“I spent most of my life here,” shares Wayne Schilders as he recalls how his life has been impacted by Yuma Proving Ground (YPG).
Schilders first came to YPG in 1982 as a newly-wed 19-year-old Army Private First Class: decades later he’s the Chief of the Armament Branch.
In those decade in between Schilders has seen testing go full-circle and has contributed to the safe fielding of legacy weapon systems our Warfighter.
Schilders originally enlisted in the Army National Guard the summer of his junior year in high school and attended basic training. He continued serving in the National Guard during his senior year and the summer after graduation completed his Military Occupational Specialty in an Advanced Individual Training school. Soon after he discharged because he had joined the regular Army and was sent to Fort Sill, Okla. for one station training for field artillery: that was the beginning of his long career with artillery.
Schilders then served in Camp Stanley South Korea for a year where he served three tours in the demilitarization zone. While there he met his wife Myong and the couple were assigned to Yuma.
“In January when I was freezing over there I got orders for Yuma, Ariz.” Schilders chuckles adding, “Everybody was jealous I could tell you that.”
This was the first glimpse of his future at YPG.
“Back in the day the gunners shop was a mix of military and civilian.”
After serving at YPG for three years, the Schilders family, now a family of four, had a permanent change of station to Hawaii.
After his time in Hawaii and 10 years in the Army the Schilders family had to decide their next move? Should Schilders continue his Army career? That’s when his future literally came calling.
“Out of the blue I get a phone call from one of the gun crew leaders (at YPG). He said, ‘Hey, you want a job?’”
As the saying goes, the rest is history. The Schilders family returned to YPG. Schilders’ career at YPG has been filled with much success. He’s the recipient of Civilian Achievement Medals, Commander’s Awards for Civilian Service and both levels of the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara.
He’s also been instrumental in the testing of legacy items
“Back when they were testing the M1’s and the Bradleys for the first time. That used to be our work in this shop. We did all the developmental testing XM 900’s which would later become M900 developmental rounds. The 829’s for the 120’s. All of that early work was me and couple of guys like Mike Stanton that were here.”
Schilders served his country proudly in uniform and that service continued as a civilian at YPG.
“During the first Gulf War, when they talk about the guys shooting from 4 or 5,000 meters through the sand berms where these guys were in enemy tanks and taking them out. That was one of the first times I saw the results of all them long hours we spent cracking round after round at targets,” recalls Schilders.
The work at YPG is all done in the name of safety for the Warfighter.
“You get some hands on and real world input. Sometimes you are able to help design or fix a problem that the Soldiers would have seen down the road.”
He shares the story of how the U shaped ramming staff for the M777A2 came to be.
“I was working with a Marine Corps E7 that was here as a liaison. We were having a hard time loading so he’s like ‘what can we do?’ The two of us put our heads together and basically took that pole and stuck it in the hitch of a pickup truck and bent a big U in it and that’s what’s fielded now.”
Schilders said that many innovations came about because of a need. He says there are plenty of examples of innovations by YPG engineers like Diep Ho and others in the workforce…and it’s that dedicated workforce that makes the work at YPG unlike any other.
“The things I remember is one, those programs or tests like the different ammunition and weapons systems that I’ve seen and had a chance to work on and then the people. Because you never forget the people. The mentors and the people you are mentoring and all the characters. That’s what’s made it the most interesting. I work with a great bunch of guys.”