The Fort Huachuca-headquartered U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground, or USAPEG, changed leadership Tuesday during a change of command ceremony on the installation’s historic Brown Parade Field.
Outgoing Commander, Col. Ronald Jacobs, Jr,. transferred oversight of USAPEG to incoming commander, Col. Raymond Compton. Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, commanding general for the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presided over the ceremony.
“We had a vision to be the recognized and preferred test center, across the Army, the DoD (Department of Defense), as well as the industrial base for C5ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance systems),” said Jacobs during the ceremony. “And I must say – we did it; we accomplished our mission.”
Accomplishing the mission to be “the preferred and recognized test center” was no small task. When Jacobs assumed command of USAEPG, the organization looked and behaved very differently than it does today. USAEPG’s customer base continued to grow, as it tested for the Army and other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency and the various members of defense industry. Jacobs said he had to change the organization to be agile and responsive to the emerging needs of test and evaluation.
“We put a focus on the capabilities for the future that we wanted to target,” Jacobs said. “We kept moving forward, supporting our customers, providing value, improving our customer relationships.”
To make these changes, Jacobs worked with USAEPG’s Technical Director Mark D’Amato, along with the USAEPG staff. The team focused on the future, the customer and the needs of the customer. Jacobs said that he knew this would require a change of culture in the organization, while maintaining USAEPG’s reputation for integrity in the testing process.
“There are three things you have to tackle: the attitudes, the perceptions and the behaviors,” he said, describing how they changed the culture.
In addition, Jacobs adopted a vision and a strategic plan that guided the organization over his three-year tenure. He explained that the plan needed to be organized and focused, clearly stating an objective and its associated tasks. Periodically thereafter, the USAEPG team would review the plan to ensure it met the needs of the organization and customers.
During his tenure, Jacobs said his most significant challenge for the organization was a general lack of awareness of the capabilities, facilities and expertise USAEPG offers to the test and evaluation community.
“Our goal was to get the word out to the community, and let them know our capabilities and assist them in their test,” he said. “We only focused on test – we only focused on our core competencies.”
Looking to the future, Jacobs developed a new test paradigm that introduced the concept of integrated test teams and system readiness level. It kept test and evaluation costs lower by maintaining continuity and system knowledge throughout the various test phases. It also could offer evaluators a more objective appraisal of a system’s readiness prior to deployment, he said.
As Jacobs addressed the crowd during the ceremony, he thanked dozens of members of the USAEPG workforce by name and recounted the organization’s successes as a result of their efforts. Jacobs will assume his new position as the military deputy to Jill Smith, director, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in mid-August.
He thanked his wife, retired Lt. Col. Sharon Jacobs, and his daughter, Joycelyn, for their support and promised them that “I am coming home.”
The ceremony attendees greeted Compton, the incoming commander, with applause. Compton, a long-time Army signal officer and Fort Huachuca returnee, recently completed a tour as the G-3/5/7 of the Research, Development and Engineering Command at APG. In the audience was Compton’s family, his wife Elke and his two daughters, Jessica and Christina.
“I’m especially humbled to have the privilege to command a great group of professionals,” Compton said. “Over these next years, with the great efforts from you – the Soldiers, civilians, and support contractors of the Electronic Proving Ground family – it is with your strength that we will continue to make us Army Strong.”