History of Letterkenny
In 1941, the War Department laid plans for 12 large, new Ordnance Depots to control the oncoming deluge of war materiel. Letterkenny Township was chosen due to its proximity. It was a safe, yet convenient distance from the eastern seaboard and Washington, D.C. with land well suited for ammunition storage. It had good rail facilities, nearby power and water, and another great resource, people, who historically had shown great courage and perseverance.
Public outcry ensued as prime agricultural land would be lost and 1,000 residents would be displaced if the land were acquired for a depot. Formal objections abated quickly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and people began to support the World War II effort. On December 18, 1941, The Secretary of War, Henry L. Stinson, issued the directive to acquire 21,000 acres in Letterkenny Township for an Ordnance Depot. Letterkenny’s mission would be to reduce the surplus of forthcoming war materiel and to store and ship ammunition, trucks, parts and other supplies.
Construction began immediately with 798 underground igloos, 12 above-ground magazines and 17 warehouses. Later, in 1956, an additional 104 igloos were constructed bringing the total to 902. At the beginning, a large number of buildings were remodeled farmhouses, barns and chicken houses.
Colonel J.K. Clement became the first Depot Commander on July 17, 1942. Under his leadership, the first shipment of ammunition arrived by train on September 23, 1942, three weeks ahead of schedule. More than three million tons of supplies were moved during the war years. As men were called to service, staffing problems became acute. The Depot drained the countryside of manpower needed for agriculture. Women, Commandos, Minute Men, even Italian prisoners of war filled the jobs. Regular employees worked seven days a week and blitzes were common. With ingenuity and devotion, the Letterkenny workforce completed seemingly impossible tasks to keep ordnance materiel flowing constantly to 70 theaters of war. Letterkenny was one of the largest depots of its kind and was called the Springboard of Invasion in 1944.
After WWII, Letterkennians had hardly become adjusted to the idea that the war was over when they found themselves caught up in the new missions of peace. Even before these missions became official, combat vehicles began rolling into the Depot for storage. An enormous amount of ammunition was returned from overseas, some of which was unserviceable and had to be destroyed.
At the time of the Korean War, July 1950, Letterkenny Ordnance Depot was in better condition to meet the emergency than back in WWII. However, the gears had to shift from peacetime drive to high war-time production and the workforce swelled to 6,500 persons, with as many as 50 new employees coming each day. Letterkenny's mission of receiving, processing, storing and shipping vehicles was strong.
The 1950s were a time of growth as new technologies in electronics and guided missile maintenance increased the Depot's workload. Employees were trained in these fields and began working on NIKE missile components in 1953. Letterkenny became a pilot depot for the implementation of the Depot Command Management System and SPEEDEX (System-wide Project for Electronic Equipment at Depots Extended).
In 1946 an experimental, long-term project for de-humidified storage tanks, built to "can" or preserve vehicles was initiated. With the new demands for ordnance materiel, the process was tested and deemed a success as vehicle after vehicle came out of the 169 petroleum storage tanks— all in excellent condition.
In 1955, Major Item Supply Management Agency (MISMA), which provided control functions on a worldwide basis, became a tenant of Letterkenny. It evolved into the U.S. Army Depot System Command, Letterkenny’s immediate higher headquarters.
Letterkenny became a permanent military installation on July 1, 1954.
Leterkenny Ordnance Depot was renamed Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) in August 1962, and command and control of the Depot fell under the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
The war in Vietnam signified the 1960s. An increase in missions and workload arrived at the Depot. Letterkenny was affected in much the same way as the Korean War in that materiel beyond normal requirements was funneled through the supply system to the troops. Letterkenny again stood ready to support American forces and employment rose.
The Depot Maintenance Division developed into one of the largest activities, employing 1,400 workers and reconditioning AA Artillery, combat vehicles and guided missiles. The ‘60s also brought automation to the Depot. During this time, construction to update many of the buildings and facilities was underway.
In 1964, the 28th Ordnance Detachment relocated to Letterkenny from Fort Meade, Md. to dispose of explosive ordnance items such as bombs, shells, rockets, and guided missiles in addition to assisting police in the disposal of explosives and war souvenirs.
By the 1970s, Letterkenny’s growth seemed to slow; however, the Depot still played a vital role. An ammunition washout facility was built and the Northeast Area Flight Detachment moved to Letterkenny. The U.S. Army Depot System Command (DESCOM), a major subordinate element of U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command (DARCOM) was established in 1976 and headquartered at Letterkenny. This Two-star command remained at Letterkenny until 1995 when it became the Industrial Operations Command at Rock Island, IL—today’s Operations System Command.
Environmental hazards became a concern as the decision was made to begin the air pollution abatement program in 1969 and by 1972 all coal burning heating systems were converted over to fuel oil.
In 1974, Letterkenny acquired the mission for long-term storage of war reserve stock packaged petroleum, oil and lubricants, as well as a variety of chemicals and acids. Letterkenny was also assigned the maintenance mission for the Air Tow Missile.
The Micom Automated Test Equipment (MATE) was used to test circuit boards on the improved HAWK Missile Systems. Letterkenny became one of five installations in the United States to activate the Automated Multi-Media Exchange (AMME), which provided a more effective communication service in the late 1970s.
Letterkenny solidified its place in the Army and was the largest installation in Pennsylvania, employing over 5,400 workers.
The Depot began evolving into its present state by the 1980s and early 1990s. New facilities and modernization projects, such as the Automatic Storage and Retrieval System-Plus were constructed. Letterkenny’s mission became three fold; supply, maintenance and ammunition.
In 1981 the Future Missions and Concepts Office (FMCO) was established to concentrate on the acquisition of new missions for the Depot.
In 1983, work from Paladin, Phased Array Tracking to Intercept Of Target (PATRIOT) and HAWK made Letterkenny a Center for Technical Excellence. Letterkenny was the single largest repair center for HAWK system. The Depot also received two new missions; the Sparrow, radar guided air-to-air missile and the Improved Sidewinder, an infrared guided air-to-air missile.
Environmental issues continued to be in the forefront for the Depot’s leadership. Letterkenny became the first DoD installation in Pennsylvania to come to an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the PA Department of Environmental Resources on the details of cleaning up contaminated water and soil. A “pump and treat” system was installed in 1989, and continues to operate cleaning contaminates from the groundwater in the northeast industrial area of the Depot.
Letterkenny’s future was reshaped in the 1990s by the Tactical Missile consolidation and the Department of Defense downsizing, reorganization and realignments. In 1990, Letterkenny was selected as the single processing and storage location for all weapons captured during the 1990 invasion of Panama, Operation Just Cause.
The Depot was chosen in 1992 to be the center of all Tactical Missile Systems in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. It assumed responsibility to support components from 21 new missile systems over the next few years. After the maintenance of missile systems from all Services were consolidated and transferred to LEAD, the Depot aggressively completed 22 missile systems. Gaining the workload and completing it both effectively and efficiently for this specific mission set Letterkenny apart as the well renowned depot for air defense and missile maintenance.
In 1994 Letterkenny joined United Defense, Limited Partnership to produce the Paladin. It completed 950 Paladins and ended in 1999.
Letterkenny completed its first overhaul of a PATRIOT system and was the only DoD installation overhauling and maintaining PATRIOT ground support equipment.
At the end of the Cold War, the government began closing and realigning bases. The Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) 1993 sent LEAD’s artillery mission to Anniston Army Depot, Ala.; however, the Tactile Missile Systems Mission remained.
LEAD transitioned from U.S. Army Industrial Operations Command (IOC) to U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command on October 1, 1999.
On August 21, 2001 the Secretary of the Army recognized Letterkenny as the Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence (CITE) for Air Defense and Tactical Missile Ground Support Equipment and in 2005 for the Mobile Electric Power Generation Equipment.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, LEAD responded to the Global War on Terror by retrofitting Ground Mobility Vehicles (GMVs), resetting Avengers and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and recapping PATRIOT Missiles.
With the Department of Defense’s reorganization, Letterkenny’s supply mission moved to New Cumberland, Pa. under Defense Logistics Agency in 1992, but by 2001 a smaller Directorate of Supply and Transportation was reestablished at Letterkenny.
In 2002, Letterkenny celebrated 60 years of supporting Soldiers and the Army.
To stay flexible, ready and relevant: Letterkenny transformed its 318,000 square foot vehicle building into a flexible manufacturing floor by using Lean Manufacturing concepts. The Depot facilitated each work bay/cell with identical capabilities. Lean Manufacturing techniques were implemented to achieve success in meeting new workload challenges in an era of chemical and biological threats.
Letterkenny entered into partnership with private industry in order to collaboratively share advantageous skill sets and unique capabilities. Partnerships proved to be a successful avenue to produce a greater quality product, in the most efficient manner and best cost possible to the Warfighter.
In 2005 LEAD was recognized with the silver Shingo Prize for the PATRIOT Missile Launcher, becoming the first Army depot to ever receive a Shingo Prize. This prize initiated the first of eight Shingo awards the Depot would receive for excellent work in areas such as HMMWVs, Generators, Biological Integrated Detection Systems (BIDS), PATRIOT Systems and Aviation Ground Power Units (AGPU).
BRAC 2005 named LEAD as number one in Military Value for Tactical Wheeled Vehicles. The innovative engineering of the GMV program proved successful as it distinguished itself in battle; it’s tough, lethal and maintainable.
Work during this decade centered on Cranes, Generators, HMMWVs, the PATRIOT Recapitalization program as well as Medium Mine Protected Vehicles (MMPV) and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) systems.
Environmentally, LEAD was recognized by the Secretary of the Army for Environmental Restoration (FY02), Environmental Quality (FY06), and Environmental Sustainability (FY09)--Industrial Installation.
As the new decade began, LEAD celebrated a variety of accomplishments and improvements that were readily occurring across the Depot. In 2010, Letterkenny received its first Combined Logistics Excellence Award for superior performance of duty in Depot Maintenance Excellence resulting in improved combat readiness.
The Theater Readiness Maintenance Directorate, in partnership with private industry, produced the first missile at the newly constructed Theater Readiness Maintenance Facility. Lockheed Martin and Precision Fires Rocket and Missile System (PFRMS) partnered with LEAD to enhance High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) production. This included the Special Test Equipment, Special Tooling, tools, training, testing and, ultimately, LEAD’s demonstration of capabilities required to repair various M270A1 and HIMARS Fire Control System and HIMARS launcher components.
The production of Route Clearance Vehicles (RCV) emerged as a primary focus of the Depot’s workload. LEAD, in 2010, was named the Joint Depot Source of Repair Decision on the RCV. The Services jointly agreed that Depot Maintenance will be accomplished organically for the RCV: Buffalo/MPCV, Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection System (VMMD) also known as the “Husky,” RG-31 Medium Mine -Protected Vehicle (MMPV), Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) and Medium Mine-Protected Vehicle (MMPV) Panther at LEAD.
In December 2010, Letterkenny completed the last of over 20,000 recapped HMMWVs. With the program completed, LEAD converted its primary assembly line of HMMWVs to accommodate Reset of PATRIOT Prime Movers. This new workload employed 173 people, with a workload encompassing 150 major items including Launchers, 373 Trailers, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT’s), 900 Series 5 Ton Trucks, Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and 860 Trailers.
Safety and ensuring proper standards moved to the forefront as Depot leadership and employees pursued the goal of attaining Voluntary Protection Programs Certification.
In 2012 Letterkenny was recognized as a CITE for RCV and PATRIOT Missile Recertification.
The First Article Testing for the New Build AGPU was successfully completed in February 2012.
2012 celebrated the Depot’s 70th Anniversary. As the largest employer in Franklin County, the Depot continues to be a mainstay to the local economy, fueling over a quarter of a million dollars into the region annually. Letterkenny’s state of the art facilities, combined with a highly skilled workforce, enable Letterkenny to provide superior products and services to the Soldiers.
Since World War II, Korea and Vietnam, through Operation Desert Storm (Iraq) and Operation Just Cause (Panama), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) Letterkenny is proud to serve the Soldier serving anywhere in the world.
For over 70 years, LEAD has proven repetitively it is flexible, ready and relevant to meet the Warfighter’s needs. LEAD’s constant pursuit of excellence has resulted in becoming the Depot of choice for the greatest Warfighters in the world. Through a unified focus, the employees embrace their daily tasks and take personal responsibility for their role in supporting the Warfighter. Their loyalty, hard work and dedication is evident by the various awards they have received and the vast improvements they have helped to make across the Depot. LEAD is determined to provide the very best to our Nation’s deserving Warfighers.