DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Maj. Gen. John W. Charlton, commander of the Army Test & Evaluation Command, toured Dugway Proving Ground, Utah Apr. 26 to become familiar the test center's facilities and outdoor test grids. Accompanying, the general was ATEC's Command Sgt. Major Andrew B. Connette.

When Charlton took command of ATEC in December of last year, he spoke candidly of meeting the needs of the Soldier in an operational environment. During his to visit Dugway, he echoed those words of commitment and dedication to the Soldier.

He said, "We can't be using 50-year old instrumentation. We have to have the newest equipment and develop the newest capabilities that are cutting-edge and next generation capabilities. It's about protecting our Soldiers."

Charlton appeared genuinely pleased with the "sophistication" of two of Dugway's largest structures: the Active Standoff Chamber and the Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel.

The ASC's exterior is 440 feet long, and houses a cavernous stainless steel, temperature-controlled chamber 104 feet long and 13 feet wide. Inside the chamber are "air curtains," basically a wall of forced air that keeps a simulant cloud from escaping but does not interfere with the detecting beams.

"At both ends are aperture like doors that can be opened or shut depending on the requirements of a test," said Gary Millar, branch chief of the Test Support Division.

Millar noted that because of its distinctive design, testers can be confident that their detectors can be validated for use in a real world threat environment.

The Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel is located adjacent the ASC and tests standoff detectors. Standoff techniques enable the detection of chemical threats without contact, which eliminates contamination for operators and their equipment.

Its custom 550-foot long, 46 foot wide structure has 49 foot high side walls, with a ceiling that can be lowered and raised to accommodate a specific test. It can track movement of a target cloud at 20 feet per second using a laser's light beam, which scatters the light when it hits a chemical or biological simulant.

Inside the JABT was a display of the new Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System. This portable grid test uses simulant disseminators mounted on trailers that can be wheeled to the sparse and arid areas of the test center's outdoor ranges and grids. The idea is to provide a realistic variety of terrains like craggy mountain slopes and tapering canyons that might mirror future battlefields.

With real-time data from samplers and detectors, the safari system would provide statistics and assessment updates to an encrypted storage site, where testers would download the information for comparison studies.

Charlton said he saw "real advantages to a portable test system," noting it would mean a faster way to collect and analyze data at various locations and provide faster data to decision makers in the event of a chemical or biological incident or attack.

After viewing the two chambers, the general and his party boarded a National Guard Blackhawk for an overview tour of Dugway's nearly 800,000-acres of test sites and grids before making stops at the Hazardous Material Test Facility and Branch Tunnel.

"I think if you read the paper or watch TV, you have concerns about [chemical and biological threats] round the world," Charlton said. "So I think there will be a continued emphasis in this area. And this test center will play a role in maintaining our security."

Charlton said he appreciated all the "amazing" facilities at Dugway and would share what he saw with Army leaders and the Department of Defense.

"I want you to know, I appreciate your strong commitment and sense of service to protect our Soldiers," Charlton stated. "It can't be overstated and it's great to see."

U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command is responsible for developmental testing, independent operational testing, independent evaluations and assessments of U.S. Army equipment. ATEC's headquarters is located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.