Operational Test Command
promotes new equipment for soldiers in combat
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Davis briefs a group
of civic leaders before entering a Chinook
helicopter Tuesday morning during the
Operational Test Command's annual Civic
Community leaders from Killeen,
Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Belton, Temple,
Lampasas and Gatesville, gathered on West Fort Hood
on Tuesday for the Operational Test Command's 2008
Civic Leader's Day.
The annual event is a way to share information with
local community leaders about the kind of equipment
their citizens' tax dollars are funding, and to
display that equipment so leaders can see what the
military is putting into soldiers' hands, said
Eloise Lundgren, the Operational Test Command's
The Operational Test Command is an organization,
mandated by law, that tests, assesses and gathers
information on all equipment the military is
planning to buy and field.
The operational test command is one of three
subordinate commands under the Army's Test and
Evaluation Command. Along with the Army evaluation
command and the developmental test command, the
operational test command helps to evaluate a piece
of equipment before it is fielded for use in combat.
Staff Sgt. Harold Turner shouts as if he were
firing a surface-to-air stinger missile system
during a display at Operational Test Command
Headquarters on West Fort Hood as part of Civic
The Army evaluation command is the
organization that identifies equipment needs. The
developmental test command conducts tests to ensure
that equipment meets certain specifications and the
operational test command employs the equipment in a
realistic training environment.
Receiving feedback directly from soldiers, the
operational test command is then able to identify
changes before the equipment is modified and put in
soldier's hands in combat zones.
"We are the last gut check (before equipment is
fielded and given to soldiers for combat use),"
"The operational test command is the trusted agent
of the soldier," said Col. Curtis Potts, commander
of the operational test command on West Fort Hood.
"This is very important work that we do here."
Employing more than 1,300 people including civilians
and contractors, the operational test command has
conducted testing in combat environments since 2005,
sending out teams of forward operational testers to
areas throughout the Middle East.
These teams collect information on equipment that
was rapidly acquired and fielded.
"(Forward operational testers) figure out
improvements from the lowest level (by depending on
those soldiers directly operating the equipment),"
Potts said. "Our ultimate customers are our
The operational test command is responsible for many
upgrades to combat equipment such as combat locks
added to heavily armored vehicle doors.
Life-saving upgrades are usually done at a quicker
pace, but all upgrades require funding. When funding
is unavailable, upgrades are stalled until the next
fiscal year or until funding becomes available. For
this reason, some upgrades cannot be done
immediately. Following Col. Potts' introductory
briefing civic leaders viewed the new equipment on
display on West Fort Hood.
Among the displayed equipment were the new Light
Utility Helicopter, LUH-72, Lakota, used for general
support and VIP escort. The aircraft is currently
used only for stateside missions, but was tested at
the national training center last year to see how it
would endure a combat-like environment.
Col. Curtis D. Potts, commander of
Operational Test Command, gives a briefing
and the layout of the test directorate
equipment goes through before it is used by
soldiers in combat during Tuesday's Civic
The Black Hawk, UH-60M, an aircraft fresh off the
assembly line, serves as a troop transport, medical
evacuation, command and control aircraft, and also
carries internal cargo and external cargo loads. The
latest model provides a more powerful engine,
increased lift and a multi-function display in the
Two versions of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected
vehicle were on display. Both category I and II
versions of the wheeled-vehicle are currently in use
by units in the Middle East and serve as patrol
vehicles and troop transport vehicles. All are
designed with the highest level of protection.
Students from the Nifty Engineer Robotics Design
Squads from Buena High School in Sierra Vista,
Ariz., and students from the Cyber Wolf Corps at
Shoemaker High School in Killeen displayed their
robots on a make-shift course featuring a track and
a bar over which robots threw balls of varying
The programs, sponsored by the operational test
command, promote an interest in math, science and
engineering in high school students. Some program
participants may go on to develop equipment used by
soldiers in combat environments.
OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence
Wilson shows longtime friend Jay Taggart of the
Belton Chamber of Commerce how to position
himself while jumping with a parachute during
Civic Leader's Day demonstration on West Fort
Marty Smith, president of the Copperas Cove Chamber
of Commerce, said Tuesday's event was by far the
best of the four civic leader's days she's attended.
"(The event) was very well organized and
informative," Smith said. "It makes me feel good
about where tax dollars are going. (The Army is)
showing what it's doing to protect our sons and
daughters in Iraq."
Jay Taggart, chairman of the military relations
committee for the Belton Chamber of Commerce, added
that he was happy to see the quality of equipment
going to soldiers.
"The general public doesn't see and appreciate
that," Taggart said. "From clothes to parachutes,
helicopters, rifles and heavy equipment, when you
see the full spectrum (of equipment fielded) you see
how important it is to get it to soldiers. Those
items and improvements can save a life and give us
an advantage over the (enemy)."
Taggart added that equipment upgrades are not a
waste of money and he hopes that civic leaders take
that message back to their communities.
A Canadian soldier talks on
his cellphone outside a newly digitalized
Chinook helicopter on display during the OTC
Civic Leader's Day on West Fort Hood.