14 April 2022
The US Army’s Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) at Aberdeen Proving Ground recently helped in conducting a staff education tour for nine Congressional staff members from the Blue Dog Coalition on 13 April 2022. The tour provided both senior and new staff members from several Congressional Representative offices an opportunity to learn about the various commands at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) in MD.
This information tour was designed to allow the new staff members to learn about how these Army commands and their various subordinate command locations across the United States help support both the Department of Defense as well as multiple Federal agencies daily.
After spending the morning with the US Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) headquarters personnel where they learned about that Command’s world-wide missions and their additional mission as the senior command on Aberdeen Proving Ground , the nine staff members and their CECOM escorts were then in-briefed by the US Army Test and Evaluation Command’s (ATEC) Operations Office where they learned about ATEC’s multiple test centers across the United States before they were transitioned over to the ATC’s portion of the tour.
“ATC is considered the largest and most active of ATEC’s various test centers,” said COL Timothy E. Matthews, ATC’s Commanding Officer and host for the Congressional Staff’s afternoon portion of their tour of APG. “We have 66,000 acres of test offices, buildings and ranges and more than 1800 people working every day on projects that support the Army’s efforts in modernization and improving the equipment and test processes to ensure that the Army remains a responsible steward of the funds that Congress allocates for our use.”
During the afternoon tour, the staff members were given opportunities to learn about the multiple directorates within ATC’s command. Their first stop on the tour was to learn about the unique machining capabilities of ATC’s Fabrication facilities where customized products are often developed in support of multiple testing operations using computerized milling and metal fabrication machines as well as the latest 3-dimensional printers for modern additive manufacturing processes. The fabrication facility allows ATC to save on costs in developing materials and processes “in house” versus sending work out for repair or replacement which could potentially slow or delay a test program.
From the Fabrication facility, the staff members then went to a briefing from ATC’s Automotive Directorate where they learned about the multiple test and road tracks that were in use for testing vehicles that are in various levels of development and were given an opportunity to see an M1 Abrams tank safely transit an extreme 60 degree slope and learn about the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) system that is beginning to be fielded across the services. “These new vehicles were all tested for safety on these tracks and road courses before the first Soldiers ever got behind the steering wheels themselves.” Said COL Matthews to the staff members before they were given an opportunity to see how the vehicles operated themselves.
After having an opportunity to see how the JLTV vehicles operated, the staff members were then escorted to a demonstration on another test range hosted by ATC’s Firepower and Automotive Directorate where they observed a Bradley Armored Vehicle’s 25mm main weapon firing at a target several hundred yards away.
After the Bradley demonstration and the walk-through of the new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMP-V) on static display at the same firing range, they were given an opportunity to view the Next Generation Squad Weapons currently in development at ATC and fire a M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle themselves. “I never fired a rifle like that before,” said Ms. Krista Wunsche, Blue Dog Policy Coordinator for Congressman Ed Case (D-HI). “After I was given safety instructions by the (ATC) staff, it was not as hard as I thought it would be. That scope really made it so easy to hit that far target,” She concluded after her time at the firing station was over.
While learning about the new firearm systems being tested at ATC and learning how the technology of small arms and individual Soldier gear is progressing and being modernized daily, the Congressional staff members also spoke to several individual Soldiers who were present and wearing the new personal field gear currently being tested at ATC. “We have Soldiers on staff at ATC to provide us with a user’s perspective on many of the equipment items we test” explained COL Matthews in response to a question from one of the congressional staff members during this stage of the demonstrations. “It would not be financially responsible for us to test a product, approve it for issue and then find out when it goes out for service in the field that the Soldiers find it not reasonable to work with or that it doesn’t integrate with other equipment that the Soldier may be required to operate. We do that all here to minimize those events.”
The final stop on the afternoon ATC portion of CECOM tour for the Congressional Staff members was a demonstration by ATC’s Virtual Test and Advanced Electronics (VTAE) Directorate where the staff members were shown how ATC is working to move many of its testing cycles into electronic simulation through use of computerized testing systems and data collection processes. “If I can develop a computerized simulation that gives me data from a 1,000 separate tests that allows me to minimize the expenses of using an actual piece of equipment, such as a tactical vehicle, while at the same time allowing me to focus my actual test times on the physical equipment to review the errors or faults we find in the simulation, we can save both testing funds as well as developmental costs as we have a lot more testing data than if we simply did physical testing,” said John Whitt, VTAE’s Reliability Engineering and Communications Branch Chief.
“I really am looking forward to telling my Congressman what I learned here today,” said Brennan Randel a Congressional Fellow within the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA). “I’m sure he’ll want to come back and see this himself.”
Although the tour only covered a few of the many developmental tests and multiples directorates within ATC due to the short amount of time available for the Blue Dog Coalition staff members, the invitation to return at a later time for another tour of ATC to expand their knowledge base was extended by ATC Commander COL Matthews to the assembled staff members.
Mr. Timothy Nelson, Chief of Staff for Congressman Ed Case (D-HI) and lead staff member for the Blue Dog Coalition, at the conclusion of ATC tour of their facilities stated that he hoped to bring even more congressional staff members in the future to learn what ATC and the other commands at Aberdeen Proving Ground are doing to modernize the military and protect the servicemembers that will use the equipment in development here. “We are moving past the COVID-19 restrictions of the past, so we are looking forward to expanding back into more engagements like this.”