Yuma Test Center Program Analysts (left to right) Rachel Sanchez, Kimberly Dickerson, Ashely Thompson and Rebekah Babb.
Yuma Test Center Program Analysts (left to right) Rachel Sanchez, Kimberly Dickerson, Ashely Thompson and Rebekah Babb. (Photo Credit: Ana Henderson) VIEW ORIGINAL

Yuma Test Center (YTC) at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) is known for testing innovations that will one day make their way into the hands of our armed forces.

To get to that point there is a lot of behind the scenes work happening. There are timelines to be met, regulations to be followed, financials to be checked and balanced, and data to be analyzed —across the test center.

Pre-COVID in 2019, YTC hired two Program Analysts, Kim Dickerson for the Munitions and Weapons Division and Rachel Sanchez for the Aviation Systems and Electronic Test Division.

“Initially there was a need identified for revolving requirements based on the need to get information quickly,” explained Dickerson. “Taking data from multiple sources and being able to evaluate it and present it in a way that’s easy to understand.”

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the duo was tasked to serve as YTC’s trace team for COVID cases and related information. Dickerson and Sanchez attended a Johns Hopkins University training on trace teams and then developed a process to track cases and determine who needed to be quarantined. Shortly thereafter, Rebekah Babb became the program analyst for the Combat and Automotive Systems Division and joined the trace team.

Sanchez notes, “We talked to everyone personally. We spent an awful lot of time getting details and documenting those details, and that’s when the analysis would happen.”

“We made it up to iteration nine or 10 on our flowcharts,” says Dickerson to give an example of how much their team had to adapt to changing requirements and evolve during this unprecedented time of tracking COVID and its potential spread — then reporting the data to leadership.

Director of Air Combat Systems Jeff Rogers saw the process unfold. “The program analysts kept in tune with CDC, Army, and Command requirements resulting in YPG being able to develop and then adjust processes as more was learned about the pandemic, keeping employees safe from internal spread.”

YPG did not shut down during the pandemic and utilized the information collected and preventive steps such as telework, video conferencing, face masks and increased sanitation to stop the spread throughout the workforce.

In 2021, YTC added one more program analyst to the “dream team,” as newest member Ashely Thompson calls them. Thompson works under the Instrumentation Division.

These individuals have all spent at least a decade working at YPG, and while they never worked in the same division, they collaborated in their previous roles. Each program analyst falls under a different test division, yet they can rely on each other.

Dickerson shares, “That has been hugely beneficial for me, especially because if I see something come down, I can poke them and say, ‘did you see this? How are you handling this?’”

The ladies are working together on four or five large projects and are individually involved in five or six working groups with a lot of crossover.

“We are all working together across the proving ground, and we are addressing it cohesively as one unit,” explains Dickerson.

Babb remarks program analysts do more than analyze. “A lot of it is procedural development and tool development within our division to meet requirements.”

Sanchez adds, “It’s also identifying future issues and saying, ‘If we get ahead of this, then we are going to prevent problems later.’”

Their work has earned them quite the reputation.

“They are experts in automation, are process driven individuals, and are all extremely logical thinkers,” remarks Rogers.

“People can come to us with any question or issue and we will track it down,” said Thompson. “The reason we don’t turn people away with that stuff is because the more we know the better we are at doing our job. We know the big picture of the mission down to the little nuances of the divisions and branches.”

Ultimately, the work Babb, Dickerson, Sanchez, and Thompson do helps provide leaders with key information to make informed decisions.

“The program analysts bring a totally different and more detailed level of analysis to specific focal areas that allow chiefs to make informed decisions,” Rogers said. “Their initiatives have allowed us to track workload to a granular level, allowing YPG to better defend and understand requirements.”