Lt. Col. David Taylor, Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site range director, recently PCS’d with his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Lily, after completing his tour of duty on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll.
Taylor, a former air defense officer, said he enjoyed getting to know the diverse workforce at RTS in his unique new home. During his command, Taylor’s team provided uninterrupted mission support—often going above and beyond to meet the challenges of the operational tempo during the pandemic.
The increasingly isolated conditions on Kwajalein during the pandemic became a proving ground for the talents of his new support team, Taylor said.
“For my team, as well as both the RTS team, here and back in the states, we’ve done a good job cross-training people across various disciplines to keep the mission going,” he said. “In each mission, we have several people that come in TDY to support those missions. With COVID restrictions, that just wasn’t possible.”
Taylor credited the garrison command team, and its contract support partners, for keeping the island “open for business” through quarantine management. He thanked the numerous range employees who took on additional support roles during operations windows.
“We’ve had a lot of team members on the island stand up, cover down and cross-train on highly technical jobs that weren’t in their position description—from engineers becoming flight tested or [performing] work on the USAV Worthy... …We’ve been able to show value in all those things and keep the mission going, as well.”
Cross-training allowed Range Generation Next employees to utilize their talents, skills and abilities to support mission roles, sometimes serving in multiple departments at a given time.
One such testament to continued forward momentum despite the pandemic was completed in 2021 with expertise from RG Next engineers: a connective “collar” to complete a weather-proof passage between the wings of a sensor facility on Roi-Namur.
On Choosing Kwajalein
“[Kwajalein] was one of my top choices from the very beginning,” Taylor said, of choosing USAG-KA as a duty station. He became acquainted with the islands through stories shared amongst colleagues and friends. As an avid paddleboarder and snorkeler, he made sure to pack out two stand-up paddleboards with the sports equipment to use during his tour.
Living on the atoll was a dream—right down to the bicycle commute to RTS command headquarters.
“I do enjoy the whole bike-as-a-vehicle kind of method. It’s very simple and helps you get out and just commute to work,” said Taylor. “It gives you a little bit of exercise.”
Taylor said he was grateful his family got to enjoy the outdoors and spend time together. Elizabeth was an avid community volunteer who contributed much to community life. Lily participated in Girl Scouts and community events through school activities.
As a young man eager to travel, Taylor credited the example of two family members.
His father became a prime source of motivation. His father’s brother, Earl, a retired senior master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, was his inspiration to join the U.S. armed forces.
Earl and his wife, Grace, became mentors for he and Elizabeth, serving as models for how to thrive as a military family, he said.
“I heard stories of how [Earl] was in the Philippines, and he was in Alaska doing all these great and crazy things,” Taylor said. “That’s why we never saw him. I always thought, ‘When I grew up, I’d love to travel and go do a lot of those things. So, here I am, years later.”
Though his uncle passed away in 2019, Taylor assumed the mantle as the family member working and living abroad.
“He was sad that I didn’t join the Air Force,” Taylor said, of his uncle. “Maybe some days, I was sad, too. Now 23 years after the fact, the Army was the best decision.”
Earlier in his deployment, Taylor said he was interested in the growing role of the range for SMDC.
“That has been very fascinating, and I, myself, coming into the job, have been very curious as to how … future roles and responsibilities shake out with the U.S. Space Force—how all the command structures dealing with space will impact the role here. We still support all their initiatives. It’s an exciting time to be involved in all things space. … I just hope we’re able to continue down that path of focus on space capabilities, improving them and matching our adversary’s progress in space.”
Noting his beginnings as a short-range air defense officer with more of an iconic “direct combat role,” Taylor said he found it humorous that, later in his career, leaving the RTS, that U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command is now “full of and led by air defense officers.”
“I find it kind of funny that the profession I ended up going away from somehow connected to in my 22nd year of service,” he said. “...My brother likes to remind me that that was the highlight of my career—and it was almost two decades ago! Now that I’m [on Kwajalein] this seems to be the highlight of my career. [This tour] has made me the most popular person in my family.”