YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG)’s position at the forefront of Army modernization efforts is particularly noticeable now.
The first contingent of hundreds of personnel arriving in support of the Army’s top capabilities demonstration of the year arrived on post the week of August 9.
YPG was quick to distinguish itself with the U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) shortly after it was stood up two years ago. To help create the force of the future, AFC divided the Army’s top modernization priorities into eight different cross-functional teams (CFTs). Developmental testing at YPG actively supports six CFTs.
Given this and the confidence the Department of the Army had in YPG and its personnel, the post was slated as venue for a large capabilities demonstration connected with Project Convergence (PC), the campaign of learning designed to advance and integrate the Army's contribution to the developing concept of Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
A day-long demonstration of equipment from five of the CFTs working in tandem is expected to draw the rapt attention of Army senior leaders, Congressional representatives, and national media outlets in late September.
“That demonstration will bring all the pieces together and see how we can shorten the decision cycle through artificial intelligence at the tactical edge,” said Gen. Joseph Martin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, in remarks at a media engagement at YPG on March 6. “Project Convergence will allow us to develop efforts and capability to out-decide our adversaries.”
With hundreds of support personnel arriving from all over the Department of the Army to support the exercise, safely in-processing the visitors took the efforts of multiple personnel within YPG, including the YPG Health Clinic and the YPG Police Department. Upon arrival, the visitors were queued for a COVID screening and received their access badges without having to leave their car.
“We go through the list of questions that we normally ask at our access control points,” said Savannah Silva, COVID 19 implementation lead. “On top of that, we added a temperature check for the individuals.”
To protect both YPG’s resident workforce and the hundreds of visiting personnel, a key safety concept was keeping those directly supporting Project Convergence in so-called ‘bubbles’ that were separate from each other. Visitors working on Project Convergence remained in several remote locations around YPG’s vast ranges during duty hours, and were asked to restrict their off-duty activities to only essentials like grocery shopping or purchasing gasoline. Four weeks into the experience, the health of all concerned demonstrated the success of the effort.
“I think people understand that they could compromise the bubble and negatively impact the project if they aren’t responsible,” said Silva. “People have been more than willing to help out as much as possible.”
Both the visitors and the YPG personnel directly supporting the effort were also required to take a COVID test upon arrival, as well as periodically throughout the duration of their weeks-long stay here. The YPG Health Clinic had responsibility for administering the tests and processing the samples, and had planning the effort since early in the COVID pandemic.
“We’ve been planning for this for months,” said Maj. Jennifer Fiandt, Officer In Charge of the YPG Health Clinic.
As community transmission in the broader Yuma area and Arizona as a whole plummeted in the record-setting summer heat, the YPG Health Clinic set up a tent outside of the fence and supervised the administration of hundreds of COVID test kits to the visitors and those directly supporting the effort over the course of weeks. Not seen by most was the intensive and time-sensitive administrative tasks associated with planning the collection process and preparing the samples for testing by an outside facility.
“Whether it is working on site or working the administrative side, everyone in the clinic has had a hand in supporting this,” said Staff Sgt. Selina Strawn, medic. “We still have all of the clinic’s normal duties to take care as well.”
The hundreds of support personnel were committed to the mission, though, and cooperated with the procedures.
“Nobody refused the test,” said Spec. Alex Scarborough. “It seems like everybody is on board with all of the safety measures.”
Like all personnel at YPG since the earliest days of the COVID pandemic, those here in support of Project Convergence are required to use standard YPG COVID-19 mitigation measures such as face coverings, social distancing where practical, and increased cleaning and hygiene measures in work spaces.
“I think the most effective benefit of the testing is reinforcing compliance with masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing,” said Maj. Joshua Chase, clinic administrator. “It keeps people accountable: if they were to test positive, they would have to be isolated for 10 days and wouldn’t be able to perform their mission.”
Silva feels the successful process is an example of the innovative and resourceful culture that YPG has long been known for.