Kevin Gill (left) and Johnny Gallegos (right), DPG scientific technical photographers, keep their distance from one another while setting up high speed cameras prior to launch of the missile system. Photo by Becki Bryant, Dugway Public Affairs
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kevin Gill (left) and Johnny Gallegos (right), DPG scientific technical photographers, keep their distance from one another while setting up high speed cameras prior to launch of the missile system. Photo by Becki Bryant, Dugway Public Affairs (Photo Credit: Becki Bryant) VIEW ORIGINAL
Johnny Gallegos, DPG Scientific Technical Photographer, wears a mask as he checks the monitors displaying the view from several cameras set to capture the launch and detonation of an innovative missile system recently tested at DPG. Photo by Becki Bryant, Dugway Public Affairs
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Johnny Gallegos, DPG Scientific Technical Photographer, wears a mask as he checks the monitors displaying the view from several cameras set to capture the launch and detonation of an innovative missile system recently tested at DPG. Photo by Becki Bryant, Dugway Public Affairs (Photo Credit: Becki Bryant) VIEW ORIGINAL
This photo shows the impact of a missile system recently tested at Dugway. The testing and data collection of the system’s upgrades was almost postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions, which could have ultimately delayed getting the new technology on the battlefield and in the hands of warfighters. Photo by DPG Test Referee Branch
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – This photo shows the impact of a missile system recently tested at Dugway. The testing and data collection of the system’s upgrades was almost postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions, which could have ultimately delayed getting the new technology on the battlefield and in the hands of warfighters. Photo by DPG Test Referee Branch (Photo Credit: Becki Bryant) VIEW ORIGINAL

During May, a cutting-edge missile system underwent testing and evaluation at Dugway Proving Ground (DPG). The test program was not new to DPG, but the work it took to bring it back amidst the COVID-19 pandemic was.

“The customer requested the test program be designated as ‘mission essential’ through the Department of Defense so testing could continue as scheduled during the pandemic,” said Stephen Balderas, West Desert Test Center (WDTC) Program Manager, who was the test lead.

The testing was deemed mission essential, with one requirement: DPG needed to create a COVID-19 mitigation risk assessment and an implementation plan to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the customers and DPG workforce.

“Safety is the top priority with any activity that is conducted here at Dugway,” said Philip Krippner, Director of Installation Safety. “But COVID-19 presented unique challenges that had never before been addressed,” Krippner said. Those challenges included customer origin and mode of transportation. Were visitors coming from a coronavirus hotspot? How would they be traveling to Dugway?

“We had 30 people coming to Dugway for this test,” Balderas explained. “We needed to get them here without being infected, and then we needed to maintain a safe environment once they were here.”

Modes of transportation at Dugway,” said Philip Krippner, Director of Installation Safety. “But COVID-19 presented unique challenges that had never before been addressed,” Krippner said. Those challenges included customer origin and mode of transportation. Were visitors coming from a coronavirus hotspot? How would they be traveling to Dugway?

“We had 30 people coming to Dugway for this test,” Balderas explained. “We needed to get them here without being infected, and then we needed to maintain a safe environment once they were here.”

Modes of transportation included a military plane for active duty, private vehicles and commercial air, during which travelers had to social distance when possible, wear a mask, and frequently wash or sanitize their hands, particularly after touching “high-touch” areas.

Test participants, including DPG employees, were closely monitored for symptoms before and during their stay and they had to follow additional preventative steps along with those already in place on post under HPCON Charlie (see bullet points below in DPG COVID-19 Status). Additional hygienic requirements included cleaning common areas 3x a day, requiring gloves to be worn when handling common use items and sanitizing those items between use, maximizing the HVAC system inside work trailers to effectively circulate the air, requiring safety glasses in addition to masks when working in close, shoulder-to-shoulder quarters, and providing hand sanitizer throughout work areas.

“One small change that we made that had a big impact was relocating the hand washing station,” noted Balderas. “Instead of putting it outside the portable bathrooms, which already had hand sanitizer dispensers inside, we placed the washing station in the center of the work area and it was used a lot. It was very effective.”

Once testing was complete, test items were left in place for at least 72 hours before being sanitized and shipped back to the customer, said Balderas, providing another layer of protection against a possibly contaminated surface.

When asked about the required preventative steps that needed to be taken, a test customer said, “It’s been really easy, and we’re happy to do it. We want to protect everyone’s safety, and we can’t stop our weapons development. It is vital to get this technology to warfighters as fast as we can.”

Fourteen days after returning home, none of the customers had reported having signs or symptoms of the coronavirus.

“That demonstrates that everybody did the right thing,” Dr. Kenneth Gritton, DPG Technical Director, assured. “We outlined our expectations in the plan, the procedures were followed, and we demonstrated that we can test safety during the pandemic.”