By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs
WEST FORT HOOD (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas — A Lampasas, Texas resident was honored as the latest inductee to the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s (OTC) Operational Testers’ Hall of Fame (HOF) in ceremonies here Tuesday.
During the 26th annual event, William Ralph (Bill) Fesler entered the HOF as the program’s 41st inductee.
“Bill took on some of this command’s toughest tests while assigned to our command,” said John W. Diem, OTC’s Executive Director.
“His deep understanding of what it means to be an operational tester, alone and unafraid at some site somewhere across the world — he mentored new test officers, he counseled them, and he helped them as they planned and prepared for tests and gave them the benefit of his experiences.”
The 76-year-old Amarillo, Texas native enlisted in the Army after his 1962 graduation from Dumas High School in Dumas, Texas, serving first as an Airborne Parachute Rigger, then as an Infantry Officer, then as an Army Aviator with two tours in Vietnam, and retiring as a Logistics lieutenant colonel at OTC’s Personnel and Logistics Directorate 29 years later.
He began his 21 years at OTC — known at the time as TCATA, or the TRADOC Combined Arms Test Activity — after only a seven-day break from Army retirement.
Since retiring from OTC July 2013, Fesler and his wife Theresa — his First Sergeant’s daughter in the first unit he was assigned — have been spending time traveling around the country in a recreational vehicle.
Fesler was astonished when he first heard of the honor.
“I can’t even think about how great it is and of what an honor it is to be associated with people that I worked with like Art Woods, Phil Riley, and Gayle Shull,” he said. “It is a great, great honor for me to even be considered.”
Woods, Riley and Shull are also HOF inductees from the years 2007, 2015 and 2017, respectively.
“There had to be a lot of other people considered,” he added. “It wasn’t a one-person deal. It was a team effort and I have to give credit for my success to the people who worked with and for me.”
Fesler is distinguished as the first logistician to enter the HOF.
He served in several capacities within OTC Logistics as Test Support Officer, Division Chief, Deputy Director and as acting Director.
He said just about every single test has to have contract support, government furnished equipment, transportation, housing for Soldiers, and the right amount of equipment at the right time.
The test Fesler remembers most is the Command and Control Vehicle, conducted at Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos) during April, 2000, which he described as a Bradley-type vehicle.
“That was one of the few tests we ran that didn’t end up being used by the Army,” he said. “It failed.”
Bill’s adult children Tammy, Deborah, Sherri and Randy, grandkids and a host of friends, family and former colleagues all joined together from across the nation for the celebration. Some traveled from as far away as Minnesota, Georgia, and Alabama.
Attending the ceremony were three former OTC Commanders: Lt. Gen. (Retired) David D. Halverson (July 2004 to Jan. 2005); Brig. Gen. (Retired) Donald MacWillie (July 2009 to July 2011); and III Corps and Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos) Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper (Aug. 2015 to July 2016).
The Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class in October 1994, has served to honor Soldiers and Civilians for their commitment to putting the best possible equipment and systems into the hands of Soldiers in both training and combat conditions.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas is celebrating “50 Years of Operational Testing,” which began Oct. 1, 1969. The unit 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.