A forklift with a manipulator carries the individual plates from the rolling mill to the scale to be weighed and then places them on a rack.
The new scale cuts 32 minutes from a metal process. A rack, on which rolled plates are placed, sits on top of it.
Previously, the forklift had to travel down a long hallway to get to the scale, which took a bit of time. The new scale is now about 10 feet from the rolling mill, which reduces travel time for each billet run. A billet yields 16 plates, and the forklift took 2 minutes to transport each plate to the scale, which amounted to 32 minutes per billet run. With the scale now just a few feet from the rolling mill, the drive time is drastically shorter.
In addition to the time savings, the scale has freed up the mill, reduced material handling and movement, and decreased concerns of transporting material through the area. There is more time on the mill for additional work, and the shorter distance to the scale increases efficiency and decreases risk of injury.
Before the new scale was installed, a forklift carrying individual plates had to travel down this long hall to a scale.