Telling the ATEC Story The People Behind Test & Evaluation: Adrian “Oso” Fernandez

By ATEC G 3-5February 27, 2023

“Oso” in Spanish means “bear.” Adrian “Oso” Fernandez, who is as broad as a bear, stands six feet two inches tall, and sports a full black beard, earned the nickname early in his career as an artillery tester at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in Arizona. As the story goes, Fernandez was working inside an M1064 120mm mortar track vehicle when a coworker saw his head pop out of the hatch and said he looked like a bear. The nickname stuck. To those who know him well, he’s more of a teddy bear than a grizzly.

Before he was an artillery tester, he was a young boy growing up in El Paso, Texas, who dreamed of earning a football scholarship and playing pro football for his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.

He grew up playing football with his two older brothers. At nine, he started playing football in elementary school and continued playing throughout high school. Growing up, he knew he had two choices when he turned 18: go to college or join the military. When a juvenile mistake cost him his football scholarship, he joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Cathedral High School in 1998.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 2002, he started working for YPG. He worked his way up from artillery tester to lead engineering technician to his current supervisory role as the ammunition preparation section chief in the Ammunition and Armaments Division’s Ammunition Management Branch. He also started playing football again. For seven years, he played center for two semi-pro football teams—the Yuma Blitz and the Arizona Night Hawks.

Getting a college education continued to be his goal, but it wasn’t his priority. He wanted to remain competitive at work, but he knew that even with his qualifications, he ran the risk of being passed over for future promotions without a college degree. More importantly, he knew how disappointing it was for his family when he lost his college scholarship and how much his father looked forward to watching him graduate.

Fernandez started taking courses online and graduated in 2018 from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied management. But his degree came too late—his father passed away during his final semester of school. He credits his dad for teaching him to never give up, no matter how tough the going gets, but to keep pushing forward to finish what he started.

In addition to his role as the ammunition preparation section chief, Fernandez is also the ammunition plant manager and oversees three ammunition test facilities. He supervises his team of ammunition professionals in preparing, assembling, disassembling, and modifying all ammunitions tested at YPG.

When his workday ends, he heads to Cibola High School, where he volunteers as the defensive line coach for the varsity football team. Fernandez, who has six kids—four boys and two girls—started coaching 11 years ago when his oldest son was 11 and playing in the Pop Warner league, the largest youth football program in the world. He initially started coaching to help his two older sons’ teams but continued to coach after they graduated high school.

As “Coach Fernandez,” his goal is to provide the student-athletes with the support and motivation they need, plus a safe environment where they can practice and perfect their athletic skills. He says his reward is watching them develop into young men, earn athletic or academic scholarships, and go on to college. For him, there’s no better satisfaction than coaching the young athletes who could become tomorrow’s sports legends.

As a servant leader, Fernandez is passionate about putting others first and helping them achieve their goals. He takes great pride in building capable and motivated teams committed to providing America’s warfighters with the best weapons and ammunitions possible and creating the best and most efficient environments for his technicians to work in.

Fernandez says he takes the most pride in being the best husband he can be to his wife and the best dad to their six amazing kids. Even though he wears many different hats, none are more important to him than being his kids’ biggest cheerleader and their greatest fan.