Y-12 Blog

Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2022 - 7:39am

One of the New Employee Orientation classes
One of the New Employee Orientation classes during 2022 at Y-12’s New Hope Center.

Starting any new job is overwhelming, but starting work at a nuclear weapons production site is even more so. Human Resources and Communications led an effort to improve the onboarding experience for new hires at Pantex and Y‑12, with substantial engagement from other organizations. The goal was to create an onboarding experience that empowers employees with a clear understanding of our mission and enables them to contribute to our mission more quickly.

The enhanced orientation program acquaints new employees with goal‑setting, provides intensive employee training with presentations about both sites, and connects each new hire to an organizational ambassador from his or her business area. By the end of orientation, new employees have a deeper understanding of their individual roles in achieving the mission. They also have a clearer organizational picture, familiarity with the Pantex and Y‑12 strategic plans, and continued support through the connection and relationship built with their organizational ambassador.

As an organizational ambassador, Leslie Mathews of Y‑12 Production Operations provides one‑on‑one support to new employees during their first 90 days of employment (and often longer). “I hired in almost 15 years ago,” she said. “I did not get all of this information on day one. It takes lots of time to understand the magnitude of what we do, but with the onboarding structure, new hires have the opportunity to learn so much at the very beginning.”

“The engagement of senior leaders and organizational ambassadors in onboarding has been a game-changer,” said Senior Director of Communications Jason Bohne. “New employees are not only learning how they connect with the mission but are also gaining perspective on our priorities and beginning to build a network of people who can help them be successful in the short term and throughout their careers. Welcoming them and giving them the tools to succeed helps make us all successful.”

Making sure new employees are introduced to how they fit in our national security mission falls to Recruitment and Placement Specialists Zuleyma Carruba-Rogel and Jay Aspray.

“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Is this the best that we can be?’ That constant reflection and adjustment lets us know we’re on the path to success,” Carruba-Rogel said. “When we see and experience the community that new hires are creating; when they respond to content and tell us they feel welcome; or when they talk about what a great experience onboarding was for them — that’s when we get to reap the fruit of those labors.”

Pantex Deputy Site Manager Kenny Steward said, “In our sites’ histories, we have rarely had to compete with a broad range of employers to attract talent to Pantex and Y‑12. Orientation is one of the opportunities we have to show new employees that they made the right choice and have joined a team they can be proud of for the rest of their careers. It’s our new employees’ introduction to life and culture in a high‑hazard, nuclear production environment, allowing us to set the stage for tying each employee to our critical nuclear deterrent mission and ensuring they know the dramatic value they add to the important work done at our sites.”

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2022 - 2:04pm

At the Global Security Analysis and Training Learning Lab, the use of different virtual or augmented headsets allow people to communicate
At the Global Security Analysis and Training Learning Lab, the use of different virtual or augmented headsets allow people to communicate with others across great distances for common objectives.

The Oak Ridge Enhanced Technology and Training Center (ORETTC) is under construction on the west end of the Oak Ridge Turnpike. It will be a state-of-the-art training complex that serves as the nation’s preeminent training facility for radiation response, nuclear processing, and emerging technologies. However, some of the ORETTC technology has been getting a trial run across town.

While ORETTC is being built, the training for radiological emergency responders has continued at Y-12. Relatively new to the mix is the Global Security Analysis and Training (GSAT) Learning Lab. The facility sits a short distance from the Y-12 site and its success is due in part to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

“We went from having all these face-to-face engagements to needing to do virtual engagements,” said Mary Lin, senior manager of Knowledge Acquisition and Performance Studies (KAPS).

She said technology became the solution.

Within the walls of the lab are instructional designers with expertise in video and technology. There is an attorney on staff for nuclear safeguards and policy instruction.

“Our augmented reality program came to life out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our distance learning and virtual-learning-use green screen technology. All that came out of the pandemic,” said Lin.

Green screens allow participants to be placed into virtual locations that simulate real-life scenarios.

“One of the things that we do with green screens,” said Lin, “is play videos, similar to a news production, allowing a person to point out things in the video for better comprehension. We also use iPads that let them be John Madden, who was famous for diagramming football plays on monitors. It allows [instructors] to kind of circle the event in a video and say ‘look at what’s happening.’ So it creates that immersive learning experience.”

Participants are offered a full menu of training resources. “We do everything from international engagements to domestic training, where we offer everything from alarm response training to international nuclear material accountancy and control courses,” Lin said.

Toby Williams, who heads GSAT, said the courses being developed at the learning lab will benefit all its programs and create a better learning environment.

“Augmented reality training allows us to engage with participants in an immersive manner in both in-person training and distance training,” Williams said. “It makes the training and concepts more interactive, which means the participants are more likely to remember what we taught,” he added.
Being off-site also has the benefit of lowering the risk level GSAT potentially presents to the site.

“Security is a huge deal at the site and understandably so. Moving to ORETTC will reduce the level of risk we present to the site, allowing us to challenge new processes, ideas, and concepts. Specifically, within our international engagements, we will be more adaptable.” said Williams.
Ashley Stowe is the new director of ORETTC.

“The GSAT group provides nuclear and radiological response training to our customers. The learning lab is a place where we develop the technologies and the course materials to deliver to our customers,” said Stowe. “In the gaming universe, they use this type of technology on a regular basis.

The use of different virtual or augmented headsets allow people to communicate with others across great distances for common objectives. It’s the same for us, but these are just toys until we provide the educational component, which the KAPS team provides.”

Stowe said working with their customers and subject matter experts, they are creating real-life simulations with gaming attributes. Add the educational component, and participants receive an enhanced training experience.

Stowe, Williams, and Lin all said the center will promote and challenge critical thinking in high-consequence operations or emergency response events, and will create a more adaptable and efficient training curriculum.

ORETTC is located on an 81-acre campus in Roane County within the City of Oak Ridge. It will consist of two facilities, the Simulated Nuclear and Radiological Activities Facility and the Emergency Response Training Facility, and will serve as a graduate-level academy for first responders, nuclear security professionals, and nuclear nonproliferation experts.

Stowe said they intend to host their first ORETTC training class with outside participants in early December.

Activities such as radiological material moves can be simulated in the Global Security Analysis and Training Learning Lab.
Activities such as radiological material moves can be simulated in the Global Security Analysis and Training Learning Lab.

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2022 - 8:09am
Y-12er Ally Derthick
Y-12er Ally Derthick picked up rugby and became the only athlete from the National Guard on the 14-member All-Army Women’s Rugby team. She’s also one of 90 athletes (men and women) in the U.S. Army to be named to an All-Army athletics team.

Y-12’s Ally Derthick says she has always enjoyed physical sports. In high school, it was ice hockey, lacrosse, and field hockey. In college, she played goalie for the Wisconsin-Eau Claire ice hockey team and was enrolled in the school’s ROTC, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. She received her commission as a 2nd lieutenant in 2014 and has been a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard for the past 8 years.

In 2019, she came to Y-12, and also happened to find herself looking for a new sport. She landed on rugby, a game that is a mix of soccer and football without the pads. It is continuous with few breaks (like soccer), except for the occasional scrum, lineout, or penalty. There is tackling, passing, and scoring (like football).

“I found rugby one day on television and decided that I was going to do it,” she said. “The rugby community in Knoxville welcomed me with open arms, and, two years later, I find myself fully submerged in the culture.”

She’s both fully submerged and very good it. After just two years, Derthick was playing for the Minx, a Knoxville-based club team. In May, the Minx placed second in the nation in the Rugby National Championships for 15s (15 players on each side).

That led to another honor. Days after competing in the National Championships, she was selected to the All-Army Women’s Rugby team, the only athlete from the National Guard on the 14-member squad.

In late June, Derthick and her teammates competed in the Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Tournament for 7s (7 on 7) in Wilmington, North Carolina. Despite having only practiced together for less than 10 days, the All-Army team racked up the best record in a round-robin event that featured all the military branches. Derthick’s team went undefeated and won its third Armed Forces Championship in a row.

For those wondering about bragging rights, Army placed first, followed by Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy.

Derthick says she’s proud of her accomplishment, but also humbled by it. On each teammate’s jersey is the motto, “For Those Who Can’t,” a reference to the female soldiers who’ve lost their lives in the service of their country. On the sleeves are the names of those soldiers.

“Those women are who we play for,” said Derthick.

“I have learned and gained knowledge and trust beyond my years by competing with this team and am looking forward to carrying it into everything else I do,” Derthick declared.

And that includes her work at Y-12. She says Y-12 embodies the ideals of her rugby team: trust and teamwork.

“I realize that everyone has a job to do. To do it right, you must be a trusted member of the team and a professional. Completing our tasks is paramount to the security of the nation. Our country depends on us to do our jobs,” said Derthick.

As for her future, Derthick hopes to join the All-Army team again next year to defend their title. “This year afforded me the opportunity to play alongside some of the greatest ruggers and service members in the United States,” she said.

Y-12er Ally Derthick picked up rugby and became the only athlete from the National Guard on the 14-member All-Army Women’s Rugby team. She’s also one of 90 athletes (men and women) in the U.S. Army to be named to an All-Army athletics team

Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 2:21pm

Personnel are shown in the NOC/SOC Control Room
Personnel are shown in the NOC/SOC Control Room, surrounded by monitors used to assess the quality and security of the CNS network.

If you imagine Consolidated Nuclear Security’s network as an overall body of systems, applications, and workstations, the Network Operations Center/Security Operations Center (NOC/SOC) would be its central nervous system. Tasked with a combination of responsibilities from processing network information, monitoring, and alerting any instabilities of our network, the NOC/SOC runs a 24/7 operation with 14 personnel to ensure that everything from web based applications to computer systems are protected and functioning as normal.

Established in 2019, the NOC/SOC consists of a team of information technology experts as part of Information Solutions and Services’ (IS&S) IT Operations organization. While based at Pantex, the NOC/SOC is an enterprise wide service that plays an essential role for the continuity of business operations for both Pantex and Y-12. From server equipment and firewalls to telecommunications and dashboards, the team uses their primary system to proactively observe the state of our network around the clock.

The NOC/SOC was built from the ground up. Staff have gone from working out of conference rooms to having a centralized control room with modern equipment and technology.

With security being the top priority of our network, the NOC/SOC is integral to our sites’ cybersecurity posture as they are responsible for proactively monitoring any issues that could potentially impact or threaten our computer systems. As protocol, the NOC/SOC is also notified of any planned updates or maintenance impacts to our network in order to closely monitor its performance and ensure nothing is out of the ordinary.

Every case is treated with equal value, whether investigating a suspicious email or troubleshooting an application for enhanced performance. From application management, threat analytics, to end user support, the NOC/SOC holds a variety of proven skills that have cultivated personnel to continue to build their careers within IS&S.

More than 60% of the original NOC/SOC staff have advanced to other positions in IT and Cybersecurity. In addition to their knowledge, they have qualities that can’t be taught, such as attention to detail, a questioning attitude, and high standards.

While forming a model of excellence within the organization, the NOC/SOC is also working to develop the future of the IS&S workforce by growing the NOC/SOCteam and will continue to serve as an enterprise solution. As technology continues to become smarter and faster, so are the NOC/SOC staff. Their goal is to stay as up to date as possible, adapt to what’s new, and deliver for our national security mission.

Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 2:15pm

Matthew Hensley
Matthew Hensley followed in his mother’s footsteps and completed his electrical apprenticeship at Y-12. Now, he leads the electrical safety efforts at Y-12.

Take 5 minutes and learn about CNS's Matthew Hensley, Safety and Industrial Hygiene Electrical Safety. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.

With more than 12 years of experience at Y-12, Matthew Hensley has a passion to ensure his fellow Y-12ers stay safe. He recently began his newest position as the Y-12 Electrical Safety subject matter expert in April 2022, where he will also serve as the chair of the Y-12 Electrical Safety Committee. His goal is to create a safer work environment.

Hensley was hired at Y-12 in 2009. His journey in electrical work began in 2010. He completed his electrical apprenticeship in 2015 and became a journeyman electrician for 3 years. He then received his master’s degree in safety, security, and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018. He served in Infrastructure Maintenance as a planner from 2018–2021, and then as a planning supervisor from March 2021–March 2022. Hensley’s experiences have paved the way for him to lead electrical safety efforts at Y-12.

Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult? If so, describe how you got here.
I would honestly have to say I never envisioned myself doing what I do. I followed in my mother’s footsteps in completing my electrical apprenticeship at Y-12 (she was the first woman to graduate from the electrical apprenticeship at Y-12). I then decided to continue my education by pursuing a master’s degree in Safety. Through my education and experience, I was able to apply for and accept the position of Electrical Safety SME.

What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
My favorite aspect of my work environment is the questioning attitude that the workers have. They are always trying to get the work done, and are wanting to find the best way to get the work done safely. They contact me to either make sure their plan is safe, or to get my opinion on how to perform the task safely.

What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
I believe “know before you do” is the principle that drives me, especially when working in Electrical Safety. You have to know the hazards that are going to be encountered when performing a task in order to know how to best protect yourself and others.

What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
For those who do not know me well, I believe they would be surprised to know that I have nine adopted children, eight of which still reside in the home. Six adoptions through foster care, and three through private adoption.

What’s your top bucket list item and why?
I would love to see a baseball game in every major league baseball stadium. I love baseball, and it is something that I have always wanted to do.

Finally, for our readers at home, what are the most important safety tips they should know about electrical safety?

Extension cord safety can affect us in the home. Some tips to follow for extension cord safety at home are:

  • Never plug an extension cord into another extension cord (daisy chaining).
  • Ensure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use (indoor or outdoor).
  • Never cut off the ground pin of a grounding-type extension cord.
  • Always use ground fault circuit interrupters when using an extension cord outdoors.
  • Inspect cords for damage before use for cracked or frayed sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections.

Another important issue, especially for me as a parent, is properly childproofing your home. Here are a few tips:

  • Install tamper resistant receptacles where possible, and safety covers where it is not.
  • Teach kids to never put foreign objects or fingers into electrical outlets.
  • Unplug and store electrical appliances that aren’t in use out of reach.
  • Move lamps and appliances that are in use away from the table or counter’s edge.
  • Try to position electrical cords out of sight or behind furniture where possible.