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  • By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    Clarence White, a U.S. Army Operational Test Command test officer for the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems, displays trophies he won at Texas’ Regional/Gold Cup qualifier in Corpus Christi, taking a first place on his cruiser and third in his class. (Courtesy photo)

     

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — After a 20-year break, an Army civilian worker here is back winning bicycle motocross (BMX) races.

    Forty-eight-year-old Clarence White ran his first race at 14, but when his bike was stolen, he didn’t go back to racing until he was 35.

    “I actually thought I was ready to turn pro, get my driver’s license and drive myself to the track,” he said. “But then my bicycle got ripped off, so I just didn’t go back.”

    As the story goes, White let his brother borrow his bike, but when his brother returned home, the bike did not.

    “I cut a lot of grass to get that bike,” said the U.S. Army Operational Test Command test officer for the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems.

    “Back then, that bike cost over a thousand dollars, and it took me years to build it up to that point, so when one day it was gone —  uh —  I don’t’ know I just — I just didn’t go back.”

    As the clock turned, White had three kids of his own who were active in sports.

    Clarence White, a U.S. Army Operational Test Command test officer for the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems, rounds a turn in the BMX Gold Cup Regional Qualifier Race Feb. 25 in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Desert Downs BMX via Facebook)

     

    “I’m watching my kids, and I’m like, ‘I want to do something instead of just watch,’” he said. “So I thought, ‘What sport can we all do?’”

    BMX became the answer.

    “I showed my kids some old pictures, and they seemed pretty excited about it,” he said.

    White bought the same bike he had as a kid and gave it to his son. The kids started racing, and White began showing them riding techniques.

    “They were picking it up sort of half-way, and I thought the best way to do it is show them,” he explained. “So, I got a bike myself and I started showing them how to do it, and the next thing you know, I’m loving it.”

    The children, now ages 13, 19 and 22, have moved on to other things, or moved out for college.

    At 5 feet, 9 inches and weighing 180 pounds, White fits the BMX racing scene.

    He regularly wins races in the Pflugerville, Texas area under the sanctioning body USA BMX.

    On Feb. 25, he won in Texas’ Regional/Gold Cup qualifier in Corpus Christi, taking a first place on his cruiser and third in his class.

    The next day, he competed in the first Texas State Qualifier in Corpus Christi and won 1st on his cruiser and 4th in his class.

    White will race again on March 18 in the Texas State Qualifier in San Antonio.

    He will also compete in the USA BMX Lone Star Nationals in Pflugerville Apr. 21, which will be an opportunity to qualify for the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships at Rock Hill, South Carolina.

    To see White in action, go to https://youtu.be/bXmG77EGSfc — he is the racer wearing blue and winning.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer – the American Service Member.

Headlines

  • By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    Clarence White, a U.S. Army Operational Test Command test officer for the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems, displays trophies he won at Texas’ Regional/Gold Cup qualifier in Corpus Christi, taking a first place on his cruiser and third in his class. (Courtesy photo)

     

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — After a 20-year break, an Army civilian worker here is back winning bicycle motocross (BMX) races.

    Forty-eight-year-old Clarence White ran his first race at 14, but when his bike was stolen, he didn’t go back to racing until he was 35.

    “I actually thought I was ready to turn pro, get my driver’s license and drive myself to the track,” he said. “But then my bicycle got ripped off, so I just didn’t go back.”

    As the story goes, White let his brother borrow his bike, but when his brother returned home, the bike did not.

    “I cut a lot of grass to get that bike,” said the U.S. Army Operational Test Command test officer for the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems.

    “Back then, that bike cost over a thousand dollars, and it took me years to build it up to that point, so when one day it was gone —  uh —  I don’t’ know I just — I just didn’t go back.”

    As the clock turned, White had three kids of his own who were active in sports.

    Clarence White, a U.S. Army Operational Test Command test officer for the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems, rounds a turn in the BMX Gold Cup Regional Qualifier Race Feb. 25 in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Desert Downs BMX via Facebook)

     

    “I’m watching my kids, and I’m like, ‘I want to do something instead of just watch,’” he said. “So I thought, ‘What sport can we all do?’”

    BMX became the answer.

    “I showed my kids some old pictures, and they seemed pretty excited about it,” he said.

    White bought the same bike he had as a kid and gave it to his son. The kids started racing, and White began showing them riding techniques.

    “They were picking it up sort of half-way, and I thought the best way to do it is show them,” he explained. “So, I got a bike myself and I started showing them how to do it, and the next thing you know, I’m loving it.”

    The children, now ages 13, 19 and 22, have moved on to other things, or moved out for college.

    At 5 feet, 9 inches and weighing 180 pounds, White fits the BMX racing scene.

    He regularly wins races in the Pflugerville, Texas area under the sanctioning body USA BMX.

    On Feb. 25, he won in Texas’ Regional/Gold Cup qualifier in Corpus Christi, taking a first place on his cruiser and third in his class.

    The next day, he competed in the first Texas State Qualifier in Corpus Christi and won 1st on his cruiser and 4th in his class.

    White will race again on March 18 in the Texas State Qualifier in San Antonio.

    He will also compete in the USA BMX Lone Star Nationals in Pflugerville Apr. 21, which will be an opportunity to qualify for the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships at Rock Hill, South Carolina.

    To see White in action, go to https://youtu.be/bXmG77EGSfc — he is the racer wearing blue and winning.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer – the American Service Member.

  • By Staff Sgt. Dwayne K. Holliday, Equal Opportunity NCO, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

    Staff Sgt. Dwayne K. Holliday, Equal Opportunity NCO, U.S. Army Operational Test Command. (U.S. Army file photo)

     

    Women continue making great contributions to today’s ever-evolving military by dedicating their lives through personal service and sacrifice.

    As early as 1775 during the Revolutionary War and until present day, the once male-dominated armed forces is becoming more of an equal playing field.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Yzette L. Nelson became the Army’s first female command sergeant major when she was promoted on March 30, 1968, after president Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 90-30 Nov. 8, 1967, removing restrictions on women achieving advanced military rank.

    A Shevlin, Minnesota native, Nelson retired in 1970 after serving 26 years beginning in the Women’s Army Corps as a clerk typist in 1944. Since her time, advancement of women in the Army picked up at an astounding rate.

    Equal opportunity for Soldiers in the Army has been a steady structure for the military way of life, but consistency was sometimes lacking among the women who strived to serve in combat units.

    During the last several years, women have begun serving in nearly all combat and non-combat military operational specialty positions.  

    It seems like only a few years ago when male Soldiers on the battlefield had to rely exclusively on their male battle buddies when it came to Army training and real world missions that involved engaging deadly enemy forces. That’s almost an ancient concept now that women are taking and preparing for more combat-related roles.

    Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said, “Integration provides equal opportunity for men and women who can perform the tasks required; it does not guarantee women will be promoted at any specific number or at any set rate, as adherence to a merit-based system must be paramount.”

    On March 10, 2016, the Department of Defense gave the final approval to integrate women across all military jobs.

    Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (now a captain) were the first women to earn the elite Army Ranger tab after completing the rigorous training course that began with 400 students, including 19 women. The course is so grueling, that just 94 male Soldiers graduated at Fort Benning, Georgia along with the two females.

    Griest is the Army’s first female Infantry officer and is from Orange Connecticut, while Haver is a native of Copperas Cove, Texas. Both were featured in Fortune Magazine’s list of “World’s Greatest Leaders.”

    The Associated Press reported, “Their success casts new attention on the obstacles that remain to women who aspire to join all-male combat units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment. Although Haver and Griest are now Ranger-qualified, no women are eligible for the elite regiment, although officials say it is among special operations units likely to eventually be open to women.”

    Also, former President Barack Obama nominated Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson to become the first female combatant commander to lead the U.S. Northern Command on May 16, 2016. Robinson’s responsibilities are to head homeland defense efforts for the Pentagon and coordinate defense support of civil authorities, as well as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning in defense of North America.

    The Army has and will always adapt to the changes of the world in order to maintain its military readiness at the drop of a dime.

    Women have been a part of that change since the Army existed. Now, the Army has gotten stronger and more versatile with integration of women into combat units, and this is just the beginning.

  • From left to right, Staff Sgt. Luis Aguilar, Sgt. 1st Class Jay Alan Ottinger, Sgt. 1st Class Benito Santos, and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Neal, all research development test and evaluation (RDT&E) non-commissioned officers with Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Test Directorate (MTD), stand ready to teach flag etiquette to students at Florence Elementary School, Florence Texas, on Jan. 20, 2017.

     

    Story and photos by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    FLORENCE, Texas — Five Army Soldiers made a difference in how students at Florence Elementary School here hoist the American flag in the morning and lower it at day’s end.

    As part of Fort Hood, Texas’ “Adopt-A-School” program, the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) provided flag etiquette training to fourth- and fifth-graders.

    “The Soldiers did an absolute fantastic job talking about the responsibility of Soldiers, the meaning behind the flag, and why we honor the flag,” said Kay Bradford, school principal.

    Sgt. 1st Class Benito Santos (left), and Sgt. 1st Class Jay Alan Ottinger, both research development test and evaluation (RDT&E) non-commissioned officers with Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Test Directorate (MTD), show how to fold a flag during flag etiquette training for fifth-graders at Florence Elementary School, Florence Texas, on Jan. 20, 2017.

     

    “Our kiddos were listening intently. They all don’t know flag etiquette,” she continued. “I know they will remember how to do that because they were listening and they just fell on every single word those Soldiers were saying, out of respect.”

    Bradford said she used two students to handle flag duties, but after the training, she decided to have four.

    “They were not folding the flag properly, but they were doing their very best understanding of how to do that, so I know that’s going to be a huge change,” she said.

    “The students were managing, but — you know what? To do the due honor that it deserves?  We’re ready for it now. It’s a wonderful partnership to have with these Soldiers.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Neal, a research development test and evaluation non-commissioned officer in Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Test Directorate, fields a question during flag etiquette training at Florence Elementary School, Florence Texas, on Jan. 20, 2017.

     

    One volunteer Soldier talked about his crack at volunteering, and the upshot that came with.

    “I was told last week, ‘Hey be sure you’re clear Friday because we got to go over to the school and show these kids the flag,’” said Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Neal, a research development test and evaluation non-commissioned with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.

    “Sometimes, you get tasked. You don’t get asked. You get tasked.” he said with a laugh. “That’s what we say in the Army. And, you know what? I know every one of us would come back next week if they let us.

    “I didn’t know it would be near as fun as it was.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Neal, a research development test and evaluation non-commissioned officer in Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Test Directorate, shows Florence Elementary School students how to tuck in edges and corners to get the best flag fold during flag etiquette training at Florence Elementary School, Florence Texas, on Jan. 20, 2017.

     

    Neal said the experience also gave him reason to talk to others about volunteering.

    “Everybody’s got the same 24 hours in their day,” he said. “It just depends on how you want to spend it. Do you want to spend it on yourself, or do you want to spend it on someone else?

    “If you wait around to get tasked, you may never get an opportunity,” he said. “If you look around and you ask, then you probably have the opportunity. I’d bet there’s not a grade school or community organization that wouldn’t take a volunteer to come down and speak to the young folks. Without a doubt.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Benito Santos, a research development test and evaluation non-commissioned officer in Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Test Directorate, trains fifth-graders how to unfold the flag at Florence Elementary School, Florence Texas, on Jan. 20, 2017.

     

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

     

  • By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    Michael M. Novogradac, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command. (U.S. Army file photo)

     

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley states readiness is the Army’s number one priority.

    “There are no other numbers ones,” he said. “The Army must be ready to shape the global security environment and fight to win the Nation’s wars.”

    That’s where operational testing comes into play.

    In the current fiscal environment, the Army is investing in critical capability gaps and conducting significant modernization and upgrades to existing major combat systems.

    The U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) at West Fort Hood is responsible for testing over 200 different acquisition and new equipment programs over the next three years — a clear indication of the Army’s investment in equipment modernization.

    As the Soldier’s ally, OTC is the final check to make sure the Army is getting the right equipment for the Soldier on the battlefield, while concurrently being good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. We ensure equipment is battle-ready and provides our Army with the advantage to win decisively.

    OTC uses Soldiers to test current and future Army systems in a real-world training environment, guaranteeing our Soldiers have the very best equipment — specifically that it is survivable, sustainable, and most importantly, effective, on the modern battlefield.

    During 2016, OTC conducted 59 operational tests, and will conduct 51 more tests during 2017.  Several of these tests occurred right here at the Great Place, including:

    Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment “Garryowen,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division partnered with OTC to put the Soldier Protection System (SPS) through its paces. The 89th Military Police Brigade also joined in, and half the Soldiers from both units wore current body armor while the other half wore a proposed SPS. Their focus was on whether or not the SPS reduced weight, maximized Soldier ergonomics and various human factors such as size, male/female, while verifying the body armor system is modular, and scalable, while supporting various mission sets.

    The Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV) Type II was also tested by Soldiers of the 510th Clearance Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade. The MMPV provides a blast-protected platform for Soldiers conducting explosive hazard missions. If approved by Army leadership, the MMPV could replace the four to five MRAP vehicles currently used by the Army. It can be equipped with a robot deployment system, which allows soldiers to stay buttoned-up while the robot deploys to search for roadside bombs.

    Artillery soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division tested the new M109A7 Paladin version self-propelled Howitzer, which is another step in the Army’s continual modernization efforts of its equipment using information Soldiers learn during combat, then translating their feedback into improved battlefield capabilities through such operational tests.

    Chemical Soldiers of Fort Hood’s 181st Hazard Response Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, tested the Next Generation Chemical Detector (NGCD) system, responding to mock chemical attacks. During NGCD testing, Airmen and Sailors also joined in at other locations, providing the combined team approach to identify any joint operational gaps between the Services.

    Fuel handlers of the 615th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB), part of the 1st Air Combat Brigade (ACB) of the 1st Calvary Division, also ran the Modular Fuel System (MFS) through its paces, supporting the Army’s modernization efforts by setting it up in its various configurations, then testing fuel delivery to ground and aviation assets, as well as bulk fuel delivery to fuel tankers.

    Operational testing is OTC’s opportunity to contribute to readiness and anything less compromises the Army's ability to win our Nation's wars.

    Operational Testing is about Soldiers. It is about making sure that the systems developed work on the modern battlefield.

  • The currently-fielded Joint Tactical Ground Station system is a sheltered early warning system that assists efforts required to counter enemy tactical missiles targeted at U.S. forces or coalition partners during battle. (U.S. Army file photo)

     

    By Capt. Edward E. Lee, Jr., Air Defense Artillery Test Division, Fires Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs 

    FORT CARSON, Colorado — Forty-two military operational testers recently conducted the first operational test of the Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) system in 20 years.

    JTAGS is an early warning system that communicates with the Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), which counters enemy tactical missiles targeted at U.S. forces or our coalition partners.

    The new JTAGS system, unlike the current version, will no longer reside in mobile shelters, but will move into unit operations centers to provide real time alert information. Looking to increase readiness, this alert information will be used by forces on the ground to facilitate force protection efforts, active/passive defense operations, and attack operations.

    Information and data gathered during the three-week test inform future material release decisions, according Brian Hesselberth, the lead military test plans analyst with the Air Defense Artillery Test Division (ADATD), Fires Test Directorate (FTD), U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) at Fort Bliss, Texas.

    Sgt. 1st Class James Harris, along with Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Gross, experienced JTAGS operators from Fort Carson’s 1st Space Brigade, shared their knowledge of unit-level procedures during new equipment training, ensuring the test unit Soldiers were proficient on the new system prior to the start of the actual test.

    Test Soldiers for the Joint Tactical Ground Station limited user test are: (back row, left to right, with Test Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, 30th ADA Brigade from Fort Sill, Oklahoma) Spc. Chase Pulley, Sgt. 1st Class James Harris (1st Space Brigade, Fort Carson, Colorado), Spc. Richard Capitillo, Spc. Tyler Orcutt, Staff Sgt. Roger Euller, Sgt. Matthew Johnson, Spc. Jacob Lemmons, Sgt. James Lopez, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Gross (1st Space Brigade, Fort Carson, Colorado). Front row, left to right, are Staff Sgt. Daniel Romero, Spc. Andrew Franco, and Spc. Marshall Bullock. (Photo by Capt. Edward E. Lee, Jr., Air Defense Artillery Test Division, Fires Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “The crews were subjected to hours and hours of fast-paced scenarios that pushed their operational abilities to the max,” said Harris.

    One Soldier, Spc. Tyler Orcutt, military occupational specialty 14T — Patriot Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer — with Test Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, 30th ADA Brigade from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was ready and anxious to perform throughout all phases of testing.  “As a 14T, I enjoy working with this system as it keeps my mind busy and I’m constantly on alert,” he said.

    Another 30th ADA primary JTAGS Operator, Spc. Andrew Franco, said, “This system is an essential piece in defending our Nation and its allies from a protection standpoint.”

    30th ADA Crew Chief Staff Sgt. Roger Euller, explained that the JTAGS’ intuitive user interface allows operators to master skills quickly, while gaining expertise with the latest technology.

    During 22 days of testing, the OTC Test Directorate out of Fort Bliss, Texas, worked alongside 10 Soldiers assigned to Test Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery (ADA), 30th ADA Brigade from Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

    With help from the ADA Soldiers, who quickly learned the new system and how to apply it in JTAGS operations, OTC was able to collect all necessary performance data to support the Army decision criteria.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • Col. John C. Ulrich, commander of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at West Fort Hood, Texas, will be playing “Mother Ginger” as a celebrity guest at Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker” annual performance 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Long Performing Arts Center. (U.S. Army file photo)

     

    By U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — A Fort Hood commander will be playing “Mother Ginger” as a celebrity guest at Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker” annual performance 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Long Performing Arts Center.

    Col. John C. Ulrich, commander of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, will help celebrate the show’s 54th year as the longest running production of its kind in Texas.

    "Ballet Austin is thrilled to have Col. Ulrich among the ranks of our 2016 VIP 'Mother Gingers,' and we know he'll delight our audience with his performance," Ballet Austin Executive Director Cookie Ruiz said.

    Ulrich hits the stage during a string of shows that began Dec. 3 and continue through Dec. 23.

    His “Mother Ginger” character performs less than three minutes, and is the comedy highlight of the ballet.

    Ulrich will be “dolled up,” seated upon a tall platform that looks like an over-the-top giant hoop skirt costume, while wearing a curly wig, headpiece and lots of makeup, gesturing fanatically as “Bon Bons” (small children) pour out of the giant skirt, while dancing about and disappearing back under the skirt.

    "Inviting important members of the Central Texas community to perform this heart-warming role in our largest production of the season has been a Ballet Austin tradition for almost two decades,” Ruiz said.

    “It's always an honor to have a representative of Fort Hood among our cast. We sincerely appreciate the sacrifices military personnel and their families make throughout the year — and especially during the holidays — to protect our freedom here at home," she added. “We're confident Col. Ulrich will do his fellow servicemen and servicewomen proud when he takes the stage!"

    Based on a version of the 200-year-old story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, the ballet follows Clara's wintry adventures, from her battle with rowdy rodents to her triumphs at the Court of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

    The performance is filled with enchanting sets and costumes, animated choreography, and a cast of hundreds, including Ballet Austin's professional company of dancers and the accomplished students of the Ballet Austin Academy.

    Run time for the ballet is approximately two hours with one 20-minute intermission between Act I and Act II.

    The show also features the live accompaniment of the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

    Russian composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, who scored the ballet, saved his most vulgar music for the “Mother Ginger” sequence.

    First performed in San Francisco during 1944, the timeless ballet is staged in countless American cities every year, particularly around Christmas.

    Beginning in 2004, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli’s wife, Beth, was the first Fort Hood VIP to play the part while Chiarelli was the 1st Cavalry Division commander.

    Since 2005, various OTC leaders, to include commanding generals, command sergeants major, and chiefs of staff have participated in the sold-out performances.

    Ulrich assumed command of OTC July 12, after serving as Chief, Army Budget Liaison, at the Pentagon’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller.

    Ballet Austin is located at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin 78704.

    Those interested in tickets to any of the shows can call the box office at (512) 476-2163), and there is a 20 percent military discount (retirees included). Normal ticket prices are from $42.00 to $91.00, depending on the seating arrangement chosen.

    For more information on “The Nutcracker” and "Mother Ginger,” go to https://balletaustin.org.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • By Heidi Watts, Chief, Maneuver Support Division, Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate, Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    During a drill exercised on land at Fort Hood, Texas, and shipboard at Norfolk, Virginia, over 200 Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors responded to simultaneous mock chemical attacks. 

    Working with test officers and data collectors of the Operational Test Command based at West Fort Hood, Texas, they tested the Next Generation Chemical Detector system Oct. 24 through Nov. 17.

    The NGCD is a multi-service test to aptly characterize and respond to chemical threats.

    Soldiers of the 181st Hazard Response Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, set up for a thorough decontamination line during operational testing of the Next Generation Chemical Detector system. (Photo by Clay Beach, Test and Documentation Team, U. S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    "We're collecting specific data necessary to inform the program manager and the services with information on the effectiveness, suitability, and survivability of the NGCD systems," said Eric Graham, an operational research analyst with OTC.

    Systems from three NGCD increments were employed during the Early Operational Assessment, according to Cpt. Christine Miller, a member of the Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate at OTC.

    "The goal in testing is always to create the most realistic scenarios, and execute operational missions," said Miller.

    She said the testing was an excellent learning opportunity for everyone involved, explaining that pre-production prototypes were used during the event.

    "The test allowed the Soldiers to train for future training exercises that include a rotation at the National Training Center in the near future," she said.

    "For the Sailors," added Miller, "The test provided them with many unique training challenges that are not ordinarily experienced during land missions, because the scenario called for a ship sustaining a 122-mm rocket attack of a suspected chemical agent."

    Miller added that she thought Sailors enjoyed the opportunity to take a break from their routine jobs to train on their chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense missions, while incorporating the NGCD equipment into their damage control missions.

    A member of the 181st Hazard Response Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, conducts a site assessment mission during operational testing of the Next Generation Chemical Detector system. (Photo by Clay Beach, Test and Documentation Team, U. S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Graham contends that next generation equipment needs the combined team approach to identify any joint operational gaps between the Services.

    "The test also takes a look at human factors, and the assessment of tactics, techniques, and procedures used," he said. "Our data collection efforts will ultimately assist in the manufacturing, development, and production of critical chemical detection equipment for the Department of Defense."

    The Soldiers participating were from the 181st Hazard Response Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. The Sailors shipboard were two Damage Control Teams from Expeditionary Strike Group 2, USS Bataan (LHD 5), Norfolk Naval Station. Two Air Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense teams were formed by units from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls, Montana; Minot Air Force Base, Minot, North Dakota; and Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City, Louisiana.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical service members to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer – the American Service Member.

  • WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Col. Ronald W. McNamara (left), chief of staff and deputy commander for Operational Test Command, performs a gift exchange with Brazilian Army Lt. Col. Ismael Campos. A delegation of two Brazilian Army officers are visiting OTC Tuesday through Thursday to become familiar with operational test and evaluation processes and to share good practices, while also enhancing the relationship between both armies. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

  • By Rachel Hoskins, Personnel Program Analyst, Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Four Army Civilians of Operational Test Command (OTC) attended the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference here November 10 through 12.

    The AISES National Conference serves as a one-stop shop for employers to recruit from the top Native Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) talent. 

    Electronics Engineer Vicente Gonzales of Operational Test Command (OTC), speaks with students at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference, Nov. 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through support of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Programs such as AISES, OTC is able to market the Army as a viable employer, while continuing to recruit and diversify the workforce of the future. (Photo by Rachel Hoskins, Personnel Program Analyst, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Over the three-day event, 1,800 attendees and 200 exhibitors met at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with a single focus in mind: educational, professional, and workforce development.

    OTC’s agenda was to join in the Career Fair portion of the National Conference to market not only OTC as a possible future employer, but to represent the Army as a whole.

    “The students consider this place (AISES National Conference) as the GO TO place to find a job,” said Kellie Jewett-Fernandez, AISES Director of Business and Program Development.

    Senior Test Manager Dave Wellons of Operational Test Command (OTC), discusses employment opportunities with a student at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference, Nov. 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through support of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Programs such as AISES, OTC is able to market the Army as a viable employer, while continuing to recruit and diversify the workforce of the future. (Photo by Rachel Hoskins, Personnel Program Analyst, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “AISES provides an opportunity to diversify the talent pool within your organization” she added.

    Through support of STEM Programs such as AISES, OTC is able to market the Army as a viable employer, while continuing to recruit and diversify the workforce of the future.

    “I do feel that conferences like this, where we (OTC) get to talk to students, are a win-win,” said Vicente Gonzales, AISES attendee and electronics engineer for OTC’s Test Technology Directorate. “By talking to us (OTC), these students get a better idea of how their field of study may be applied in support of the military and government.”

    “Furthermore,” he added, “we are an aging workforce and we must reach out to obtain the skillsets and talent that exist out there.”

    Personnel Support Specialist Sheila Miller of Operational Test Command (OTC), explains OTC's mission and vision to a student while attending the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference, Nov. 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through support of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Programs such as AISES, OTC is able to market the Army as a viable employer, while continuing to recruit and diversify the workforce of the future. (Photo by Rachel Hoskins, Personnel Program Analyst, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • Master Sgt. Jason S. Mikan (left), senior Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation NCO with Operational Test Command's Maneuver Test Directorate, asks a question to Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., head NCO of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, during a professional development visit to OTC Friday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — The top NCO of the unit charged with recruiting and training Soldiers stopped and talked with Operational Test Command NCOs on a wide range of topics Friday.

    Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., the honcho of NCOs at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, swung by OTC to mentor Soldiers on NCO 2020 Strategy.

    “What I’m working on is how we’re going to improve the NCO Corps for the next 30, 40, 50 years,” he said.

    STEP is a topic Davenport brought up immediately, which he said means Select, Train, Educate, and Promote.

    “STEP is nothing more than a policy that is a force and function to get you, the Soldier, to school. Because if you don’t go to school, you don’t get … promoted,” he said along with all the NCOs in unison response.

    Davenport clarified that STEP is not automatic promotion.

    “S means that you must be selected based on your performance, your potential, and your character,” he said.

    “Character matters to be a noncommissioned officer,” he stressed. “We want leaders of character. Not bad character, but good character, who uphold the Warrior Ethos, our Army Values — we want role models for our Soldiers, so character matters.”

    United States Army Training and Doctrine Command Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., talks with Operational Test Command NCOs Friday about NCO issues affecting the Army. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    He went on to describe a particular problem the Army is having.

    “We’ve got a lot of great young Soldiers … E4s … that are fully qualified to go to the sergeant board, and they’re not going,” he explained. “About 19 percent is all we’re recommending.”

    He went on to say these younger Soldiers haven’t done anything wrong.

    “They’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” Davenport said. “They’re not flagged, they’re not pending any UCMJ. They’re good young men and women.”

    He explained the problem is evident when you start looking at why they’re not going to the local promotion board.

    He said, “You see things like, ‘Specialist Mack, I’m not recommending you for promotion this month because you did not score 270 or above on the PT test.’

    “Is that our Army standard?” he asked the NCOs.

    Of course, they responded, “No.”

    “What is the Army standard?” asked Davenport, giving them food for thought.

    “Specialist Barrios, I’m not recommending you for promotion this month because you did not attend Sergeant Major Schmidt’s Soldier of the Month Board,” he said as another example.

    “Is that an Army standard,” he asked the NCOs.

    “No!” they exclaimed collectively.

    “So, we’re not recognizing young Soldiers based on standards that are not Army standards and it’s causing a problem,” said Davenport.

    “I think we can do this (right) if we identify the problem and get at it,” he added.

    During almost an hour of two-way interaction with the NCOs, Davenport said it is important that he get out to speak with NCOs about what affects the NCO Corps.

    “Whether they are Guard or Reserve, or FORSCOM, TRADOC, or here at the Operational Test Command, I’m more than willing to spend an hour or two hours to communicate about the work we’re doing with NCOs,” he said.

    He said he was happy to visit OTC and learn about its mission.

    “I learned about the complexity of the OTC mission and the responsibility it has to our Army, to make sure that what we put in Soldiers’ hands — what they shoot, and the tactics they use to fight with — that it’s validated through an arduous process,” he said.

    For those interested in more of what the TRADOC CSM has for all Soldiers, turn to his blog at http://tradocnews.org/category/straight-from-the-csm/

    Davenport is hosting a virtual Town Hall Nov. 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, the third in a series, that will help Soldiers learn how to get ahead in their careers.

    “This is a very important topic,” Davenport said, “especially for those of you who want to advance in your career but don’t have a clear understanding of how to do it.”

    To join Davenport’s Town Hall, turn browsers to: http://www.tradoc.army.mil/watch/

    During the Town Hall, davenport will also be responding to direct questions via his Twitter at #TRADOCtownhall, or the TRADOC Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/USArmyTRADOC

  • An Air Force Bioenvironmental Engineer Unit member takes a sample of an unknown hazard at the Edgewood, Maryland Chemical and Biological Center, as part of Operation Schelm Guardian, a joint Navy and Air Force Limited User Test of the Common Analytical Laboratory System (CALS), designed for war fighting units to detect and characterize unknown chemical and biological agents. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    By Lt. Col. Michael C. Firmin, Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    EDGEWOOD, Maryland — The M-Field training area at the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) here became the fictional city of Schelm from October 10-17.

    The makeover supported Operation Schelm Guardian, a joint Navy and Air Force Limited User Test of the Common Analytical Laboratory System (CALS), designed for warfighting units to detect and characterize unknown chemical and biological agents. 

    An ad hoc group of Sailors and Airmen from across the U.S., ranging from the Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 6 out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to the 779th Aerospace Medical Squadron out of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, supported the test.

    Combined, the groups made up an Air Force Bioenvironmental Engineer (BE) unit, and a Navy Forward Deployed Preventive Medicine Unit (FDPMU).

    According to CALS Test Officer Larry Wollenberg, of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC) at West Fort Hood, Texas, the test’s goal was to access CALS’ capabilities in an operational environment, and to see how current procedures supported those capabilities.

    “We need to know if the CALS will aid a commander in his decision making abilities to protect the warfighter in a possible chemical environment,” said Wollenberg.

    Despite having never worked together, Lt. Laura Moody with the Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 5 from San Diego, California, said having a group of Sailors and Airmen of differing backgrounds and experiences turned out to be one of the tests greatest strengths.

    ”e were able to seamlessly integrate and work together in the operational environment,” said Moody. “The joint mission was a unique aspect of this test, and it was a very valuable learning experience to see up close the way the Air Force teams operate.”

    Moody went on to say how the test was vital in capturing the unique mission sets both Navy and Air Force teams face.

    Staff Sgt. Jonathan Moroz of the 779 Aerospace Medical Squadron (AMDS) out of Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, provides a possible biological sample to Lt. Laura Moody (center) with the Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 5 from San Diego, California as Petty Officer 1st Class Florencio Alconaba (left), with NEPMU 2 out of Norfolk, Virginia look on. The three took place in Operation Schelm Guardian, a joint Navy and Air Force Limited User Test of the Common Analytical Laboratory System (CALS), designed for war fighting units to detect and characterize unknown chemical and biological agents. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    “Pretty amazing how we integrated our mission sets and communicated both operational and technical information between services,” she said. “The testing environment was realistic and relevant and we were able to use the equipment provided to help identify unknown chemical threats.”

    An Air Force participant from Cincinnati, Ohio, said the test took Airmen from three different installations, and put them together as a team using a common equipment set and common tactical procedures.

    “This built confidence among the warfighters — something that will pay great dividends in joint environments,” said Maj. Robert Schmidtgoessling of the 509th Bomb Wing out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

    USAOTC got together with the Navy and Air Force to come up with tough, real-world type missions, created to mimic hazards a chemical unit might face on the battlefield.

    The results of their work quickly became evident, said Mark Jackson, one of the planners from the Navy’s Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR).

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical service members to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American service member.

  • OTC Commander Col. (P) John C. Ulrich assists Mrs. Louise Womack in cutting a cake honoring her late husband Mr. Laurence Alston Womack as the Operational Test Command's Operational Testers' Hall of Fame inductee for 2016. (Photo by Tad Browning, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — The U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) hosted its 23rd annual Operational Testers’ Hall of Fame (HOF) Induction Ceremony Thursday, honoring a late Field Artillery officer and Civilian operational tester.

    Laurence Alston Womack, the 37th HOF inductee, served in support of operational testing for over 24 years.

    He was nominated by OTC’s Fires Test Directorate (FTD) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

    Womack retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1992, and remained with FTD as a Department of the Army Civilian employee until his passing on Feb. 1, 2013.

    His widow, Louise Womack from Lawton, Oklahoma, and two daughters, Arlene R. Womack, from Arlington, Texas, and Chontell C. Rhodes from Mansfield, Texas, all traveled to attend the ceremony honoring Laurence.

    “I am on adrenalin, and amazed, impressed and proud,” said Louise.

    “I kind of feel bad because Laurence bragged a lot,” she added to an audience of laughter.

    “But today, I am so proud of his accomplishments — I had no idea — of his contribution, and I thank you all so much for recognizing that, and letting me know he really was as awesome as he said he was.”

    Mrs. Louise Womack flanked by her two daughters — Chontell Rhodes (left) and Arlene R. Womack (right) — stand proudly next to a plaque honoring induction of the late Mr. Laurence Alston Womack into the Operational Test Command's Operational Testers' Hall of Fame. To the left, standing from front to rear, are: Col. (P) John C. Ulrich, OTC commander; OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt; and Col. Ronald W. McNamara, OTC deputy commander and chief of staff. (Photo by Tad Browning, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    Including his service up to his military retirement, Womack continued as a Department of the Army Civilian for more than 41 years in service to our Nation.

    “Laurence Womack was a problem solver; dedicated and innovative, and always focused on ways to improve our test methods through instrumentation,” said Col. (P) John C. Ulrich, OTC commander.

    Louise said, “Laurence was driven to do his best from the day I met him. He was a true gentleman, loved his Family and his work as a Soldier, and then as a civilian.

    “I know that he was proud of his accomplishments and his ability to bring positive recognition to his organization,” she continued. “He always made sure those who assisted him shared in the spotlight and were equally rewarded for their contributions.”

    During her ceremony remarks, Louise said she finally figured out how she was going to keep her memories of Laurence alive.

    “It’s hard to continue trying to move on when you have so many wonderful memories you want to keep,” she explained, “And, so I thought, ‘How do I keep this man’s memory alive for everybody, for what he was for me?’

    “And I realize that this is it,” she said of the HOF ceremony. “I love to write poetry, so when I considered what I wanted to say … I thought about the ocean, and the beach and how the sand and the tides change when the tide comes in and washes the footprints away of people who have been there. And for me, this is Laurence’s footprints forever in the sand.”

    Posing with a replica wall plaque are (from left to right) OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt; Arlene R. Womack; Chontell Rhodes; Mrs. Louise Womack; and OTC Commander Col. (P) John C. Ulrich. The ladies' late husband and father was inducted into the Operational Test Command's Operational Testers' Hall of Fame during a ceremony Thursday. (Photo by Tad Browning, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    Louise thanked everyone, saying she feels she has a room full of friends. “I know names now. I didn’t meet many of you, but I heard so much about all of you — I feel like I know you. I thank you all so much, for me and my girls, for the wonderful ceremony. I’m still amazed.”

    Part of Womack’s contribution to operational testing was the development and continual enhancement of the Extensible Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information (C4I) Instrumentation Suite (ExCIS).

    The instrumentation, considered to be Womack’s “baby,” eventually became the integrated software program that won two Army Modeling and Simulation Awards in 2008 and 2011, and is now used not only across the Army, but across the Department of Defense and with our Coalition partner nations as the fire support simulation model.

    Womack was also the proponent for the Geometric Automated Video Enhanced Location System (GAVELS) which continues to be used as well, for tracking and monitoring of systems under test.

    The Operational Testers’ Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class during October 1994, has served to honor Soldiers and Civilians who have been recognized for their commitment to putting the best possible equipment and systems into the hands of Soldiers in both training and combat conditions.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — The U.S. Army Operational Test Command will host its 23rd annual Operational Testers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday at its headquarters here.

    Laurence Alston Womack is the 2016 HOF inductee, having served in support of operational testing for over 24 years. He was nominated by OTC’s Fires Test Directorate (FTD) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

    Womack retired as a lieutenant colonel during 1992, and remained with FTD as a Department of the Army Civilian employee until his passing on Feb. 1, 2013.

    His widow, Louise Womack, and two daughters Arlene R. Womack and Chontell C. Rhodes, will attend the ceremony honoring Laurence.

    The Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class during October 1994, has served to honor Soldiers and Civilians recognized for their commitment in putting the best possible equipment and systems into the hands of Soldiers in both training and combat conditions.

    Media representatives interested in covering the event should contact Michael Novogradac, OTC’s public affairs officer, at 254-288-9110, or email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil no later than 2 p.m. Wednesday.

    Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood gate at Clarke Road and Highway 190 Thursday at 8:15 a.m., to be escorted to the event.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • Click photo for high-resolution image Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance (right), OTC’s Test Technology Directorate NCOIC, and Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson, Command Group NCOIC, walk the halls of Florence Middle School in Florence, Texas, during an Adopt-A-School visit Friday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs 

    FLORENCE, Texas – Two Soldiers who volunteer for III Corps and Fort Hood's Adopt-A-School program, visited the Middle School here Friday. 

    Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance, Operational Test Command’s Test Technology Directorate NCOIC, and Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson, Command Group NCOIC, stepped foot into Monica L. Mitchell’s 8th-grade Earth Science class, just in time to see student Blayne Smith do a show-and-tell of his ball python, Killer. 

    A second-year teacher after changing careers, Mitchell appreciates the presence of the Soldier mentors in her classroom. 

    Click photo for high-resolution image Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance (left), OTC’s Test Technology Directorate NCOIC, and Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson, Command Group NCOIC, are greeted by Monica L. Mitchell, 8th-grade Earth Science teacher at Florence Middle School, Florence, Texas, during an Adopt-A-School visit Friday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “I struggled a little bit last year as a first-time teacher, and they came into one of my more difficult classes,” she said. “They instill a level of discipline that raises expectations. Having these guys out here, it just boosts the kids’ self-esteem and boosts their expectations of what they can be in the world.” 

    Another teacher who concentrates on Math for grades 6 through 8, said the Adopt-A-School program with OTC works out just right. 

    “I had a student,” explained Carol Nolan, “who didn't have very good handwriting, and I was told, ‘You won’t ever be able to read his handwriting.’ 

    “Officer Vance didn’t take that,” she continued. “He was like — ‘No Sir! You can write this more neatly.’ 

    According to Nolan — sure enough — Vance’s mentoring and encouragement vastly improved the pupil’s handwriting.

    Click photo for high-resolution image Florence Middle School 8th-grade Earth Science Student Blayne Smith does a show-and-tell of his ball python, Killer, as Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson (left), OTC's Command Group NCOIC, and Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance, OTC’s Test Technology Directorate NCOIC, listen to the boy's presentation. Monica L. Mitchell, 8th-grade Earth Science teacher, observes at right during an OTC Adopt-A-School visit Friday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “They’re able to see a need and spot it,” Nolan said of the Soldier mentors. “They don’t have any fear to just jump in and start helping. And, any time you can make a connection with a student on a subject or share a mutual experience, they will trust you. The students share a mutual respect with the Soldiers.” 

    Like any Volunteer, neither Vance nor Wilson are present at Florence Middle School for the notoriety. 

    “I see these kids struggling, and a lot of these kids, we can relate to,” said Wilson. “We’ve been there — going through school and taking it for granted. I came from a small town and was on the football team, so teachers just naturally slid me by, and nobody ever told me, 'Hey, school matters. You need to focus on this.'" 

    Wilson said not knowing how to focus hurt him in the long run. 

    “When I got to the college level, I was behind. I was struggling,” he said. “Then I started partying. Then it got to the point where I had nothing but withdrawals and incompletes on my transcript, so that’s when I left. And because I was on an ROTC scholarship, it was either pay back the money the Army spent on me, or enlist.” 

    Wilson also involves himself as a Volunteer Fireman, and with the Big Brother Program.

    Click photo for high-resolution image Florence Middle School Math Teacher Carol Nolan, provides OTC's Command Group NCOIC Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson with a class schedule so he can better plan Adopt-A-School visits. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “So, that’s how I got in the Army,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t pushed at an early age. There’s nothing wrong with my life today, but if I would have focused and buckled down, who knows what my life would be today?” 

    Vance said just showing up every two weeks is a routine that’s necessary for him, and the kids. 

    “We engage them every two weeks, and we let them know we’re coming back,” he said. “And, we try to hold them accountable for certain tasks.” 

    Holding the students accountable can be as simple as looking through their backpack for homework they’re missing; then showing them how to become and remain organized. 

    “To show up every two weeks also keeps us accountable,” said Wilson. “If we didn’t see results, we probably wouldn’t do it. They’re getting something out of it and we’re getting something out of it.”

    Click photo for high-resolution image Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance (left), OTC’s Test Technology Directorate NCOIC, and Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson, Command Group NCOIC, stand before OTC's Adopt-A-School sign at Florence Middle School, Florence, Texas, during a visit Friday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
  • Click photo for high-resolution image

    Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox’s 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company work with the Kentucky National Guard’s 2061st MRBC to retrieve the Bridge Erection Boat onto the combat bridge transporter from the shores of the Ohio River during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Photo by Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    FORT KNOX, Kentucky — The Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky saw operational testing of the Army Engineer Regiment’s new Bridge Erection Boat (BEB) here Aug. 19.

    The 2061st Multi-Role Bridge Company (MRBC), a National Guard unit out of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, joined with Active duty Engineers of the 502nd MRBC from Knox to do wave after wave of bridging operations, running the BEB through its paces under a Limited User Test (LUT).

    The BEB will replace the current Legacy MK II BEB which has been in service since 1984, and is used to deploy the Improved Ribbon Bridge during wet gap crossings.

    Click photo for high-resolution image Fort Knox Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox’s 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company work with the Kentucky National Guard’s 2061st MRBC to prepare a bay using the Bridge Erection Boat while assembling a full raft on the Ohio River during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Photo by Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    “The aim of this LUT is to provide data on the operational effectiveness and suitability of the BEB,” said Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Maj. Mattii S. Minor, BEB test officer with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s (OTC) Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate. 

    Minor said the LUT is in support of full rate production of the system and fielding to units, as part of the Army’s modernization efforts. 

    Over five test days, BEB crewmembers provided their input to OTC data collectors on whether or not the boat meets the needs of their mission. 

    The 2061st MRBC’s 1st Sgt. Aaron T. Lester, whose hometown is Frankfort, Kentucky said his Guard unit is new, having stood up from scratch during October 2014. He provided 37 Soldiers, which included bridge crewmembers and maintainers.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    On the Ohio River, Fort Knox Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox’s 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company work with the Kentucky National Guard’s 2061st MRBC while rafting together two M1977 Common Bridge Transporter (CBT) trucks using the Bridge Erection Boat during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Photo by Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    “Taking part was a great opportunity,” he said. “During July, we performed our first annual training together, using a modified version of the new equipment, provided by the Bridging Program Manager.” 

    The platoon leader of the assembled Engineer Soldiers said his own Soldiers were melded with 2nd Platoon of the 502nd, and Soldiers from the 2061st, into a seamless group that worked well together. 

    “Many of the Soldiers have a good starting point as far as their knowledge of the bridging system,” said 1st Lt. Aleksandrs V. Schuler, from Fairfax, Virginia. 

    Schuler explained how being involved in an operational test gave the Engineer Soldiers the chance to polish their bridging skills, which included constructing a seven-float ribbon bridge raft to ferry equipment across a water gap, and a full enclosure, where the Soldiers put the bridge sections in the water in the form of a raft, going from one shore to another shore.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Fort Knox Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox’s 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company work with the Kentucky National Guard’s 2061st MRBC raft two M1977 Common Bridge Transporter (CBT) trucks down the Ohio River using the Bridge Erection Boat during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Photo by Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    “We were on the water at least 10 times, whether we were doing training or testing,” Schuler explained. “The speed and the pace at which we built the raft was in close approximation to what we would do in a conflict scenario.

    “The boat allows us to maneuver the bridge bays as necessary to complete the mission,” he said. 

    The young lieutenant went on to explain the experience of being involved in an operational test. 

    “We actually got to see what the testing process looks like,” he said. “We always get equipment in our unit, but we hardly ever question what kind of vetting process it goes through before it gets to our hands.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Fort Knox Engineer bridge crewmembers from Fort Knox’s 502nd Multi-Role Bridge Company perform safety boat operations with the Kentucky National Guard’s 2061st MRBC, running the Bridge Erection Boat down the Ohio River during operational testing of the BEB at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Photo by Larry L. Furnace, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    “So this is a very unique opportunity for our unit to be on the other side of that equation,” he added. “We were glad to be able to offer our feedback, especially because it will affect bridge crewmembers over the next several decades.”

    OTC is subordinate to the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is the Army's only independent operational tester. Testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • Cable Installer Sgt. Manuel Hernandez from Lubbock, Texas, pulls fiber optic cable through conduit at Operational Test Command. A Reserve Soldier from the 820th Signal Company (Tactical Installation Network) out of Seagoville, Texas, Hernandez is helping OTC save close to $97,000 installing communication cables in its headquarters on West Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Nine Signal Soldiers from a Seagoville, Texas Reserve unit are helping save big bucks in communication cable installation here.

    Platoons of the 820th Signal Company (Tactical Installation Network) are rotating in and out at the Operational Test Command during their annual training.

    Cost savings are close to $97,000.

    The cable installers are routing new copper and fiber cables while moving communication gear out of a small 8-by-12-foot room with no heating or air conditioning.

    The equipment has been known to shut down unexpectedly at times because of heat and humidity, according to Jason D. Barrett, OTC’s deputy chief of network and cyber security.

    “We’ve had to put a stand-alone air conditioner in there to keep the equipment cool,” Barrett said. “When we put the A/C in there, the next thing you know is, we have condensation with water collecting in a bucket.  So you have water in a bucket with electrical equipment, and it becomes a safety hazard.”

    Getting the Soldiers to Fort Hood for their AT was simple. Barrett, originally from Tyler, Texas, is a Reserve Signal officer who commanded the 820th between 2014 and 2015 when he was a captain.

    Now, Barrett is the executive officer for its higher headquarters, the 98th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, of the 505th Signal Brigade.

    Essentially, the 820th’s presence means their salaries, transportation and lodging is paid for. Cost savings come in because OTC doesn’t have to pay any of those costs.

    “OTC bought all the supplies — all the fiber and the copper cables, and we have all the tools,” Barrett said. “The 820th brought a lot of their tools, so all we needed was their manpower to get all this done.”

    The 820th’s Soldiers belong to one of only five such companies in the Army: two active duty units, two Reserve, one National Guard — and they all take turns replacing each other on deployments.

    Barrett said some of the 820th’s Soldiers have deployed anywhere from five to seven times. “What they’re doing here is identical to what they’d be doing when they go down range,” he said.

    According to Staff Sgt. Carlos H. Gonzalez, the 820th’s platoon sergeant from Odessa, Texas, his Soldiers are receiving the best possible training while here.

    Cable Installers Sgt. Geraldo Benavides (left) from Midland, Texas, and Spc. Amber R. Rudd from Odessa, Texas, cut fiber cable to prepare it for splicing, using an arc fusion splicing apparatus, which basically sparks and melds two fiber ends. The two are Reserve Soldiers from the 820th Signal Company (Tactical Installation Network) out of Seagoville, Texas, and are helping save the Operational Test Command close to $97,000 installing communication cables in its headquarters on West Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “It’s good training for our Soldiers to maintain proficiency in their job skills,” he said. “In our case that is terminating fiber — terminating what we call CAT5, which is the lines for your computers and telephone lines.”

    Gonzalez works in a hospital as a physical therapist. Other Soldiers are policemen; one is part owner of a food catering business, while others are college students.

    “Being Reservists, we don’t all work at this kind of work outside of the military,” he said.

    “We’re lucky enough to have with us, Sgt. Manuel Hernandez from Lubbock, Texas, who does this kind of work in the civilian sector, and he is very good at it,” Gonzalez said. “So we try to utilize all of his training and all of his knowledge to help us to learn more and to make sure our missions become successful.”

    Barrett expressed great appreciation for the 820th’s skills and work ethic.

    “If we relied on contracting this work,” he said, “it could be a four- or six-month process even to get started, because of proposals, and bids, and selecting someone to do it.

    “These Soldiers? They are so experienced and well-trained, that there is nothing they can’t do with copper and fiber cables.”

  • Sgt. 1st Class Joseph M. Mack, Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate’s NCOIC and motorcycle mentor, explains the sport bike route from West Fort Hood, Texas to Burnet, Texas, before the start of a joint Motorcycle Mentorship Program ride Thursday with the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade. Mack, with nine years of riding under his belt, led nine West Fort Hood sport bike riders down the twisty Texas Hill Country roads. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Thirty-one bikers from two units here traversed twisty Hill Country roads on their way to Burnet, Texas during a Motorcycle Mentorship Program ride Thursday.

    Twenty-two motorcyclists with the 504th Military Intelligence Battalion and nine from Operational Test Command joined forces to cover three counties for about 50 miles each way.

    Split into two groups, sport bikes took a hillier and twisty route while the cruisers took a laid back route more to their liking.

    Riders ranged in experience from one month in the iron horse saddle to more than 30 years.

    “This is my first big group ride,” said Spc. Patrick A. Lewis, a signal intelligence analyst at the 504th with only about 200 miles under his belt. “I’ve only done one other group ride, and it was only with four people.

    Spc. Patrick A. Lewis (left), a signal intelligence analyst with the 504th Military Intelligence Battalion, who has ridden a motorcycle only one month, discusses riding tips with Sgt. 1st Class Woody W. Woodward (seated), a 504th intelligence analyst, and Staff Sgt. John W. Dennison, a 504th signal intelligence NCO, during a Motorcycle Mentorship Program ride from West Fort Hood, Texas to Burnet, Texas, Thursday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “I learned a lot today,” Lewis continued, “Like hand-and-arm signals; leg signals; when and how to lean into the curve; when to roll on the throttle as your coming out of the curve, and not to worry if you fall a little behind.”

    Describing himself as a thrill seeker, Lewis looks up to and wants to be more like his older brother who’s ridden for 20 years.

    From Jasper, Texas, the 23 year-old said, “Whether you’re riding in a group or not, safety comes first.”

    504th Military Intelligence Brigade bikers, Spc. Vincent Duong (left) of A Company, 163rd Military Intelligence “Blue Watch” Battalion, and 2nd Lt. Lasan J. Han of the 163rd’s B Company, perform a walk-around inspection of Han’s sport bike before a Motorcycle Mentorship Program ride from West Fort Hood, Texas to Barnet, Texas, Thursday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    One fairly senior officer joined the ride with 14 of his battalion’s 16 Soldier motorcyclists.

    Riding for 32 years and starting on dirt bikes as a young man in southeast Texas, Lt. Col. Jason T. Liddell, commander of the 163rd Military Intelligence “Blue Watch” Battalion, has ridden on both coasts of America, and even from Texas to Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

    Liddell has also ridden in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

    “I get pure enjoyment of letting Soldiers know that safety on motorcycles is important,” he said. “It is training like any other training. It’s been planned, resourced, and coordinated — and I get to see Soldiers train on something that keeps them safe in their personal life.”

    Master Sgt. Andrew B. Long, a 504th Military Intelligence Brigade motorcycle mentor with 10 years of riding experience, checks lighting using the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s T-CLOCS inspection checklist, covering everything from tires and wheels, controls, lights and electrics, oils and other fluids, chassis components and stands. Operational Test Command bikers teamed up with the 504th’s for a Motorcycle Mentorship Program ride from West Fort Hood, Texas to Barnet, Texas, Thursday. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Liddell added that MMP rides offer him time to sense his command informally. “I can talk to my noncommissioned officers. I can talk to my junior Soldiers. I can get a sensing of who I think may be at more danger at being a rider and impart that to my subordinate leaders, and they can include that in monthly, weekly, and four-day weekend safety sessions.”

    504th’s senior motorcycle mentor, Sgt. 1st Class Rachel L. Phillips, has been an avid sport bike rider for 13 years, and has even taken stunt riding courses to improve her skills.

    She is the only female motorcycle rider in her brigade, and has been a motorcycle mentor for eight years.

    “Mentors watch more junior, less experienced riders while on the road,” Phillips said. “You never want to put one mentor with more than two individuals who need assessments. We want to help less experienced riders improve their general riding skills, so you’ll have a better rider in the long run.”

    Currently with child, Phillips took part in the ride as the “trail vehicle,” behind the sport bikes. She said the trail vehicle is necessary in case of an emergency.

    Motorcyclists of the Operational Test Command and 504th Military Intelligence Brigade walk to their bikes for the trip back to West Fort Hood, Texas from Burnet, Texas, during a Motorcycle Mentorship Program ride Thursday. Bikers from both units want to ride together more often, and to invite riders of all West Fort Hood units to their future rides. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “In my trail vehicle, I’ve got a Combat Life Saver bag in the back; I’ve got some cones and some safety triangles, and some basic tools, so if there is a mechanical issue on a motorcycle, the trail vehicle has the ability to immediately stop and get that individual out of that situation.”

    Phillips said the best thing a motorcycle rider can do is take advice from the more experienced riders.

    “Not everybody likes to listen,” she said. “I’m always one of those people who feel I learn a lot more by listening than I do by talking. So, bragging and taking chances is a way to end your life. You can have a lot of fun on a motorcycle without going through the danger of hurting yourself.”

    Statistics show all Army installations worldwide having nearly 33,500 motorcycles registered.

    The National Highway Safety Administration, says there are over 4 million registered motorcycles in America, or just two percent of all registered vehicles.

    While about five percent of all roadway fatalities involve motorcycles each year, 80 percent of those crashes result in injury or death. For automobiles, those figures lower to only 20 percent.

    Across America during 2013, NHTSA’s motorcycle fact sheet says 4,668 motorcyclists were killed – 26 times more frequently than passenger car occupant deaths.

  • July 20, 2016

    West Fort Hood, Texas — Due to hot weather, a shorter route for the inaugural joint Motorcycle Mentorship Program road trip Thursday has changed to a destination of Burnet, Texas, as a safety precaution, according to 504th Military Intelligence Brigade motorcycle mentors.

    Media representatives interested in covering the event should contact Michael Novogradac, OTC’s public affairs officer, at 254-288-9110, or email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil no later than 4 p.m. Wednesday.

    Motorcyclists and mentors will be available for interviews.

    Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood gate at Clarke Road and Highway 190 Thursday at 8 a.m., to be escorted to the event.

    ****************************************

     

    July 18, 2016 

    West Fort Hood, Texas — Motorcyclists of two units here will gather Thursday for an inaugural joint Motorcycle Mentorship Program road trip, hoping to launch a wave of monthly jaunts for West Fort Hood riders.

    Bikers of both the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade and the U.S. Army Operational Test Command will share the roadways with a barbeque joint in Llano, Texas as their destination.

    With motorcycle safety the priority, commanders of both units have approved the MMP excursion as an alternative work site for the day, with all bikers expected to attend.

    The morning will begin with a talk from OTC’s Commander Col. John C. Ulrich, followed by a guest speaker who is a local Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding instructor recommended by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

    Next, the group will get into the nitty-gritty of motorcycle safety pre-ride checks, using the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s T-CLOCS inspection checklist, covering everything from tires and wheels, controls, lights and electrics, oils and other fluids, chassis components and stands.

    Sport bike riders will take a route heading around Lake Buchanan to the south, while cruisers will enjoy a more laid-back riding style around the lake’s north side.

    Motorcycle Mentors will assess riders during travel to and from Llano.

    Media representatives interested in covering the event should contact Michael Novogradac, OTC’s public affairs officer, at 254-288-9110, or email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil no later than 4 p.m. Wednesday.

    Motorcyclists and mentors will be available for interviews.

    Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood gate at Clarke Road and Highway 190 Thursday at 8 a.m., to be escorted to the event.

  • Incoming Operational Test Command Commander Col. John C. Ulrich, (left), receives OTC’s colors and a slap on the arm from Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander of OTC’s higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, during a change of command ceremony at West Fort Hood, Texas, Tuesday. (Photo by Tad Browning, Operational Test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    Operational Test Command outgoing Commander Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper (left), passes OTC’s colors to Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander of OTC’s higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, during a change of command ceremony at West Fort Hood, Texas, Tuesday. (Photo by Tad Browning, Operational test Command Test and Documentation Team)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Operational Test Command welcomed its 27th commander during a change of command ceremony here Tuesday.

    Col. John C. Ulrich comes to OTC after his most recent stint as Chief, Army Budget Liaison, at the Pentagon’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller.

    Ulrich served previously at Fort Hood as an Intelligence Officer in 1995.

    Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, who commanded OTC since Aug. 19, 2015, heads to Fort Carson, Colorado, where he will serve as the deputy commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division.

    “Ken, your support and leadership at OTC this past year has been simply phenomenal,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, OTC’s higher headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

    “It’s hard to believe … it seems like last August was just last week,” he continued. “But in that short time span, there were 55 different operational tests OTC presided over; all carried out professionally, providing Army leadership with the information to make decisions on suitable and survivable equipment to field to our Soldiers.”

    Karbler praised Kamper on making sure Soldiers have the equipment necessary to engage the Nation’s enemies in any environment, and return home to their families.

    To generous applause, Karbler said, “With flags flying, a band playing, and cannons going off, John Ulrich is so glad to not be in a briefing or meeting in the Pentagon. He’s got the biggest smile of anyone sitting in the audience.”

    As Kamper took to the podium, he praised OTC Soldiers and Civilians by referring to a plaque dedicated to General Creighton Abrams by the Army War College class of 1974 at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, which reads:

    There must be a willingness to march a little farther, to carry a heavier load, to step out into the dark and the unknown for the safety and well-being of others.

    “While Creighton Abrams was talking about Soldiers in our Army and what Soldiers do for our country,” Kamper said, “what I see right here at Operational Test Command is a dedicated group of professionals, both military and Civilian, who march a little further.

    “They don’t shy away from carrying a heavy testing load,” he continued. “They’re willing to step out into any and every testing environment to make sure that our Soldiers get the best possible equipment. They conduct 50 to 70 tests per year, and they do it because it matters greatly to our Army and our Nation.”

    Bringing the ceremony to a close, Ulrich stepped to the podium thanking his wife and family for their loving support, and all his extended family members who journeyed from Montana and Vermont to attend.

    Ulrich said he was truly excited to be back at Fort Hood after leaving 21 years ago.

    “Since that time, the ‘Great Place’ and the surrounding communities have grown, and I am confident that the incredible support you all provide to Soldiers and their Families has grown even more,” he said.

    “I am honored and humble to join this great team of Soldiers and Army Civilians, and look forward to working beside each of you to ensure our Soldiers have safe, reliable and operationally relevant equipment that supports their mission,” Ulrich added.

     

  • Col. John C. Ulrich, U.S. Army Operational Test Command incoming commander. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, outgoing U.S. Army Operational Test Command commander. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — The U.S. Army Operational Test Command will hold a change of command ceremony at its headquarters here Tuesday at 9 a.m.

    Col. John C. Ulrich will become OTC’s 27th commander, replacing Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, who has commanded the unit since Aug. 19, 2015.

    Kamper will move on to become deputy commanding general of the storied 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.

    Maj. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commander of OTC’s higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, will preside over the ceremony.

    Ulrich most recently served as Chief, Army Budget Liaison, at the Pentagon’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller.

    He began his career in the Air Defense Artillery during 1989.

    No stranger to Fort Hood, he served as a Targeting Intelligence Officer and commanded the III Corps Military Intelligence Support Company after transferring to Military Intelligence during 1995.

    Early in his career, Ulrich deployed twice to Saudi Arabia — once with a PATRIOT Air Defense Battalion, and again as an operations and plans officer.

    During 2013 Ulrich deployed to Afghanistan for one year, serving as Chief of Staff at the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

    As the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

    Media representatives interested in covering the event should contact OTC’s public affairs officer, at 254-288-9110, or email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil no later than 4 p.m. Monday. Both Kamper and Ulrich will be available following the ceremony for media interviews.

    Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood gate at Clarke Road and Highway 190 Tuesday at 8:15 a.m., to be escorted to the event.

  • Click photo for high-resolution image OTC Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff Col. Ronald W. McNamara presents Dennis McCain, acting director of our Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate (MS2TD) with the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command's "Accident Prevention Award of Accomplishment" in recognition of being accident-free for one year of operational testing November 3, 2014 through November 3, 2015, with no Class A, B, or C accidents due to human error. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Click photo for high-resolution image Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler (left), commander of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, presents the ATEC "Organizational Safety Certification — Outstanding Safety Program" award to Mr. Robert M. Miele, OTC executive director, and OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt. OTC led all of ATEC with its Motorcycle Mentorship Program, first-rate results from safety audits, and great safety risk countermeasures put into play during Network Integration Exercise operations. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Two safety awards were presented to Operational Test Command here recently by its higher headquarters, showcasing the testing unit’s continuous improvements in accident prevention during 2015.

    The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, endowed OTC with its overall “Organizational Safety Certification - Outstanding Safety Program."

    OTC’s Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate also received ATEC’s "Accident Prevention Award of Accomplishment."

    Receiving the awards was a long time coming — beginning with the submission of the recommendation during December 2015, articulating over 50 accident-free test events, the unit’s overall safety program, a detailed safety brief policy, and the inclusion of Composite Risk Management into every aspect of the unit’s operations.

    OTC led all of ATEC with its Motorcycle Mentorship Program, first-rate results from safety audits, and great safety risk countermeasures put into play during large test events, like the Network Integration Exercise.

    Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander of ATEC, said, “Their uncompromising actions to protect Soldiers and Civilians are exemplary and are well-deserving of this award.”

    “We’ve got Soldiers, and a lot of moving pieces all over our test centers,” said Col. Ronald W. McNamara, OTC’s deputy commander and chief of staff. “So we place an awful lot of emphasis on safety while we’re out there.”

    McNamara said he is proud of OTC’s ability to focus on testing events, with everyone on the team emphasizing safety and putting redundant control and mitigation measures in place.

    But he said he is most proud of Soldier and Civilian conduct while off duty.

    “Safety briefs are not just a ‘check-the-block’ thing,’” said McNamara. “You have to continue making great decisions off duty, because that’s where the real money is — individual decisions when no one is looking.

    “The deliberate stuff we do out on tests, that’s very in-your-face and obvious,” he said. “But it’s the individual decisions that every individual makes each weekend that results in a fantastic safety record.”

    MS2TD went 365 days with zero safety incidents — accident-free for one year of operational testing from November 3, 2014 through November 3, 2015 with no Class A, B, or C accidents due to human error.

    OTC is the Army's only independent operational tester, testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments. OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable, and is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • Staff Sgt. Kevin W. Nyman, traffic NCOIC of the 89th Military Police Brigade’s 178th Law and Order Detachment, helps guide Operational Test Command Budget Analyst Vanessa Y. Millett, as she navigates a field sobriety test while wearing “drunk goggles” during OTC Resource Management Office seasonal safety training. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, a few Army civilians learned their flair for walking the straight and narrow quickly declines after a few alcoholic drinks.

    While wearing “drunk goggles,” taking to the hallway to finesse their way through a field sobriety test was no easy feat for Operational Test Command’s resource management office.

    Drinking and driving is the most socially-acceptable crime, according to Staff Sgt. Kevin W. Nyman, traffic NCOIC of the 89th Military Police Brigade’s 178th Law and Order Detachment.

    “People are going to do what they want to do,” Nyman said. “You can always put training together. You can always train and re-train — They’re going to be, ‘Ahhh … it was just one beer.’ Or, ‘I only had four beers.’ And they’ll always say to themselves, ‘I’m fine to drive. I don’t feel intoxicated.’

    The reason people behave this way, said Nyman, is because the alcohol level hasn’t fully reached its maximum potential of intoxication in the body.

    “You’re still on the climb,” he said. “The only thing that is going to reduce your chances of getting a DWI is to wait it out.”

    What Nyman suggests is to wait one hour for every alcoholic drink a person consumes before even thinking about driving.

    He also added there is always the tried-and-true, failsafe designated driver, and even abstinence.

    “The Army is very repetitive with its message,” Nyman said. “At end-of-week formations … you know … don’t drink and drive.”

    At any rate, the day’s seasonal safety training at OTC contained only Army Civilians, which was a little unusual. “Soldiers are always going to come and go,” Nyman said. “Civilians stay and are the continuity on the installation. So, they need this training as well.”

    One Civilian said the training truly reinforced what she already knew after having previously served as a Soldier. “I always have a plan whenever I go out,” said Joann Courtland, supervisory financial management analyst in OTC’s Resource Management Office. “Between my husband and I, we will take turns being the designated driver, or we make a plan to be dropped off.

    “It’s non-negotiable — I have too much to lose,” she added. “There’s so many avenues out there for you to get home that you do not need to get behind the wheel.”

    A retired 58-D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot, Courtland said the “drunk goggles” were spatially-disorienting.

    “There would be no way I would get behind the wheel,” she said. “Looking at the inside of your car, which you look at every day … and it seems so distorted. Why would you consider trying to drive home?”

    During 2014, 9,976 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, or 30.5 percent of all traffic deaths, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association.

    A first DWI offense can cost up to a $2,000; three to 180 days in jail, loss of driver license up to one year, and an annual fee to retain driving privileges costing thousands of dollars for three years.

    All fines, jail time and other associated costs go up for subsequent DWI offenses, not to mention, the biggest cost of all would be an alcoholic-related traffic injury or death.

    All people driving on Fort Hood are subject to Texas Penal Coad 49.04 which uses a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or more. Article 112 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice covers being drunk on duty and being either drunk or impaired. Both Soldiers and Civilians are encouraged to become familiar with Fort Hood Regulation 210-65.

    It is always a good idea to keep a cab company’s phone number handy, while one service in and around Fort Hood is “No DUI of Killeen,” which is free and confidential; runs Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. by calling (844) 636-5463.

  • During Network Integration Evaluation Exercise 16.2, Fred Jones (right), Operational Test Command's data management lead and field operations controller at McGregor Range, New Mexico, shows test data collection sheets to OTC Commander Brig. Gen Kenneth L. Kamper during Network Integration Exercise 16.2 as OTC Operations Research Systems Analyst Mitch Hickman listens in. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas — A 13-day exercise checking the Army’s battlefield network capabilities of hardware and mission command applications wrapped up here Saturday, and test data is still being collected to evaluate those systems.

    Network Integration Evaluation Exercise 16.2 — the 11th iteration since 2011 — evaluated seven systems, to include the latest version of the Command Post Computing Environment (CPCE) version 2, which aims to provide a mission command application experience while also simplifying software and hardware command post infrastructure.

    “NIE is the Army’s largest operational exercise that tests and evaluates battlefield communication systems and capabilities, and is our most critical modernization effort,” said Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, commander of U.S. Army Operational Test Command, the Army’s only independent operational test organization.

    The NIE experience places Soldiers in a desert landscape, 40 miles by 183 miles, wrapping together enormous training areas of Fort Bliss Texas; McGregor Range and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico's Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andreas mountain ranges.

    NIE 16.2 also allows the Army to test two core capabilities: a Command Initiated Munition Weapon System (Spider), and Network Operations with a Network Centric Waveform as an advancement to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). The exercise also provides the environment for the operational assessment of the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR).

    Kamper said NIE essentially provides capabilities that translate information superiority into combat power by interconnecting Soldiers and systems — no matter where they are on the battlefield — to achieve improved situational awareness, access to knowledge sources and shortened decision cycles on the battlefield.

    “NIE tests systems that enable commanders with the information they need to exercise mission command,” Kamper said.

    “Our Army continually modernizes equipment because of what Soldiers learn during combat,” Kamper continued. “Our enemies are also advancing their technologies and procedures, so through Soldier feedback and lessons learned, we improve our capabilities.”

    Along with equipment improvement, Kamper also said improvements are also made in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership education systems, personnel support systems, and even in Army facilities used to supply and maintain its equipment.

    “This modernization effort throughout our Army is critical to Soldiers taking the fight to our enemies, and returning safely back home,” Kamper said. “Test data is collected from Soldiers and their feedback is provided to improve upon existing and future systems they will ultimately use to train and fight with.”

    All of the equipment tested during NIE is part of a coordinated and controlled realistic operational environment scenario by over 2,000 Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division here.

    NIE is a collaborative effort between the Brigade Modernization Command -- a subordinate unit of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Army Capabilities Integration Center, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and the System of Systems, Engineering and Integration Directorate, under the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

  • Click photo for high-resolution image U.S. Army Operational Test Command Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers stand exhausted but happy after giving back to the community during their “Make a Difference Day” Apr. 9. OTC’s Volunteers painted the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Click photo for high-resolution image Lt. Col. Christopher Courtland, an operational test officer with Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Test Directorate, and co-chairman for Special Olympics Texas – Area 12, stands with his daughter Kyleigh, 18, a Special Olympics Olympian who enjoys cycling and bowling, outside the SOTX’s “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas. A senior at Copperas Cove High School, Copperas Cove, Texas, Kyleigh helped her Dad and his 20 fellow Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers paint the building during OTC’s “Make a Difference Day” Apr. 9. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    KILLEEN, Texas — Mixing 21 Soldiers and Army Civilians with 15 gallons of paint over about five hours in 55 degree drizzly weather became a recipe for making a difference in the community here Saturday.

    That’s how volunteers from the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at West Fort Hood, Texas saw things when they painted the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Capt. Marion E. Williams, an operations officer in Operational Test Command’s Operations Directorate, paints double-fisted Apr. 9 at the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas. Twenty-one Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers created OTC’s “Make a Difference Day” to give back to the Killeen, Texas community. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    “The reason I’m here is, it’s a good opportunity to volunteer my time and effort toward an organization that could use some help,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Courtland, an operational test officer with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate, and co-chairman for SOTX’s Area 12.

    “So, we’re just kind of hanging out, painting the building; getting the things done that need to get done that we can  ... volunteering our time.”

    Courtland said his daughter Kyleigh, 18, is a Special Olympics Olympian who enjoys cycling and bowling, so she has participated with SOTX for three years, allowing her to “better herself with better opportunities in the sports world.” Kyleigh is a senior at Copperas Cove High School, Copperas Cove, Texas.

    Other parents, like Army Civilian Cheryl Seymour, a budget analyst with OTC’s Resource Management Office, brought her two kids as well.

    “I brought my kids to show them that any time you have a chance, you help out others that need help,” Seymour said. “I come from a family with eight kids and we didn’t have anything. We were poor. And, so, those people who were willing to step up and help us when we needed help, I was very grateful for, and I just pay it forward.”

    Click photo for high-resolution image Lt. Col. Michael C. Firmin, senior test officer with Operational Test Command’s Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate, reaches for more paint in the bucket held by Nathanial Eschmann, a Salado High School (Salado, Texas) student and son of Army Civilian Cheryl Seymour, a budget analyst with OTC’s Resource Management Office. A handful of children joined 21 Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers during OTC’s “Make a Difference Day” Apr. 9 to give back to the community by painting the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Russell P. Ansbach, a certified Special Olympics coach and volunteer Treasurer of SOTX – Area 12, has worked with the organization for 30 years, and has 58 area athletes he regularly trains. “This building has been needing a paint job for a long time,” he said. “Colonel Courtland, he took care of getting all the supplies ... I take care of getting the food for you guys for lunch today.”

    An 86-year-old Army Veteran, Ansbach became a Soldier during July 1947, and retired during 1967 as a Logistics Sergeant First Class.

    A housing construction worker, he was asked during 1985 to give a hand putting wood siding on the building OTC Volunteers painted.

    “Back then, I put new windows on the building. So, it makes me feel great because I don’t have to worry about it (re-painting) anymore,” he said, thinking of the OTC Volunteers. “It’s done. And once it gets done, it’s done. It used to be hard to get volunteers. Now, we don’t have to worry.”

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Eighty-six-year-old Russell P. Ansbach, a certified Special Olympics coach and volunteer Treasurer of Special Olympics Texas – Area 12, has worked with the organization for 30 years, and has 58 area athletes he regularly trains. He provided lunch to 21 Operational Test Command Soldiers and Army Civilians in exchange for their volunteer efforts in painting the SOTX’s “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas Apr. 9. An Army Veteran, Ansbach became a Soldier during July 1947, and retired during 1967 as a Logistics Sergeant First Class. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Volunteer mindsets were the same among all OTC volunteers.

    One OTC Soldier, Master Sgt. Moussa Doukoure, is originally from Ivory Coast, a small West African nation. The NCOIC of OTC’s Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate said, “Being a Soldier, we need to be involved in our community. This country (America) has been good to me. It has provided me lots and lots of stuff, and I feel I have that obligation to give some of it back to the community.”

    OTC is subordinate to the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is the Army's only independent operational tester. Testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

    Note from the Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) website: Special Olympics Texas is a privately funded non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect. SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 51,300 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. http://www.sotx.org

    Cliclk photo for high-resolution image Eighty-six-year-old Russell P. Ansbach, a certified Special Olympics coach and volunteer Treasurer of Special Olympics Texas – Area 12, has worked with the organization for 30 years, and has 58 area athletes he regularly trains. He provided lunch to 21 Operational Test Command Soldiers and Army Civilians in exchange for their volunteer efforts in painting the SOTX’s “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas Apr. 9. An Army Veteran, Ansbach became a Soldier during July 1947, and retired during 1967 as a Logistics Sergeant First Class. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Click photo for high-resolution image Bill Dano, a Civilian student intern with Operational Test Command’s Test Technology Directorate, rolls paint onto the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas. Twenty-one Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers created OTC’s “Make a Difference Day” Apr. 9 to give back to the Killeen, Texas community. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    Click photo for high-resolution image The “before view” of the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas, needing a new coat of paint. Twenty-one Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command created a “Make a Difference Day” Apr. 9 to give back to the Killeen community. (OTC file photo)

     

    Click photo for high-resolution image Mission complete, the Special Olympics Texas, Heart of Texas – Area 12 “Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms” headquarters building along Conder Street in Killeen, Texas, stands with a new coat of paint, courtesy of 21 Soldier and Army Civilian Volunteers of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command. OTC created its “Make a Difference Day” Apr. 9 to give back to the Killeen, Texas community. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
  • Capt. Li Xu (left), commander of HHC, U.S. Army Operational Test Command, discusses a shared everyday experience with Lt. Col. Christopher Courtland, an operational test officer with OTC’s maneuver test directorate, during an evolution of Master Resiliency Training called “Put It In Perspective,” which focuses Soldier attention on the deciding factors needed to prevent matters from automatically going into the worst-case scenario. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Upon finishing early morning physical fitness training, a young company commander gets a message from a colonel that reads, “Come see me when you get to work.”

    Uh-oh.

    Immediately following, the captain gets a call from his first sergeant, telling him, “The colonel came down looking for you. He wants to see you.”

    “I’m like, ‘WOW!’ This is something urgent!’” exclaimed Capt. Li Xu, commander of HHC, U.S. Army Operational Test Command.

    “So, the whole way home, I’m just thinking about, ‘What did I do? Did something happen? Is it something I did?’ I start thinking about every email I sent out before, and every initiative I put out before … I’m just trying to think, ‘What happened?’”

    With his morning routine of showering, having breakfast, and getting back to work before 9 a.m. perfectly interrupted, Xu constantly wonders what could be the matter.

    “I didn’t even have time to talk with my wife; I just wanted to get ready,” he said. “I didn’t want to eat breakfast; I just wanted to turn around and get right back to work before 9, and go to his office to see what he needed.

    “And, of course, during that whole drive, I’m just distracted — just constantly thinking about the worst-case scenario. And when I showed up, all he needed was for me to sign his weapon registration form.”

    After all is told, Xu giggles a moment because when he met with the colonel to sign his weapon registration form to hunt on post, the two ended up chatting a bit about the weekend’s hunting and fishing.

    Light stuff. Nothing to be worried about.

    But, worry, the young officer did. He skipped breakfast and said, “My wife was freaking out because I was freaking out.”

    Enter OTC’s most recent iteration of Master Resiliency Training, “Put It In Perspective,” which focuses Soldier attention on the deciding factors needed to prevent matters from automatically going into the worst-case scenario.

    According to Master Sgt. Ray H. Barros, OTC's Master Resiliency Trainer, PIIP teaches the skills so Soldiers can stop from going too far down into the most negative thoughts, and instead, look for the positive outcome of everyday events.

    “PIIP is one skill set of 14,” Barros said. “We’ve done seven so far, and each month we continue to highlight a specific skill set. PIIP shows that when an activating event happens in a situation, a lot of us have the tendency to go to into the worst-case scenario.

    “You want to get all those worst-case scenarios out of the way,” he continued. “So, you get all of that negative bias out. Once you’ve established that, now you want to think of the positivity, or the possible best outcome.”

    Barros explained that the Army wants to help Soldiers with their stressful situations. “Soldiers can become more able to be resilient and bounce back from adversity, and focus on what needs to happen so they can flourish and pretty much be fit to fight,” he said.

    “PIIP is good training for a leader, because it is the perfect opportunity to find out what Soldiers are going through,” Xu said. “Especially when they are speaking openly and freely about the things that are bothering them. You get a chance to listen to Soldiers.”

    One of the skills PIIP teaches is, “Hunt for the good stuff, and don’t always go for the negative,” Xu added.

    Part of putting things into perspective is establishing a connection between Soldiers through PIIP training, according to Barros.

    “This environment brings people together,” he said. “You find out you have some type of similarity or some conversation you can relate to. When you open up that conversation, we’re more of a team and a bond has been established because of the MRT.”

  • Two U.S. Army Operational Test Command motorcyclists keep the shiny side up as they run down a Texas highway. (Photo by Tad Browning, Operational Test Command Visual Information)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — About 17 military and civilian bikers met with their commanding general March 2 for his Motorcycle Mentorship Program lunch at the West Fort Hood dining facility.

    “I want to let all of you know that I care,” said Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, commander of U.S. Army Operational Test Command. “Most commands have figured out that motorcycle mentorship really works.”

    Kamper said part of keeping motorcyclists alive is to help make them aware they are all motorcycle mentors, and their direct involvement in effective training is the edge they need. “We’re just trying to do the thousand little things routinely, and our motorcycle safety requirements are something that should also be routine,” he said.

    Stressing that leaders have to come up with new ways to improve motorcycle safety, OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt told the group, “I don’t ride, but I do feel strongly about the motorcycle mentorship program.

    “Just because I don’t ride, don’t think that I’m not interested. The safety of all our green-suitors and civilians is paramount to what we do at OTC, and if you need help or emphasis from me, my door is always open to all riders.”

    Most riders at the lunch were seasoned, with 10 or more years’ experience on various bikes, such as Super Sport, Touring, and Cruiser styles. One has ridden 35 years, starting out on dirt bikes as a teen. A few own several bikes, with dreams of owning even more.

    Kamper asked if any of his riders have experienced bike accidents, so a few owned up to their encounters. Instances such as being rear-ended at stoplights, going a little too fast in a curve, and inattentive automobile drivers switching lanes on them were common threads.

    One rider at the lunch, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Diaz, OTC’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention manager, rides 20 to 25,000 miles each year, and has ridden in Okinawa, Japan, Hawaii, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Spain, Germany, Italy, Alaska, and all over both American east and west coasts.

    “Practice, practice, and more practice makes perfection,” said Diaz. “I’ve met motorcyclists who love to imitate other people. Like, if I have a friend who rides a motorcycle that is faster than mine, I might want to ride like he does, but I have to ride within my own abilities. So, riders need to avoid peer pressure.”

    As a motorcycle mentor for several years, Diaz said all riders must be able to anticipate what could happen ahead. “You have to expect the unexpected, and always drive in the defensive mode,” he said. “It is easy to catch yourself sightseeing and daydreaming, so you have to pay attention to everything going on around you, because it can be that one split second that makes a difference.”

    Statistics show all Army installations worldwide having nearly 33,500 motorcycles registered.

    The National Highway Safety Administration, says there are over 4 million registered motorcycles in America, or just two percent of all registered vehicles.

    While about five percent of all roadway fatalities involve motorcycles each year, 80 percent of those crashes result in injury or death. For automobiles, those figures lower to only 20 percent.

    Across America during 2013, NHTSA’s motorcycle fact sheet says 4,668 motorcyclists were killed – 26 times more frequently than passenger car occupant deaths.

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth M. Graham (far left), outgoing senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, salutes alongside OTC Commanding General Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper (center), and incoming OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt (right), during OTC's senior enlisted advisor change of responsibility ceremony Friday. (Photo by Tad Browning, OTC Visual Information)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

    West Fort Hood, Texas — A new senior enlisted advisor took over as standard bearer at the U.S. Army Operational Test Command during a ceremony here Friday.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt takes his first opportunity to serve at “The Great Place,” arriving from Fort Riley, Kansas, where he was the garrison command sergeant major.

    Schmidt takes the place of Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth M. Graham, who will move on to become the senior enlisted advisor at the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

    “The Operational Test Command is the only one of its kind, with an important mission,“ Graham said. “Our motto is ‘Truth in Testing!’ because that is what we do — conduct independent operational testing to inform acquisition and fielding decisions for the Army, so that the United States Army Soldier, who is our ultimate customer, is provided with the best equipment available to enhance their effectiveness on the modern battlefield.”

    With OTC since April 24, 2014, Graham hasn’t been a stranger to Fort Hood, serving 4 years, 8 months at previous assignments as CBRN Sergeant Major at the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary); Command Sergeant Major of the 48th Chemical Brigade; and Commandant of the III Corps and Fort Hood Noncommissioned Officers Academy.

    “We’re going to miss the Texas barbeques, the Expo Center rodeos, and especially the down-home Texas hospitality,” said Graham.

    Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, commanding general of OTC, deferred honors to the Noncommissioned Officer Corps before officiating the ceremonial “passing of the colors,” between Graham and Schmidt.  “It’s only fitting that we pause this morning to just recognize the significance of a change of responsibility between two command sergeants major,” he said.

    “It’s through these ceremonies that we cherish our past,” continued Kamper. “We reflect on what it means to be a profession, called on by our nation to service.

    “I can think of no greater compliment than to say that Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Graham embodies in spirit, in action, in thought and deed … every sentence, every word, of the Noncommissioned Officer Creed. We’re a better organization for having served with you.”

    Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt, addresses the audience after assuming responsibilities as Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command during OTC's senior enlisted advisor change of responsibility ceremony Friday. (Photo by Tad Browning, OTC Visual Information)

     

    About Schmidt, Kamper said, “The good news? It’s that Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt joins our ranks. He too, is a professional with years of experience, and he is the right person at the right time to continue the tradition of excellence in our Noncommissioned Officer Corps right here in the Operational Test Command.”

    Schmidt stepped to the podium with thanks for everyone attending the ceremony. “My family and I are excited to be joining such a great organization as the Operational Test Command,” he said. “It’s my honor to be joining such a storied organization with a vital mission for our Army.

    “I’m truly privileged to be working with this team of outstanding Soldiers, coupled with its world class professional Civilian workforce, “he continued. “I spent the last two weeks meeting with staff and directorates, and it’s impressive to see what this command touches on a daily basis.”

    OTC is subordinate to the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is the Army's only independent operational tester. Testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

  • WEST FORT HOOD, Texas – The U.S. Army Operational Test Command will hold its command sergeant major change of responsibility ceremony here Friday at 1 p.m.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt will arrive after serving as the Fort Riley, Kansas garrison command sergeant major, and will take over duties as standard bearer of OTC from Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth M. Graham.

    Schmidt’s most recent assignment encompassed senior enlisted duties concerning five brigades, four separate battalions and over 23 tenant units at Fort Riley.

    Graham has been with OTC since April 24, 2014 and will move on to become the senior enlisted advisor at the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, which integrates, coordinates, deploys, and provides trained and ready CBRNE forces.

    Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, OTC commanding general, will preside over the ceremony.

    OTC is subordinate to the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is the Army's only independent operational tester. Testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

    Media representatives interested in covering the event should contact Michael Novogradac, OTC’s public affairs officer, at 254-288-9110, or email, michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil no later than 2 p.m. Thursday.

    Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood gate at Clarke Road and Highway 190 Friday at 12:15 p.m., to be escorted to the event.

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