FORT BRAGG, North Carolina -- Airborne Calvary Scout Soldiers here are conducting airdrop certification testing on the Light Armor Vehicle (LAV-25A2).

The introduction of the LAV-25A2 into the XVIII Airborne Corps' Global Response Force is an exercise to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for a light airdrop capable Mobile Protective Firepower platform of the future to replace the legacy Sheridan M551, which was phased out of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1996.

During the test, Soldiers of the 82nd's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 5th Squadron 73rd Cavalry Regiment, rigged the LAV-25A2 for airdrop and recovery and conducted live fire exercises to ensure the system was fully operational.

Three successful airdrops are required for final certification by the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Command (NSRDEC) in Natick, Massachusetts.

"My participation during this testing provided an example that a motivated paratrooper can quickly learn and become proficient as a LAV-25A2 crewman and leader," said Sgt. Gary Ballard, Team Leader and Gunner. "Additionally, through this test I have gained the knowledge to give extensive and honest feedback of the success and shortcomings of the vehicle."

"Every piece of equipment Soldiers use has been independently tested and evaluated to meet current and future Army needs and requirements," said James (JC) Cochran, Operational Test Officer with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command's Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate.

Operational testing is not a burden to units, but an opportunity to demonstrate the training benefit to the tasked testing unit.

"Being part of a test on this scale is a real opportunity for a platoon leader," said 1st Lt. William McCullum, B Troop Platoon Leader, 5th Squadron 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. "Witnessing the operation increased my depth of understanding of what it takes to get an armed or armored vehicle safely to the drop zone. "

Capt. Matt Robey, Assistant Program Manager, Future Fighting Vehicles, Program Executive Office, Ground Combat Systems, Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Michigan, said, "Test units and players definitely influence the future by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems that Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight with."

Spec. Michael Taylor, Gunner Crew member said, "This is fun. I'm having a blast."

"Being part of an operational test is an eye-opening experience and I would definitely do it again and recommend it for others," he added, "just for the simple fact that you're getting to work with something that has yet to hit the streets, you're a pioneer for the rest of the Army."

"Being a gunner, I was able to provide technical knowledge of the LAV-25A2 to the test directorate, I helped ensure the weapon worked," he said.

"OTC is the U.S. Army's only independent operational test organization," said Ms. Kim Rusk, Senior Test Manager at ABNSOTD. "We test Army, Joint, and Multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable."

Program Managers, local commanders and Airborne entities across the Department of Defense depend on ABNSOTD for advice and validation of questions or procedures that pertain to anything Airborne, according to Maj. David Dykema, Deputy Chief, Test Division.

"During the acquisition and testing process what you have to ask yourself is, 'What have you given the Soldier that they don't already have?'" said Mike Tracy, Chief, Personnel and Special Operations Test Branch. "If the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate didn't test it, we aren't going to jump or airdrop it."

Other tests underway at ABNSOTD include an airdrop certification of the Air Droppable Airfield Damage Repair Kit and Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System (CAADS) and the Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV 1.1). Highly-instrumented test drops by ABNSOTD will help test overall survivability of the vehicles in airborne operations.

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About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command.

USAOTC is based at West Fort Hood, Texas and its mission is about making sure that systems developed are effective in a Soldier's hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers operate. Test units and their Soldiers offer their feedback, which influences the future, by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems that Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight.

The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate plans, executes, and reports on operational tests and field experiments of Airborne and Special Operations Forces equipment, procedures, aerial delivery and air transportation systems in order to provide key operational data for the continued development and fielding of doctrine, systems, or equipment to the Warfighter.