By Mr. Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — The unit responsible for testing new and modernized Army equipment bid farewell to its commander via social media during a virtual relinquishment of command ceremony Thursday under COVID-19 pandemic conditions.
Col. Ronald R. Ragin, who commanded the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) since May 23, 2019, is stepping across Fort Hood where he will take the reins of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Friday morning.
Overall, the ceremony was vastly different than any other because of the Corona Virus.
There were no troops or color guard, or crowd of people, receiving line or reception that followed. Only a small group of the necessary people to plan the ceremony, Ragin, OTC’s three senior leaders and family appeared.
Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, ceremony host and commander of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), OTC’s higher headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, reflected on Ragin’s year in command over a video teleconference feed.
After acknowledging how OTC managed to execute 44 tests during the last year, Tyler said, “I know you are going to drive on with the great leadership of both John Diem and Fred Snyder for an interim period until the new commander arrives.”
Speaking of Ragin, Tyler said it was unique that he was the first logistician in charge of OTC.
“I was thinking about, ‘How do we sum up your year, plus at OTC?’ and — really — the word I keep coming back to is teamwork,” Tyler said. “You give me really great and candid feedback that helps me be a better commander.
“That leadership that you provide — specifically during the time of this COVID-19 pandemic — has been truly superior. You kept your people safe, you kept them ready, you kept them focused, and we greatly appreciate all the things you have done for your folks.”
When Ragin took to the podium, he thanked people name-by-name on the OTC staff and across its eight geographically-dispersed test directorates.
To applause, he told everyone the day was also his 15th Anniversary with his wife Brandie, thanking her for teaching their two pre-teen daughters Chinese, French, reading, math and science at home under pandemic conditions, saying, “You are truly the brains and genius behind the Ragin family and I love you very much.”
He spoke of families, extending thanks to everyone.
“I want to extend a very special thanks to all of our family members,” he said. “Because of your personal sacrifice and dedication, we are able to do the things that we do — especially under these pandemic conditions — this is an opportunity for us to strengthen our family bonds.”
He said there are two items important to him as a leader and commander.
“Number one is people and then number two is about winning,” he said.
“The chief of staff of the Army, General McConville talks about ‘People First,’ and ‘Winning Matters’,” he explained.
“If we get the people part of our business right, we will always be successful and I firmly believe that.”
He told everyone that when he walked into OTC as its commander, he knew nothing about operational testing.
“I really had no clue of what I was about to get into,” he said. “Now I do. I know that you are the best in the business. I know that you have all the right people,” and then he went into a thorough list of naming those people and what they do for OTC.
He said everyone adjusted quickly to his leadership style, and he appreciated all the lessons they gave him during his year in command.
He said to many, “You are amazing people. You are backed by experts in depth,” and warned he might take some workers with him as he left OTC.
“Let me give you all a round of applause,” he concluded. “In the end, people matter the most. Right now, in the midst of a struggle with an invisible enemy, some are feeling uncertainty, ambiguity, and struggle. We will win against this struggle with COVID-19. Be not fearful, be patient, be smart. We will win. Know that you are a great workforce and I was honored to be your commander.”
OTC will not receive a new commander until August.
Meanwhile, Col. Frederick R. Snyder, the unit’s current deputy commander and chief of staff, assumed command of OTC.
Mr. John W. Diem, OTC’s executive director and Fort Hood’s only flag officer-level Civilian, assumed general supervisory responsibility over operations of the organization.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC enlists the “Total Army” (Active, National Guard, and Reserve) when testing Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer - the American Soldier.