WEST FORT HOOD, Texas -- Senior Army leaders have the responsibility to hold the advantage we have enjoyed over the past 70 years across all domains of warfare.

The continued effort to modernize equipment, and train Soldiers as the most capable Army in the world, is hard work required to maintain our advantage over our enemies.

At the 2017 AUSA Annual Meeting, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis said he is confident the Army always stands ready.

"The U.S. Army must stand ready," he said. "And so, if you're ready, that's your duty at this point in time. And I know the Army will always do its duty."

Part of the Army's duty is to make sure Soldiers have equipment that is tested to be ready for use in combat. Soldiers must have safe and effective equipment they can use in every warfighting environment.

It takes an entire Army to maintain that edge over our potential enemies.

As the Army's consumer reports, the U.S. Army Operational Test Command provides the Soldier a voice into the acquisition process that ensures fielded systems are effective, suitable, and survivable.

During 2017, USAOTC conducted 56 tests, and will conduct 58 more tests in 2018. Data collected during tests is compiled into an independent evaluation report which informs Army leadership on production, fielding, and material release decisions on Army equipment.

Our Army's Soldiers are the primary reason USAOTC performs so many operational tests -- to make sure every piece of new equipment is battle-ready and provides an advantage to win decisively.

In fact, actual units and Soldiers are used to test current modernization efforts and future Army systems in combat-like conditions.

Operational testing allows Soldiers to provide their personal input into the testing process. All tests are led by warfighters, who apply their combat experience and use their own mission essential tasks to enhance readiness within their unit.

Soldiers are currently testing equipment such as the 30 millimeter cannon upgrade to the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle "Dragoon," along with the Stryker Common Remotely Operated Weapon System Javelin (CROWS-J) in Europe.

The 30mm cannon will give the Army's Stryker fleet more lethality to deter various threats. CROWS-J is a common remote-operated weapons station that allows troops to fire anti-tank guided missiles from inside existing Stryker models.

In California, Soldiers are planning with Marines for a spring test of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), which is the replacement vehicle for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, commonly known as the Humvee.

The JLTV is expected to be the first vehicle purposely built to operate on battlefield networks, with protection similar to the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicle. We'll be testing the JLTV's off-road mobility, life-saving survivability, and mission-focused effectiveness on the ever-evolving modern battlefield.

As commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, III Corps and Fort Hood Commander Lt. Gen Paul E. Funk recently brought it all together when he said of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS):

"The organization we are fighting is evil. Their very existence poses a threat to the civilized world and our way of life. We must defeat them … and our collective effort WILL defeat them."

Operational testing is just one part of the entire Army's effort toward defeating the enemy.

There is no give and take, negotiations, or concessions given in the realm of winning our Nation's wars -- we must have the best-equipped, most combat-effective Soldiers in the world.

The business of warfighting is sobering. Just as Soldiers give their all to the call for duty, USAOTC remains true to its ultimate customer -- our sons and daughters -- the American Soldier.

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About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:

The U.S. Army Operational Test Command's mission is to make sure that systems developed are effective in a Soldier's hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight. Operational tests also provide an added benefit to Soldiers by offering unique training opportunities not always received in standard training environments.