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At 60, Letterkenny needs new mission

June 28, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Letterkenny Army Depot, which was set up as a storage and shipment center for the bullets and bombs needed to fight World War II, has survived 60 years by changing its mission with the times.

Now the outgoing commander says it's time for another change. We suggest that the depot continue partnering with companies that create high-tech weaponry and communications equipment to preserve depot jobs for the immediate future.

That's an important task because even though the operation there was downsized in the mid-1990s under the Base Realignment and Closure Act, the depot still provides more than 1,700 jobs, making it Franklin County's second largest employer.

Under Col. Robert English, whose command ends in July, the depot has already taken on some new tasks, including equipping vehicles with new weapons and other apparatus for the U.S. Special Forces. Other depot workers are helping another agency work on a biological detection system.

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The depot will also be a staging area for the Port of Philadelphia, which would send commercial and military cargo overseas.

English says one of the biggest frustrations during his two-year assignment has been convincing people that the depot is still open. In a Herald-Mail interview this week, he asked community leaders for help in spreading the word.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to ask prospective businesses and federal agencies to visit the depot's Web site, at letterkenny.army.mil/main.htm.

In addition to a short history, the site also describes the depot's capabilities for performing everything from sheet metal work and hydraulic service to "clean room" parts assembly and the repair of computer circuit boards.

It's an array of skills that many agencies should be able to take advantage of. Perhaps it's time for an e-mail marketing campaign tied to an open house to showcase what's in place and what's possible. Get the word out now, because in this case, modesty is no virtue.

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