DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- John Edwards has toured Dugway's labs and facilities many times over the years, and he's always impressed by their capabilities, mission and work force.

Utah's Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) for 14 years, Edwards visits Army installations and facilities throughout Utah, learns their issues and capabilities, and keeps local, state and national leaders informed.

"I think it's amazing," Edwards said of Dugway. "I've been out here a lot of times and it never ceases to amaze me."

On the April 11 tour, Edwards brought four University of Utah representatives from its Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute: Jennifer Robinson, associate director; Juliette Tennert, director of economics and public policy; John Downen, senior research analyst and Levi Pace, research analyst.

Robinson said the university is studying the economic impact of the military on Utah, so they were very interested to see Dugway personally.

The tour began with a briefing by Col. Sean Kirschner, commander of Dugway Proving Ground. Command Sgt. Maj. Montonya Boozier; Ken Gritton, technical director; Ryan Harris, director of West Desert Test Center, Aaron Goodman, acting deputy garrison manager, and others welcomed them.

The visitors toured the Combined Chemical Test Facility, where defenses such as detectors, filtration masks and protective clothing are jointly tested for all services.

Over lunch the visitors met with the directors of Dugway's eight test divisions: Chemical Test, Life Sciences, Special Programs, Meteorology, Operations, Test Support, Data Management and Resource Management.

After lunch, the five visitors toured Dugway's two largest structures: Active Standoff Chamber (ASC) and Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel (JABT). They learned how benign biological and chemical simulants (never actual agent) are used to test point and standoff detectors

Point detectors are within the area of contamination, exposed to the agent they detect. Standoff detectors use laser or other technology to detect from afar, without exposure.

Point detectors are tested in the 550-foot long, 42-foot wide JABT. The detector is placed at one end, and a breeze is replicated to carry the simulant to the detector.

Used for standoff detectors, the ASC's exterior is 440-feet-long, and houses a chamber 104 feet long and 13 feet wide. While front and rear doors are open, simulated biological agent is disseminated in the chamber. Air curtains, a wall of forced air, keeps simulant from escaping but doesn't interfere with the detecting beams like a wall of glass or plastic might.

At the Life Sciences Test Facility, the visitors learned how defenses against biological agents up to Biosafety Level 3 (those for which there is a cure or vaccine) are tested. Defenses include respirators, air and water filtration, detectors and decontaminants.

The visitors were impressed with Dugway's Michael Army Airfield (MAAF), and its 11,000-foot runway and 9,000-foot taxiway. The Air Force's massive Utah Test & Training Range (UTTR) abuts Dugway. Combined, Dugway and the UTTR offer 7,954 square miles of airspace restricted up to 58,000 feet, 16,797 square miles of total airspace.

The 2008 refurbishment of the airfield, and the massive flight area, enticed the Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems office at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., to create its Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC) at MAAF. The center does streamlined testing of proposed improvements to unmanned aircraft and their systems, to speed distribution to Soldiers.

The visitors left Dugway with an appreciation for its expertise and mission.

"It's incredibly impressive," Robinson said. "I think it just gave us a better understanding of the complexity and depth of work that goes on out here. I'm also extremely impressed with the talent of the people that work here."