YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- From military vehicles to tank and artillery cartridges, Metrology Branch Chief Savanna Silva has worked on many of ground combat’s largest projects in her more than 10 years employed at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG).
As the reigning Army Test and Evaluation Command Employee of the Year, her passion for the job is obvious.
A native of Oklahoma who has lived in Yuma since she was 13, Silva knew she wanted to pursue a technical career after an impromptu airplane trip in her uncle’s Cessna 172 when she was 17. After reading the airplane’s manual for a few hours, her uncle let her take the stick as they flew.
“It was so exciting and exhilarating, and stemmed from just reading the manual. From that I knew I wanted to do something technical.”
Her first exposure to engineering was while working as a data collector for the Combat Automotive Systems Division at YPG, a job she pursued after a former co-worker was hired here. Originally majoring in child development, she switched majors and set her sights on an engineering degree. That it was challenging in multiple facets appealed to her.
“Engineering tends to be a male-dominated field. I as a person do not like to be told, ‘no, you can’t do that.’ I always took that as a challenge.”
She left, and was hired back as a military vehicle test officer once she obtained her bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Arizona’s partnership program with Arizona Western College, graduating in the program’s second cohort—and as its first female graduate.
Now holding a master’s degree in systems engineering that she pursued on her own time, she still finds time to speak to students of all levels, including serving on a panel of engineers that spoke to current students of her old undergraduate program.
“Talking to students is rewarding. You see the struggle and strife they go through—sometimes they put limitations on themselves by saying, ‘I can’t do that because of my race,’ or, ‘because I’m female,’ or some other label that society puts on you, and that just fuels me even more so. They need to see there is a bright future ahead of them, not just one that’s been predetermined by circumstances set forth by their family.”
She hopes that current and future students will take inspiration from her experiences.
“If you put your mind to it, you will succeed. If you just give in to the circumstances, you’re never going to get anywhere.”
A brother in the Air Force helps to motivate her work, too.
“It gives me another reason to make sure that what I’m assessing here is doing what it is supposed to do. I don’t want to send my brother out there with something that is faulty.”