ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Two state-of-the-art Army test facilities officially opened here Sept. 8, with local, state and national dignitaries taking part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and U.S. Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, 2d Maryland District, provided keynote remarks at the ceremony.

Dr. John Foulkes, Director, Test Resource Management Center, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Col. Jeffrey P. Holt, commander, U.S. Army Test Center, and Mr. John M. Miller, director, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, also provided comments.

The two facilities are the Automotive Technology Evaluation Facility, a high-speed test track for the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, and a Rotorcraft Survivability Assessment Facility for the Research, Development and Engineering Command's Army Research Laboratory.

APG Garrison Commander Col. Orlando Ortiz welcomed everyone to the ceremony at the new ATEF near Phillips Army Airfield, which the track circles.

RDECOM and APG Senior Installation Commander Maj. Gen. Nick Justice introduced both Congressional representatives.

"It's a great, great day to be here and to introduce you to a bunch of folks who are just filled with talent, and put their heart and soul in working for our nation's defense," Justice said to Mikulski, showcasing the assembled APG workforce.

"There's a rumor out there that this is just another Southern dirt track," Justice said of the ATEF, eliciting chuckles from the 200 in attendance. "But it is much more technical than that."

Mikulski, Maryland's senior senator, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on commerce and science, called APG one of the "crown jewels" of military installations.

"Today we salute an extraordinary set of accomplishments," Mikulski said.

"We know that our Army needs to be an Army on the move. And when the Army's on the move, they need to be able to move in everything from trucks and tanks and fly in their helicopters.

"We need to know that these vehicles are road ready, air ready, and most of all, battle ready," she said. We need to know that they're battle tested to be sure that when they're out there moving our troops they move them in the way that brings them home safely.

"Two weeks ago I watched on TV as the last combat troops left Iraq in these mammoth Stryker vehicles. It was a pretty emotional moment. They were coming home," she said.

"And I thought about the vehicles, the Strykers, and I thought about all the men and women who have been in trucks and vehicles and whatever. And I thought about my trips to Walter Reed," Mikulski added. "When you go to Ward 34 and you see them with no arms or no legs, you want make sure that never happens again.

"What we're doing here at Aberdeen is developing and testing equipment so that they are safe, so that we protect them. We have to protect the troops that protect us," the senator said.

Explaining Team Maryland's work in the nation's capital, Mikulski said, "We didn't fight for the money, we fought for the mission. That's why we worked so hard for this ATEF.

"We all worked together...to get a high-speed test track facility, so we can test vehicles in any type of environment," she continued.

"More than 80 percent of Army vehicles can be tested here, and simulate 80 percent of the environments around the world, whether it's the cold of North Korea at the 39th parallel, or in the sand of Afghanistan. We want to know that it can move fast, and move safe.

"It takes a brave person to fly that helicopter, and we need to make certain that that helicopter is safe as well," the senator said. "We did it because we want to protect our troops."

Concluding, Mikulski talked about the upcoming anniversary of 9/11.

"They thought they brought us to our knees," she said of the 2001 terrorist attacks. "They didn't know the United States of America. If you try to put us on our knees, we'll only stand up. We will never sit down, we will never fail, and we will never falter."

Ruppersberger stressed the importance of teamwork.

"It's exciting to be part of what's happening here in Aberdeen. The reason we have the best military in the world is because of teamwork, a team of each and every one of you coming together.

"When you're out there driving a Humvee, you want to know that it's been tested. When you're out there in a helicopter you want to know that it works. Those Soldiers on the frontline rely on each one of you and what you do.

"Teamwork is real important. That's why the Ravens are going to do well this year, too," Ruppersberger said, smiling.

"One of the big reasons BRAC (base realignment and closure) came here is the quality of life you will have in this region and in the state of Maryland. That's very, very important. Quality of life goes a long way in making better people working on behalf of our military," he said.

"The frontline relies on you and relies on what we're talking about here today. We are the strongest country in the world because we come together as a team," Ruppersberger said.

The ATEF is a dramatic capability improvement for the U.S. Army Test Center. The new track is 4.5 miles long and circles the perimeter of APG's Phillips Army Air Field. The first phase of ATEF, a gravel track, is now complete. Phase 2, which begins next year, will add a paved road alongside the gravel track, and a braking and maneuver test area.

The ARL's Rotorcraft Survivability Assessment Facility will add the ability to conduct vulnerability tests for Army aviation and possibly some land systems. The facility is a center-of-excellence for the Army and the Department of Defense, providing a range of survivability experimental services to support advanced system development, response to new threats, and live fire testing.

Construction on the RSAF began in October 2007 and was finished this July. The total cost is about $12 million.