When Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States, said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” he was not just administering lip service. These words serve as the foundation that created and sustains one of our nation’s historic prodigies of industrial ingenuity: The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (LCAAP). The single largest producer of small-arms munitions within the Department of Defense. LCAAP is government owned, contractor operated (GOCO) business that is run by by Northrop Grumman Innovations Systems, formerly Orbital ATK.
Touring the facility brings forth a tremendous sense of nostalgia. From the 17 miles of steam lines outside to the majority of the buildings that have been intricately maintained throughout the years, you almost feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. All of which are still functional and utilized today. Not just the buildings, but astoundingly the machines as well. It was surreal to walk through production and see the mix of newer robotic equipment mixed in with the Legacy equipment. The Legacy machines are the original machines installed upon the opening of LCAAP. As of today, they are still producing rounds just as quickly and efficiently as their newer robotic counterparts do. This is 1930’s technology functioning without fail here in 2018! This speaks volumes for LCAAP and the pride its workers have maintained over the years for their facility and all that is within.
The one element that stood out to me the most is the allegiance that stands behind each individual round. The prevailing objective among each employee is that not a single round can fail. This goes beyond desiring quality. This is a fervent passion to afford all who serve the security in knowing they can depend on their ammunition. These men and women are in real life or death situations, not just target practice on range day. To ensure this, LCAAP has a prodigious process for case traceability. Each round has a specific stamp on the head. This stamp allows the rounds to be individually traced to the day, time and machine that it came from. This way, if there were ever to be an issue during their extensive testing protocol they are able to quickly ascertain why. Lake City produces 4 million rounds per day, so being able to trace each one is astonishing.
During my tour of LCAAP, Northrop Grumman hosted a turkey hunt for the F.E.W. (Foundation for Exceptional Warriors). The F.E.W. is extraordinary as their focus is for veterans to heal together. Their mission statement, “Our mission is to provide therapeutic events for those warriors who were Wounded in Combat, Decorated for Valor, Special Operations, and last but definitely not least Prisoners of War. Any era. Any conflict. Not just post-911”. Northrop Grumman provided these veterans with a well-deserved getaway. From catered dinners, breakfasts and lunches these gentlemen ate well and were very taken care of. It also speaks volumes for Northrop Grumman in their support of our veterans. The hunt took place on the sprawling forested grounds of LCAAP. I had the privilege of pairing with Ronnie Sweger, the founder of the F.E.W. Through him and our guide Steve, I was able to learn so much. These gentlemen definitely knew what they were doing and in the end were able to snag not one, but two beautiful birds. This was my first turkey hunt and it was an amazing experience. I was able to learn about the F.E.W. organization from Ronnie in detail and his heart for this cause is very evident. I was also able to see the bonding of these men as they came together for this hunt. The F.E.W. is a wonderful organization that truly is bringing healing to our veterans. You can learn more at exceptionalwarriors.org.
LCAAP and Northrop Grumman is far more than a facility manufacturing small caliber munitions. Lake City’s history is alive today, ever-ready and constantly on the cusp of cutting edge technology. With a 1.6 billion round per year production capacity Lake City is vigilantly prepared to go at a moment’s notice if they indeed would ever have to ramp up production. Most importantly, Lake City is a family, a family that extends to each and every individual who touches just one of their rounds.