YUMA PROVING GROUND — During a change of command ceremony held on the installation's Cox Field Thursday morning, Col. Thomas Payne transferred command of Yuma Proving Ground for the next three years to Col. Reed F. Young.
“Without a doubt, the high point of my 25-year military career. No doubts. Hands down,” Payne said later. “As much as I've enjoyed every assignment I've had, each assignment got better and better, and this one takes the cake.”
Payne, who took charge of the post in 2009 from outgoing commander Col. John Bullington, will be leaving the installation a year before his command ends to go to Afghanistan, where he will be assigned to the assistant secretary of the Army's Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Team.
“I am definitely leaving with mixed feelings. It is bittersweet. I'm excited about moving on. I think the Army has got some important things in store for me. The time has here has been the best two years of my military career.”
David Jimenez, director of the U.S. Army Developmental Test Command, which oversees the installation, presided over the transfer of leadership, while YPG's Command Sgt. Maj. Forbes Daniels oversaw the exchange of the installation's flag.
Jimenez praised Payne for his vision as a leader and for the accomplishments at YPG during his two-year command, such as logging a record-breaking 2.74 million direct labor hours of testing last fiscal year, while at the same time winning numerous awards for test quality and safety, to opening a new Joint Tunnel Test Range and a Weapons System Test and an Integration Laboratory, as well as completing eight projects that saved over $6.2 million.
“So not only did we do it safely, we did it at the same high quality, and we did it without additional resources,” Payne said. That says a lot about the professionalism of the workforce and their ability to rise to the occasion and make it happen.”
Fiscal year 2010 was the busiest year in YPG's 61-year history — making it the busiest test center in the Army's Developmental Test Command. The increased workload translated into a 400,000-hour increase in direct labor hours over last year's 2.4 million. It is also the single greatest increase in workload for any given year at YPG.Payne said he had many proud moments as commander of YPG, but he is most proud of the teamwork that has developed throughout the proving ground while he has been the commander. He said when he assumed command, he established a vision that consisted of three objectives: working as a team, continually improving and always focusing on the warfighter.
The ceremony, which had a variety of military equipment and vehicles tested at YPG as a backdrop, also featured the music of the 28-member 36th Army Band and the firing of three field artillery pieces in an 5-gun salute, once for each year of Payne's command and three for each upcoming year of Young's Young, who holds a Ph.D in mechanical engineering from Duke University and comes to YPG from the Army Research Laboratory's Army Research Office.
“Obviously Col. Tom Payne has done a lot of fantastic things here with the organization,” Young said. “He is an outstanding soldier, outstanding officer. I really can only strive to continue to do excellent things here and carry on the legacy he brought.”
While Young said it was too early to talk about what his goals would be, he did talk about the necessity of YPG remaining adaptable as possible.
“We have to set ourselves up for success and be dynamic and maneuverable enough to accommodate whatever changes do come down. You always want to find a way to do things better at less cost. That is just the reality of living in a budget-based Department of Defense. I have no doubt we will be able to continue the excellence that Tom has started.”
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.