DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- When the last of five Optics branch employees retires in 2018, combined they will have contributed 204 years of military and civilian service to America.
Each began with military service, then joined Civil Service. Most of their camera work, often in appalling heat or cold, has recorded tests of equipment or methods that defend against chemical or biological agents.
Dean Shultz, lead scientific and technical photographer, will retire in August 2017 with 39 years of service. He came to Dugway as a Soldier in 1981 and was honorably discharged in 1982.
"I stayed here because I liked the area and had an immediate job," he said. Shultz joined the Navy Reserve in 1985, served in Kuwait in 2006 and retired from the Navy in 2008.
His wife, Jeanie, retired from Dugway last August. After his 2018 retirement, he will most miss "the gang" at Optics, he said. "I've seen many changes, from wet processing to digital. Photography and film are much easier today, with greater capability."
Charles Hobson, scientific and technical photographer, first came to Dugway as an Army still photographer in 1978 and honorably discharged in 1980. He will retire in 2018 with 40 years of service.
He's worked as an Air Force photographer at Dugway and as a Navy photographer in Maryland. Hobson returned to Dugway in 1992 as a photographer, then was the test center's Contracting Officer's Representative for 10 years. In 2008, he returned to Optics.
He and his wife, Cheryl, raised their two sons on Dugway until moving to Tooele 10 years ago.
A remote control airplane hobbyist, his dream is to see Optics equipped with drone aerial photography capability before he retires.
"I never expected to be the old guy," Hobson said. "When I was hired some 39 years ago, I was the baby. And now, there aren't many people in front of me anymore."
Mario Sandoval, production specialist, retired from the Army in 1987 with 20 years as a photographer. He plans to retire in 2018, with 48 years of service. Sandoval feels he's lived a fascinating life, with numerous opportunities. "Never a dull moment," he said. "If I had to do it again, I wouldn't change one bit of it."
He was a Soldier at Dugway from 1971 to 1973, then sent to Panama where he met his Panamanian wife, Carlota. They married Dec. 3, 1976. Sandoval returned to Optics as a civilian in 1990. He and Carlota raised two girls and a boy on Dugway, then moved to Riverton. One daughter works on post, the others elsewhere in Utah.
"I've enjoyed Dugway and the work," he said. "The location is quiet and peaceful. It's been very meaningful for me, to be positive and enjoy the people I've met," he said.
Jim Robertson, scientific and technical photographer, will move from Dugway the week before Thanksgiving and retire to Georgia after 32 years of service.
Robertson was drafted into the Army in 1966. In 1968, as an Army photographer, he recorded sheep being buried after a mass die-off near Dugway. Honorably discharged in 1968, he became a government photographer in Tennessee. In 1986 he returned to Dugway, then moved to Arizona in 1994. Robertson returned to Dugway in 2001.
His passion is photographing butterflies, hummingbirds and mustangs. "I'll miss the wildlife and the scenery, and the years spent photographing mustangs," he said. "I'll also miss many of the people I have worked with."
Jim Yale, lead data research analyst, retired in September with 45 years of service. He joined the Army in 1971 and made 167 parachute jumps as a Ranger, serving with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Yale did two tours in Vietnam, and was wounded once there and again in Grenada in 1983. When he retired from the Army in 1984 he began working as a Dugway photographer.
Yale said he'll most miss the people and the challenges testing brings. He anticipates relaxing at his Tooele home with his wife, Julie, who retired from Dugway in 2015 with 35 years of service.
"There's some great people that work out there. I wish them the best," Yale said.