On Nov. 14, Van Horn High School's JROTC color guard and three specially selected cadet leaders traveled to the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (LCAAP) currently operated by Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK). The cadets were invited to participate in ATK's annual Veterans Day ceremony.

ATK employs more than 300 veterans from various branches of the U.S. military. Veterans Day holds a very special meaning to such a group who served and who continue to serve. In addition to the ceremony, the cadets were invited to tour the facilities of LCAAP.

The short trip proved to be an exciting learning experience for the cadets. The plant produces a wide variety of small caliber rifle munitions ranging from 5.56mm rounds used in the basic M-16 rifle and 7.62mm rounds used in the M134 mini gun, to Caliber .50 rounds used in the M2 machine gun. The plant also produces 20mm medium caliber rounds and both small and medium caliber primers and links.

These munitions are produced to support the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, and the militaries of allied foreign countries. Chris Beach, director, ATK Small Caliber Systems summed up LCAAP's mission as, “Our mission is to support the war fighter.” Cadet Larissa McCarty said, “It was an enriching experience I was lucky to have.”

Harry S. Truman broke ground for construction to begin at Lake City on Dec. 26, 1940, and 9 months later the plant shipped out its first rail car of ammunition. LCAAP played a significant role in supporting the war time demand for small arms munitions during World War II. Lake City recently completed a $400M modernization program and now annually produces the equivalent of what it took 12 factories to produce during W.W.II. Currently, ATK Small Caliber Systems employs more than 2,000 workers and the LCAAP government staff consists of 28 employees.

With more than 400 buildings/structures sitting on approximately 4,000 acres the plant produces more than 2 billion rounds per year. Lake City supports a NATO ballistic testing center, one of only two such sites with the other located in England and a DOD Ballistic Service Organization (BSO) ballistic test center.

While at Lake City, cadets had the opportunity to meet Lt. Col. Larry Cannon, commander of the facility. Colonel Cannon shared some additional information and insight with the cadets regarding the strategic importance of LCAAP and the key role it plays in contributing to the defense of the US. (The cadets all agreed, Cannon, was a perfect name for the commander of an ammunition plant). Colonel Cannon states proudly that at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant …” we make the best small arms ammunition in the world…”

Cadets on the tour really appreciated the experience and opportunity to learn about the strategic process of ammunition production. Cadet First Lieutenant Mimi Hernandez states, “ the quality assurance testing of production line ammunition products was far more extensive and detailed than I would have thought.” But then United State's soldiers, war fighters and law enforcement officials deserve the best product available to help keep us and our nation safe and free.