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New leader takes charge at YPG
YUMA PROVING GROUND — A changing of the guard took place Thursday morning at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground, as a new commander was welcomed, and farewells were given to the installation's former leader.
During a change of command ceremony held on the installation's Cox Field, Col. John Bullington transferred command of YPG for the next three years to 23-year Army veteran Col. Thomas Payne.
"It's always sad when the day comes, but I have enjoyed the three years I have been commander of YPG," Bullington said after the ceremony. "YPG and the local community got very lucky with the individual selected to come to YPG and you have only good things to look forward to. I can attest that you're getting a wonderful commander in Col. Tom Payne. Tom is the best of the best."
The Change of Command ceremony is a time-honored tradition which formally symbolizes the continuity of authority as the command is passed from one individual to another. It is a formal ceremony which is conducted before the the assembled company of the command.
Bullington, who took charge of the post in 2006 from outgoing commander Col. Stephen Kreider, is retiring from the U.S. Army and moving to Phoenix.
"I've spent 30 years in the Army. I've done this since I was a teenager. The time is right." Bullington said. "I'm very proud of what I have accomplished. The Army is a very rewarding career. It is very humbling. You realize that what you do...the sacrifices you make for other soldiers and service members is significant."
Bullington added, "What we do is in defense of our nation. To me, who could ask for a better job then that. I love the Army. I've always loved the Army. The Army is part of my blood and will be till the day I die."
James B. Johnson, director of the Development Test Command (DTC), which oversees the installation, presided over the transfer of leadership, while YPG's Cmd. Sgt. Major Forbes Daniels, oversaw the exchange of the installation's flag.
Calling him a consummate soldier, Johnson praised Bullington for the accomplishments that he has made at the installation during his command, such as the increasing the workload by 35 percent, while at the same time increasing personnel by 25 percent, and expanding the Joint Experimental Range Complex (JERC) 1 and adding JERC 2 nd JERC 3.
"John you will be greatly missed," Johnson said. "Your vision, selfless service and leadership exemplify the highest ideal of service to the nation, to the Army and to the DTC."
Other accomplishments made during Bullington's tenure of command included increasing the number of test hours from 1.7 million when he started, to 2.3 million as of last year. On any given day, up to 150 tests were being conducted at YPG.
Bullington said he had many proud moments as commander of YPG, including partnering with GM to build a $100 million hot weather testing facility at the base, which will allow YPG to test its military vehicles at a high rate of speed on the company's paved tracks.
"I'm going to take away a lot of pride with what the YPG workforce has accomplished in testing our military hardware and equipment in support of our warfighters who are out there...our sons and daughters," Bullington said. "I'm really proud of the can-do attitude of the people here at YPG."
The ceremony, which had a variety of military equipment and vehicles as a backdrop, also featured the music of the 62nd Army band from Fort Bliss Texas and the firing of three field artillery pieces in an 6-gun salute.
The artillery pieces fired six shots, three for each year of Bullington's command, and three for the next three years of Payne's command.
Johnson, in welcoming Payne, said he was the ideal officer to lead YPG in the coming years and into the future.
"Col. Payne you are the right man, at the right time, to take command of Yuma Proving Ground," Johnson said. "You have fantastic credentials. You have diverse leadership experience and I know you will put all that to work here and get things done. You have my full confidence."
In response Payne stated, "You have presented me with a great opportunity here at YPG, and I thank you for your confidence and will not let you down."
He added, "I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the tremendous support I receive everyday from my family. Girls you are my heroes, and I love you."
Following the ceremony Payne said in the short time he has been at YPG, he has already recognized the quality workforce it has.
"I'm only now getting a real appreciation for the magnitude of the testing that is done here," Payne said. "My watchword is going to be one team, one YPG and I'm going to keep building on that."
As part of the ceremony, Bullington's wife, Brenda, was presented red roses, which signified her as the First Lady of YPG while Payne's wife and daughters were presented with a bouquet of yellow roses.