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NEWS | May 4, 2021

Apple tree is symbolic reminder at Army Test, Measurement, Diagnostic Equipment Activity

By Michelle L. Gordon U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command

For most people, the name Sir Isaac Newton conjures up a mental image of an apple tree, but for personnel who work at the U.S. Army Test, Measurement, and Diagnostic Equipment Activity, his name is mostly associated with the study of science.

Whether the apple actually hit Newton in the head in the summer of 1666 is debatable, but there are records of him telling the story of how he observed an apple falling to the earth — leading him to discover the law of universal gravitation.

“If there is one thing that is symbolic of the work we do at USATA, it’s that instant where Newton discovered gravity,” said Robert Branin, USATA deputy director for management and operations. “That one point in time is certainly fitting for us and the field that we are in.”

That scientific link to Newton is what led the past leadership of USATA to plant a descendant of the Newton apple tree in front of the USATA headquarters on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, in the mid-1980s. The little sapling was planted Jan. 30, 1986, and during the dedication ceremony it was supported by soil collected from each of the continents where USATA had assets.

It was there for more than 20 years, but it unfortunately died during the drought of 2008. Two year later, the USATA leadership obtained the current Newton tree descendant and planted it in observance of Arbor Day 2010. It was relocated in 2020 to expand the USATA parking lot and Branin thinks it is enjoying its new sunny spot.

USATA is responsible for developing and delivering calibration measurement accuracy to the Army. In order for the Army’s weapons systems to operate safely and effectively, they must be calibrated. While the tree in front of the headquarters building is not tall enough to sit under and ponder about new laws of science, Branin is hopeful that it will be one day. And, until it is, the little apple tree will still be a symbolic reminder of the important role science plays in USATA’s mission.

“Our work here at USATA is founded on metrology — the science of measurement,” Branin said. “The measure of voltages in the wall, resistance of resistor, a pound of beef from the deli, or a 2-pound box that you’re sending by the post office — it all depends on the science of measurement and the accuracy of measurement.”