The Tuskegee Airmen’s “Rise Above” traveling exhibit landed in East Tennessee in April. The exhibit drew nearly 3,000 people. More than half of the attendees were children who were interested in the history of the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron, better known as the “Red Tails” because of the distinctive red markings on the planes’ tails.
One of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. George Hardy, was traveling with the exhibit. At 91, Hardy is one of just 33 original pilots still alive who fought in World War II.
In 2006, Hardy and the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the president, recognizing their service to the country in WWII.
The Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton hosted the traveling exhibit, which was sponsored by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC. At a reception prior to its opening, CNS employees were treated to a sneak peek and enjoyed a visit with Hardy.
“It was truly an honor meeting Lt. Col. Hardy,” said Y-12 Deputy Site Manager Gene Sievers, who described his encounter with the legendary pilot as “…shaking the hand of a living piece of history.”
A U.S. Navy veteran, Sievers spoke respectfully of the legacy of men like Hardy and what the Tuskegee Airmen accomplished. “The service of the Tuskegee Airmen inspired sweeping positive changes in the military immediately following World War II, and the traveling exhibit is a vivid reminder of their sacrifices.”
Cary Langham, who works in Mission Engineering, agreed with Sievers. “Lt. Col. Hardy is an American hero, and I am proud that I got the opportunity to meet and talk with him,” said Langham. “It was enlightening to me to understand the history behind the role the Red Tails played in WWII. For me, the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen will live on in my mind forever.”
Visitors to the exhibit were treated to a film shown on a 360-degree panoramic screen in a 30-seat temperature-controlled movie theater. The film highlights the courage and determination of the Tuskegee Airmen, who overcame obstacles to train and fight as U.S. Army Air Corps pilots, and describes what their achievements mean to all of us 70 years later.
Each airman wore a dog tag that read: “Aim High - Believe In Yourself - Use Your Brain – Never Quit – Be Ready To Go – Expect To Win.” Those goals are still relevant today.
April 13, 2016, was another memorable day for HonorAir Knoxville as 125 war veterans traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials built to honor their sacrifices. The one-day trip represented the 20th flight for HonorAir, which has flown more than 2,600 East Tennessee veterans to our capital and back, with all expenses paid.
Hundreds of family members and supporters were on hand at McGhee Tyson Airport to greet the veterans who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Among the World War II veterans was James Seal, who is 100 years old and the oldest veteran to have ever traveled with HonorAir.
A contingent from the Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC Y-12 National Security Complex was in attendance as the flight returned. Y-12 has been greeting the returning veterans since 2011.
Linda Neal, who works in Business Management at Y-12, was there. “Greeting the HonorAir veterans is so meaningful to me because my father was in the Marine Corps for 27 years,” she said. “Shaking hands and talking to these military men brought tears to my eyes because they reminded me so much of him.” She added, “Having grown up on a military base, I saw how the men who served in Vietnam were treated by the civilians. It was awesome to see them finally get the welcome home they deserved.”
Flight 20 consisted of 47 Vietnam veterans, 25 World War II veterans and 53 Korean War veterans. CNS has been a sponsor of the flights for several years.
Lisa Roberts, who works in Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services, has celebrated the veterans’ homecomings since 2014. Flight 20 was her fourth time to thank the veterans.
“I attend the HonorAir homecomings because it’s a way to celebrate our veterans and a chance to thank them for their service,” Roberts said. “I have family that served in Vietnam, my father fought in the Korean War, my Aunt served as a nurse in WWII, and my grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War. To me, it’s a great way to honor my family who’ve served our country well. HonorAir is an awesome event and one that I’m very proud to be a part of.”
HonorAir Knoxville is the brainchild of founder Eddie Mannis, president of Prestige Cleaners. The next scheduled flight is planned for fall 2016. In addition, the organization announced that, on June 8, it will take a flight of Vietnam veterans only on a special trip.
During their visit to Y-12 on March 29, the 2016 class of Leadership Oak Ridge learned about Y-12’s history and current missions. As a part of their efforts to learn about Oak Ridge, the Y-12 National Security Complex tour has always been a highlight of the class, according to Greta Ownby, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Center for Leadership & Community Development Coordinator.
The tour began with an overview of Y-12’s missions in the Major General Kenneth Nichols Conference Center of the Y-12 History Center. Participants also toured one of the facilities designated to become part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Y-12’s Building 9731. Y-12 Historian Ray Smith said, “This building was the first one completed at Y-12 and houses the world’s only Alpha Calutron magnets.” The group also saw display examples of the different nuclear weapons for which Y-12 has provided components. “Y-12 provides components for all our nation’s nuclear weapons and contributed to the winning of the Cold War,” Smith said.
Class member Tracy Beckendorf-Edou, executive director of teaching and learning at Oak Ridge Schools, said, “The Y-12 tour was informative, interesting and helped us learn not only about the history of Y-12 itself but also about how the community evolved before, during and after World War II.”
Beckendorf-Edou continued, “We learned about the security mechanisms in place to protect Oak Ridge residents from pollution, contamination and aggression, and we also learned about how safe it truly is to reside next to this national security complex. We also saw how Y-12 works with locations across the country so, therefore, how, we in our community, are part of a larger national defense profile.”
The 2016 Leadership Oak Ridge class includes two members of the Consolidated Nuclear Security team, Alison Sides and Ken Harrawood.
Harrawood was pleased with the response from his classmates about the tour. “As a CNS employee on the tour, I saw the amazement in many others who have lived in East Tennessee their whole lives but did not fully appreciate what this site has done and continues to do. It made me proud,” he said.
Employees in Tennessee and Texas celebrated Earth Day in many ways. From beekeeping and recreational opportunities to celebrating the success of a wind farm and planting trees, employees had the opportunity to learn about sustainable activities at each site and in each region.
Employees at both sites also donated gently used athletic shoes to the MORE Foundation Group to assist in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming.
Making sure we can deliver enriched uranium for our missions is no easy task at a site with complex processes housed in facilities more than 70 years old. Buildings need to be maintained, and equipment replaced or repaired, all while operating safely to meet NNSA’s mission needs for the weapons stockpile, naval reactors and other programs. Successfully coordinating these complex efforts into a workable plan won one group a Defense Programs Award of Excellence.
The Uranium Mission Strategy Team, which included 20 experts from both NNSA and Y‑12, created the plan to keep uranium operations going safely for many years. Figuring out the details of how it would all work was not a simple or an individual effort. The strategy maps out interrelated actions that must be worked over years, including a large construction project (the Uranium Processing Facility or UPF), process upgrades, process replacement projects, facility and infrastructure investments, and tasks to reduce safety hazards and inventory.
“Developing the strategy required a really diverse team, including people from Production, Programs, Engineering, Maintenance, Projects and UPF. Individual team members were supported by dozens of others from their organizations,” said John Gertsen, Uranium Mission Transformation manager and UPF Operators’ representative.
This diversity of expertise and support was necessary for success. The Enterprise’s missions can’t wait, so the team had to develop a way for Y‑12 to sustain critical operations while gradually moving out of Building 9212. The team based the strategy on four principles that would support this sustain‑and‑replace solution: reduce inventory and material at risk, or MAR; reinvest in some processes and relocate others; upgrade existing facilities and infrastructure; and build UPF.
“The strategy’s built on reducing safety and mission risks,” said Mona Glass, Enriched Uranium Mission Transformation, “while ensuring continuity.”
Y‑12 was already moving toward this strategy in 2014 but received renewed encouragement that year with the Red Team’s report on UPF and the appointment of Tim Driscoll as the NNSA Uranium Program manager. Driscoll also served on the Uranium Mission Strategy Team.
“This strategy has a lot of moving parts, and most of them are interrelated,” Gertsen said. “We are processing and moving uranium to reduce risk, relocating key processes in other buildings, refurbishing those buildings, and building a new facility, all while continuing to deliver our production mission. We’re talking about a lot of complex actions sequenced carefully over years.”
By 2025, some Building 9212 operations will move to existing facilities (Buildings 9215 and 9204-2E), and the rest will be replaced by UPF. Replacement of capabilities in Buildings 9215, 9204-2E (Beta 2E) and 9995 (plant lab) is deferred for now. Investments in those facilities are planned instead. Eventually, they will be replaced in the 2040s. HEUMF will continue to provide long‑term storage and shipping of uranium materials.
Specific actions mapped in the strategy are underway. Some are in the early stages — the first moves to replace Building 9212 capabilities, for example, won’t be completed until 2025 — but already show progress. “The MAR inventory in Area 5 has been reduced, some process relocation projects, such as 2MeV radiography, are starting earlier and reducing cost by consolidating with other upgrade projects,” Gertsen said. “UPF is moving ahead, and we’re placing even greater emphasis on technology investments to reduce time to maturity.”
The Uranium Missions Strategy is an important part of NNSA’s efforts “to reduce the risks of facility and process equipment failure that would affect our employees and impact our missions,” Gertsen said. “We’re planning for the long term."