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NEWS | Jan. 29, 2021

Depot shines spotlight on unique employee hobbies

By Mary K. Nolan and Danielle Weinschenk

Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) observed National Hobby Month in January by highlighting employees and what they are passionate about in their free time.

Kimberly Appel from the Resource Management Directorate is known for her enthusiasm in tackling new challenges, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she carries these qualities into her pursuits outside the depot’s gates. What may surprise you, however, is that in her free time, Appel teams up with her four-legged best friend, who is just as focused and driven.

Kitara is Appel’s 6-year-old Akita, and together, the duo competes in the dynamic and exciting arena of Performance Dog Sports. Training and competing since the dog was 2-years-old, Appel and Kitara became the first Akita team to earn ranking in the Fast Coursing Ability Test (FAST CAT) and FAST CAT2 – a timed 100-yard dash where the dog chases a lure (a white bag on a pulley system), to replicate chasing prey. Kitara ranks 6th in the “Top 20 Fastest Dogs by Breed” for Akitas – her speed is 24.99 mph in 100 yards!  They also hold titles in Coursing Ability Levels 1 and 2, and many other categories of competition.

While attending coursing trials, Appel learned about scent work with the American Kennel Club and the National Association of Canine Scent Work. Scent work is similar to that of a working detection dog, in which they locate a specific scent and then alert their handler to it. The goal is to locate all of the hidden scents in a specific environment within a designated time.

“Trials are setup to mimic real world search areas,” says Appel. “We have searched schools, fair grounds, YMCAs, a veterinary school and the Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium.” Kitara has earned numerous titles for her scent work achievements. In addition, the duo has earned 14 certificates from Dog Scouts of America for trail dog and pack dog, where Kitara wears a back pack, carrying specific gear and weight.

“We log a lot of miles hiking - in one year, we have hiked 1,800 miles together,” says Appel.

Though being a member of the community that participates in these sports holds its own reward, Kitara’s proud owner shares what she sees as the best part of the pair’s shared hobbies:

“No matter how the day ends, I always leave with the best dog,” says Appel. “We are continually amazed and proud of her.”

Some employees, like Katie Brudzinski, found their avocations after experiencing personal tragedies. In 2010, a close family member was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. For the close knit Brudzinski family, the diagnosis brought not only fear, but also a profound sense of helplessness and isolation.

Determined to create something positive out of the ongoing experience, Brudzinski teamed up with friends and family to hold a community event aimed at raising money and awareness for the all types of the disease. The inaugural community festival was held in 2017 and featured a 5K run/1 mile walk, food, games, raffles and vendors from local businesses. The event, which was extremely successful, has continued every year and even went virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The collective’s efforts have raised more than $40,000 for the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, a non-profit agency serving seven counties across Northeast Pennsylvania. Brudzinski, who works in the Resource Management Directorate, says the experience is about more than just fundraising.

“While the event is focused on cancer, we really try hard to get the community involved and make it feel like an event where we can all come together. Human connection is important for everyone, now more than ever.”

Katie is also an advocate for a variety of other causes. In addition, she is a 2020-2021 member of the Leadership Wilkes-Barre class and is working with her classmates on a project to refurbish facilities in Kirby Park, an effort she says will pay dividends for the area.

“We [Brudzinski and her team] are committed to enhancing public recreation and strengthening the bonds of our community. We look forward to enjoying the spruced up outdoor amenities Kirby Park has to offer.”

As depot photographer, Thomas Robbins makes sure Team Tobyhanna looks good, whether he’s covering an event or showcasing the depot’s many capabilities. But Robbins’ passion isn’t photographing people, it’s taking pictures of places and things.

“One of my great joys in life is shooting nature photography, especially from my kayak,” he said, adding that the experience holds holistic benefit for him.

“When I’m out taking photos in nature, I feel like I have a greater spiritual connection to the environment. My favorite place to shoot nature photography was Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which had a great diversity of wildlife and scenery that I haven't experienced anywhere else.”

Robbins says his favorite nature photo is from a hiking trip to Salt Springs State Park in Susquehanna County.

“That photo was the first long exposure series I had taken of a waterfall, and it really ignited my desire to shoot nature photography.”

Robbins enjoys kayaking through many locations throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania and frequents the Susquehanna River because the scenery on its banks is ever-changing. Among Robbins’s life goals is a trip to Norway to shoot the country’s diverse landscapes.

“I someday hope to paddle through the Norwegian fjords and see the country’s beautiful scenery. I think that would be an incredible experience.”

To see more of Robbins’ incredible photos of the natural world, you can visit his Facebook page @NatureInspired.US or on Instagram @NatureInspiredUS.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 4,000 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.