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Operational Test Command Test New Army Equipment
By Staff Sgt. Brent A. Hunt / U.S. Army Garrison

FORT HOOD, Texas, Jan. 28, 2005 – Before U.S. soldiers around the world take a new piece of gear to the field, either wearing it, driving it or firing it, the Operational Test Command at Fort Hood tests it to make sure it meets Army standards and it can be used in the field functionally by the everyday soldier.

“We test everything from clothes to chemical, biological [equipment] to masks,” said Lt. Col. Greg Netardus, test management division chief. “Almost everything that comes into the Army is tested by the command.”

The Operational Test Command’s task is to conduct realistic operational testing in the areas of equipment, doctrine, force design and training. Operational tests conducted are required by public law and provide significant data to Army decision makers on key systems and concepts around the world.

Located on West Fort Hood are the Test and Evaluation Support Activity and five of the Operational Test Command’s test directorates: the Aviation Test Directorate, the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Test Directorate, the Close Combat Test Directorate, the Engineer and Combat Support Test Directorate and the Future Force Test Directorate.

“The Operational Test Command was established 34 years ago at Fort Hood, and I am proud to have been a part of it for the whole ride,” Arthur Woods, the longest employed tester at the command and current director of resource management, said. “The mission has remained the same, to make sure that equipment issued to soldiers has been tested under operational conditions by functional experts."

“It is a team of NCOs, warrant officers, officers and civilians backed up by support contractors,” Woods added. “We use NCOs as test officers, because they bring experience with them. NCOs have been the back bone of testing, because they put their hands on the equipment daily.”

Recently, the command conducted a study on a piece of equipment in every conceivable situation around all parts of the world.

“We just finished extensive tests on a joint services mask,” Phillip Riley, military test plans analyst, said. “We had all the services test them in every type of environment around the world while they were doing their job. Afterwards, we collected data and made our recommendations on how to improve it.”

Not only does the Operational Test Command test masks and clothes, they are the main testers for the Stryker Brigades and the Apache Longbow helicopters.

“When we did the Stryker test, we brought outside units in and they tried it out in a field environment,” Riley said. “We tested it (Stryker Brigade) for three months at Fort Knox, because that was the best place to do it with units that actually use that specific equipment.”

With a $100 million annual budget, the biggest test the command is conducting currently is the Army Battle Command System.


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