By Becki BryantNovember 20, 2019
When the Special Programs Division (SPD) began operating at West Desert Test Center (WDTC) in October 1999, Dug-way leadership believed it would increase WDTC's customer base and its workforce.
They were right. Twenty years later, SPD has grown from just six contractor employees to 40 Army civilian employees supported by almost as many contractors. The division is a close-knit group largely made up of scientists, chemists, biologists, engineers and former service members with chem/bio expertise.
Lance McEntire, who first joined the division in 2001 and is now its CWMD Support Branch Chief, credits SPD's original leaders for its success. "The original leaders of SPD were team builders," said McEntire during the division's recent 20th anniversary celebration. "It was an environment where you were encouraged to succeed and do it your own way, and because of that we accomplished a lot of successful endeavors."
One of the founding SPD programs was the Advanced Chemical/Biological Integrated Response Course (ACBIRC), created out of a need for advanced chem/bio training for first responders. SPD conducted the course once a month for more than 10 years until the Department of Homeland Security lost funding. "We still get requests for that training -- eight years after it was discontinued," said McEntire, attesting to ACBIRC's popularity.
Courses like ACBIRC were well attended largely because of the events of 9/11, which emphasized the importance of military and first responder training. In addition to the increased awareness, the government eliminated its overhead fee for services in 2003, and doing business with SPD became much more affordable.
From 2000 -- 2006, with business booming, SPD built a large chunk of its testing and training facilities including Georgia and Wyoming, which were originally built for Special Operations Command, as well as Yellowstone, Cheyenne, Mustang Village, Granite Mountain Tunnel, GWOT and a group of training buildings formally called the Chem and Bio Defense Mission Support Facilities. In 2014, SPD added Vicker's Village to its facilities and Brauch Tunnel in 2017.
SPD's business has remained steady since 2012, and is not expected to grow much in the near future due to manpower constraints. "We have all the work we can handle right now," said Chris Johnson, current SPD Chief, explaining that taking on additional business would require a substantial increase in personnel in the Special Programs Division and support organizations.
Last year, SPD completed more than 100 tests, conducted approximately 110 training events that trained more than 3,000 Sol-diers, Sailors and Marines, sup-ported over 18,500 Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) flights, and brought in over $22M in revenue.
"Our work is important to U.S. and allied forces. We provide advanced level chem/bio training that no one else in the world can provide. We also provide quick-reaction testing in response to real world incidents or threats. The data from these tests help shape DoD policies and warfighter tactics, techniques and procedures," said Johnson.
For more information about WDTC's Special Programs Division, visit www.dugway.army.mil/SpecialPrograms.aspx