The Watervliet Arsenal celebrated its 200th anniversary on Tuesday with local, state and federal legislative and military officials coming together for a covenant signing ceremony.
As the anniversary approached, the arsenal was forced to cancel many celebrations because of budget constraints. However, it was important for the arsenal to keep the covenant signing scheduled as planned. It was the first time the arsenal held a covenant signing since 2008, when Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings held the event at the Palace Theatre.
“We can celebrate this together because I think the togetherness is what’s going to get our city, villages and towns, as well as our county, state and federal facilities, through these fiscally uncertain times that we have coming up here,” said Watervliet Mayor Michael Manning. “The city surrounds the arsenal and we’re prepared to stick together with them. We’ve also got our neighbors, Troy, Albany, Schenectady and Albany County, that are here to help us back them up as well.” The arsenal employs about 950 civilian workers.
Like Manning, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he realizes the importance of the Watervliet Arsenal to the Capital Region.
“This is a significant milestone in the history of this facility. It’s only appropriate that we do things like sign the covenant to remind people of the history and the integrated connection that this facility not only has in this region, but in the country. We look forward to another 200 years of innovation and creativity in the great products that [the arsenal] brings to this country.
The arsenal’s commander, Col. Mark Migaleddi, played a major role in the celebration. The 57th commander of the arsenal began his duty at “America’s Cannon Factory” in 2010. That role will come to an end July 18 when he deploys overseas.
“When I took command, I knew in 2010, that when I gave up command that we’d still be in our anniversary, so it was the pressure of the ‘big party,’ ” Migaleddi said. “We really started planning 24 months ago on what we were going to do and how we were going to celebrate it, especially with the city of Watervliet, because they’re 225 years old and they’re such a big part of us. Matter of fact, all of these communities are such a big part of us.”
Working at the arsenal gave Migaleddi a new perspective of what goes into keeping soldiers safe in battle.
“You don’t work with the civilians like you do here. Usually you’re dealing with uniform soldiers. The civilians have taught me a lot,” Migaleddi said. “They’re great patriots. … They’re true craftsmen and women. They are veterans and they really care about what they do. They know what they’re doing. They know they’re producing the most lethal, indirect fire systems in the world and that brings a lot of great pride to them. I’ve learned so much from them.”
The Watervliet Arsenal was constructed in 1813 on the heels of the War of 1812 to help assist the Army. In 1887, the arsenal began producing cannons and later started producing howitzers and mortar systems.
The arsenal recently announced that it had won a second multimillion-dollar contract in just the past few months to provide weapons systems for the U.S. Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.
The arsenal will provide 600
60-mm mortar barrels, which are used mostly by infantry as an indirect fire weapon when a high-angle trajectory is needed to hit enemy troops, materiel and positions.
A month earlier, the arsenal won a $9.3 million contract to provide 500 60-mm mortar bipods for TACOM.
“This multimillion-dollar order will add to the arsenal’s current workload more than 18,000 hours of direct labor,” Bruce Pienkoski, the arsenal’s program manager for mortars, said at the time. “Because of the long lead time to procure raw stock steel, we expect to start manufacturing the barrels in February 2014.”
The first barrels are scheduled to leave the arsenal next June and the order should be complete by February 2015.