For 70 years, a long line of Yuma Proving Ground commanders have relied on the installation’s newspaper, The Outpost, for sharing information with the several thousand employee workforce scattered across 1,300 square miles in Yuma, as well as at test centers in Alaska and the tropics.
For 70 years, a long line of Yuma Proving Ground commanders have relied on the installation’s newspaper, The Outpost, for sharing information with the several thousand employee workforce scattered across 1,300 square miles in Yuma, as well as at test centers in Alaska and the tropics. (Photo Credit: US Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

From its inception, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has relied on state-of-the-art technology to ensure that the equipment issued to Soldiers works as it should all the time, wherever they serve.

For 70 years, a long line of proving ground commanders have relied on the installation’s newspaper, printed using technology available at the time, for sharing information with the several thousand employee workforce scattered across 1,300 square miles in Yuma and at test centers in Alaska and the tropics.

YPG has been continuously served by a post newspaper since 1951, during the proving ground’s earliest days. The title of the publication was The Sidewinder until 1981, when Spc. Patrick Buffet, who was editor at the time, ran a contest to give the newspaper a new name. The winning entry, The Outpost, was on the flag of the June 3, 1981, edition, with the explanation that the new name, “best symbolizes the past history of Yuma Test Station and the basic mission of the post today.” Spc. Richard Johnson of the post medical detachment received a $25 savings bond and a letter of appreciation for submitting the winning entry.

Under either title, few significant stories have escaped the attention of the public affairs staff over the decades: when the LeTourneau Overland Train, the longest off-road vehicle in world history, came to YPG for testing in 1962, a lengthy story appeared on the front page of the April 6th issue. When former President George H.W. Bush dropped into YPG for his first parachute jump in since World War II in 1997, the public affairs office was on hand to produce a front page story with action photos, even as they simultaneously escorted representatives from state and national media outlets. It was likewise when YPG hosted Project Convergence 20 last year.

Despite its venerable presence, The Outpost was targeted for elimination several times over the decades. Starting in the early 1990s, various people suggested eliminating The Outpost as a cost-saving measure. Like their civilian counterparts, some Army newspapers have significantly reduced or ceased publishing. Fortunately, for the past decade the Yuma Sun has published The Outpost at no cost to the government in exchange for the right to sell advertising in its pages.

Assembly of a newspaper

The base newspaper was far different in the early days of Yuma Test Station.

Early copies of The Sidewinder were crudely typed and printed, but included captioned photos and other typical newspaper conventions. By the early 1960s, The Sidewinder was published professionally on newsprint, and, in the late 1970s, shifted to a black and white newsletter. From the earliest days until the early 1990s, the production and layout of the newspaper were performed manually. Stories were written on typewriters or early word processors and laid out manually on dummy sheets, pieces of paper onto which stories and photos were pasted after being carefully cut with X-Acto knives.

Photos were taken with film cameras, and innovations like autofocus, now taken for granted, were relatively new.  Film was processed in a darkroom on post and the newspaper editor chose what size photo print was necessary. Though the newspaper has now been laid out electronically for over thirty years, the early days of this process were far different: stories were delivered to the local printer on 3.5 inch diskettes, each of which had enough memory to hold one story. By the late 1990s, the editor used specialized software and a desktop computer to lay out the newspaper, and an internet site to transfer the completed product to an out-of-state publisher, who in turn shipped the printed newspapers back to YPG. In these years, The Outpost publisher changed frequently according to which company submitted the lowest bid for the work through the Government Printing Office at the end of each contract.

Though the newspaper alternated between broadsheet and tabloid-style orientation over the years, until the late 1990s it was always eight by ten inches in size. From 1997 to 2011, the newspaper was printed on 11 by 17 inch paper, the conventional size for a tabloid-style newspaper. A year after the switch, The Outpost won the Army Materiel Command’s Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware award for best small Army newspaper.

Regardless of its format, size, and paper quality, The Outpost has been a constant and vital part of YPG life from its inception, with a new issue on the street every two weeks, no matter what. So far as the workforce is concerned, The Outpost is a unifying force that highlights the totality of YPG’s test mission-- a person who reads each issue of The Outpost gets a much broader view of YPG than they would from their individual work area alone.

The newspaper’s influence extends beyond the boundaries of the installation, too. The public affairs office routinely sends off copies to elected officials responsible for making the decisions that enable YPG to continue its important work.

Though it now sports advertising and is printed on ordinary newsprint, the editorial content has remained the same throughout the years. Unlike some Army newspapers, the overwhelming majority of The Outpost’s content is relevant to and produced by writers who work on post, as opposed to generic ‘filler’ material distributed by the Department of the Army.

Future

Given the dramatic differences that recent years have brought, ‘Outpost’ may now seem an incongruous title for the official newspaper of the test facility at the forefront of Army modernization efforts: far from being an isolated outpost, YPG is the epicenter of testing virtually every piece of equipment in the ground combat arsenal. Yet YPG’s newspaper, under any name, will remain an important aspect of proving ground life for as long as people continue to read and have an interest in seeking information. In addition to being available on racks around YPG, the online version is always available at www.yuma.army.mil, www.home.army.mil/yuma, and DVIDS - U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (dvidshub.net)