WEST FORT HOOD, Texas -- The unit responsible for testing new and modernized Army equipment welcomed its 29th commander during a change of command ceremony here May 23.

Col. Ronald R. Ragin takes the reigns of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command after his most recent stint as Executive Officer to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Outgoing Commander Brig. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor is moving on to become Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Defense, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, ceremony host and commander of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, OTC's higher headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, reflected on Taylor's nine months in command.

"The Soldiers and Civilians of the Operational Test Command conducted 51 major equipment and systems tests," Tyler said, "and helped Army senior leaders to make decisions on shaping the current and future force."

Tyler said some of those systems included the Patriot Missile, the Joint Assault Bridge, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, Stryker Double-V Hull, and most recently the Apache Version 6 and Joint Air to Ground Missile.

"Folks, if you don't know what goes into a test, I can assure you that is a whole lot to do, and they did many of those simultaneously," Tyler said.

When Taylor stepped to the podium, he recalled thoughts he had when he received orders to be OTC's commander nine months ago.

"It was intimidating because I had no idea what to do," he said.

"But I quickly realized that OTC -- as the Army's operational testers -- had this great history. As a matter of fact, 50 years of history back to 1969 with a great legacy of integrity ensuring that the truth was being told to our Army senior leaders."

He said, "Truth in Testing!" is not just a motto.

"Our Soldiers and our Army senior leaders look to us to maintain that integrity to make sure that we inform their decisions as they purchase things so that equipment is issued out to our sons and daughters of the greatest Army in the world so that they can deploy, fight and win," he said.

Taylor said that even though OTC's name, size and higher headquarters has changed over 50 years of operational testing, the mission has remained the same, since first testing equipment sent to the war in Vietnam.

"Our mission, and its importance to our Army, along with our dedication to the Soldiers, has remained the same," he said.

"This organization has conducted tests, assessments, experiments, and evaluations on thousands -- and think of this -- on every piece of equipment that our Soldiers have used and continue to use today to train and to fight our enemies.

"OTC tests it, and does it extremely well."

Taylor emphasized that testing systems in a realistic operational environment is done by outstanding operational Soldiers.

"These test unit Soldiers come in and immediately use their leadership and combat experience to make sure that we are going out there and doing testing right," he said.

"We want to put equipment through the rigor so that we make sure that equipment will work when it gets out to the Soldiers."

Bringing the ceremony to a close, OTC's new commander took to the podium thanking his wife and family for their loving support.

Ragin told his wife and two young daughters, "To my true loves -- Brandie, Maegan and Courtney -- you are truly the reason I work so hard every day. You are an amazing family, and I know we ask a lot of our families.

"Let's give all of our military families a round of applause."

He told the ATEC commander that his priorities are understood.

"I acknowledge your guidance, and I am going to exercise your intent violently," he said.

"I look forward to continuing on in the footsteps of Brigadier General Taylor," he added.

To the OTC Soldiers and Army Civilian employees, he said, "I am humbled yet excited to lead you into the next chapter of this great organization."

Ragin has served two operational assignments in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

Ragin's biography can be viewed here



About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:

Operational testing began Oct. 1, 1969, and as the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC is celebrating "50 Years of Operational Testing." The unit enlists the "Total Army" (Active, National Guard, and Reserve) when testing Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.