Dugway Proving Ground greets new commander
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Dugway Proving Ground • In a traditionally formal ritual, Col. Ronald F. Fizer on Monday replaced Col. Allen Scott Estes as commander of the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah's West Desert.

The proving ground is part of the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) with a primary mission of testing chemical and biological defense systems of the United States and its allies. It also tests nuclear-, biological- and chemical-contamination survivability of defense materiel in state-of-the-art laboratories, chambers and extensive field grid tests, according to the event program.

It's also a highly secret facility dedicated to chemical and biological development, testing and training, said Maj. Gen. Genaro J. Dellarocco, who commands the ATEC.

"Dugway is a well-run operation, including leaders, followers and professionals," Dellarocco said. "We could talk about [Estes] so much, but then I'd have to shoot [him]," he joked.

Estes, a career officer, has been the proving grounds since 2011. He said his reassignment "wraps up the fastest two years of my life." His next assignment is as a student of the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Estes thanked his wife, Donna, saying "you got your wish. I'm fired."

The next several days will be spent in the cab of a pickup truck, he told her, "just you, me and a panting, grunting Labrador Retriever" named Rocky.

Fizer previously was assigned to the Joint Staff , serving in the J5 Strategic Plans and Policy section as the chief of the Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction Division.

"A patriot is someone who stands for something important," he said. "Dugway is like that. [People] wearing uniforms, ties and just showing up to get the job done."

pegmcentee@sltrib.com