Diep Ho: From refugee to legendary YPG test officer
Those who walk by Diep Ho’s office will notice a collection of caps. Those represent just a fraction of the tests he’s taken part in. And although he’s pretty much a living legend in the YPG testing world, Ho stays focused on the mission to support the warfighter. (Photo Credit: Ana Henderson) VIEW ORIGINAL

U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground’s Yuma Test Center (YTC) is comprised of individuals who are passionate and dedicated to their work testing equipment for the Warfighter. They each have a story of how they’ve made an impact, yet there are only a few who have created a legacy with their ingenuity in testing.

Diep Ho is an artillery test lead in the Munitions and Weapons Division and has had a hand in many high-profile artillery tests over the last four-decades at YTC including the Excalibur and the Extended Range Cannon Artillery.

Long-time friend and colleague Wayne Schilders has known Ho since the mid-80’s when he was a gunner and Ho a test officer. Gunners and test officers work long hours side-by-side on the range, so the two men spent countless hours working on tests together, the first being a fuze test that lasted years.

“Diep is a lot of fun, he’s a work hard, play hard type of guy,” said Schilders.

The two have travelled together for testing. Ho was the first YTC test officer to travel to White Sands, New Mexico to test artillery. Testing also took him to Alaska for extreme cold testing and of course he’s worked through the long hot summers in Yuma. He laughs reminiscing that he wore a three-piece suit the first day of work at YPG in the middle of July.

“He has a commitment to the test mission that’s almost unmatched,” remarked Munitions and Weapon’s Division Chief Kermit Okamura.

Ho has a fighting spirit. He was born in Vietnam during the war and came to the U.S. as a refugee on a boat as a young man and lived in a refugee camp for a year. He and his brother defied odds to make it to America. Once here he dedicated himself to his studies earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of California Santa Barbara and was hired by the U.S. Army in Texas. His dedication to supporting the mission of his adopted country is unmatchable.

“He is a ‘Let’s get it done, make it happen’ type of guy,” tells Schilders.

Ho is determined to say the least. When testing is involved, there is no barrier that he will not try to overcome with his engineering mind.

“I tell the customers, you tell me what you need, and I’ll figure it out for you,” remarked Ho.

This is where his engineering mind and problem-solving mentality comes into play.

“Some of the unique novel test fixtures that we have here at YPG have come because of necessity to get the tests done that have had some specific requirements. When you think of Diep, he’s like ‘We’ll figure it out’ that’s kind of his thing,” notes Okamura.

One instance is when a requirement came down to recover rounds to test their survivability, Diep designed a vertical gun position. He’s built an extractor, a rammer, targets, a gun position for vertical firing to name a few. He says he consults, with the customer, the user, the machinist, welders, and carpenters to get these designs to be safe and functional for their purpose.

Okamura jokes, “There should be a spot in the museum with Diep and all fixtures he came up with and new testing methodologies. It’s amazing to me.”

Another claim to fame – Ho was featured in the Future Weapons show for his work on Excalibur. He’s been recognized by colleagues yet the most special person who recognized him was his nephew, “He was watching tv and said ‘That’s Uncle Diep! That’s Uncle Diep!” recalls Ho.

And while he could be in a management position Ho prefers being on the range.

“With Diep, you know he’s going to shoot a lot of rounds. He’s going to shoot all day. You’re going to work hard that day. He’s known for that,” tells Schilders.

Ho has the can-do attitude that YPG is known for, “We are here to get things done, that’s what we are here for. To get it done and get it done right,” stated Ho.

It’s that love of being on the range that inspired Okamura to make a unique promise to Ho.

“I told Diep whenever you retire you tell me what firing impact area you want named after you.”

Those who walk by his office will notice a collection of caps. Those represent just a fraction of the tests he’s taken part in. And although he’s pretty much a living legend in the YPG testing world, Ho stays focused on the mission to support the warfighter.

His division chief Okamura said, “The guy is very humble, he’s not looking for accolades he just wants to get the mission done and that’s commendable.”

Schilders adds, “He’s one of the best guys I have ever met out here.”