POSITION: Contingency Contracting Officer
UNIT: Mission and Installation Contracting Command, 900th Contingency Contracting Battalion, 419th Contracting Support Brigade
TOTAL YEARS OF ARMY SERVICE: 22
AWARDS: Meritorious Service Medal (4); Joint Service Commendation Medal (2); Army Commendation Medal (4); Army Achievement Medal (5)
EDUCATION: M.A. in human resource management, Webster University; B.S. in criminal justice, Cameron University
Combining stateside work with field experience
By Susan L. Follett
Contingency contracting requires its people to go where the action is, and as a contingency contracting officer, Maj. Mark Corn has spent a lot of time in the field, strengthening his skills during field exercises in Germany and a deployment to Djibouti. But, in looking at his career over the long term, he knows he’ll need to balance offsite work with stateside posts.
Corn is the team leader for the 717th Contingency Contracting Team (CCT) and contracting officer for the 900th Contingency Contracting Battalion (CCBn) Pre-Award Division.
“Contingency contracting is dramatically different from what I do stateside: a lot of the regulations that apply here, like those related to working with small businesses, don’t apply overseas. And it’s definitely exciting to go to different parts of the world,” said Corn. “But I’ve learned a lot of the processes and the regulations here in garrison. I am working on improving my knowledge and experience in stateside contracting so I can be a well-rounded contracting officer.”
He added, “My biggest challenge is returning from a year and a half of being on battalion and brigade staffs and starting to do contracting again. I’ve recently finished my first overseas contracting assignment, and I’m learning the small business side of the house as well. I have a great contracting officer (KO) in Linda McLean and a great division chief in Virginia Roberts to guide me along, and I’m also getting great help from the other great KOs, peers and Soldiers in the 900th who are getting me up to speed.”
FOTF: What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved?
CORN: I planned, coordinated and executed 903rd CCBn’s first-ever battalion field training exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Center, Germany, in March 2013 with a limited planning timeline and severe fiscal restrictions. The exercise allowed our Soldiers to deploy into another theater, establish regional contracting offices and work through authentic contingency contracting scenarios, resulting in a trained and ready contingency contracting force able to deploy within 48-96 hours’ notice and provide operational contract support capability for any future joint task force mission.
During the exercise, we assessed each team’s ability to set up its own tent and generator, establish a connection with the broadband global area network, and establish a contracting office. We used contracting scenarios from the Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise to improve teamwork and develop contingency capabilities within the CCTs and battalion, and coordinated for use of Army Sustainment Command’s flyaway communications package, the SIPR NIPR Access Point system, to provide a means to transmit both classified and unclassified information while in the field.
FOTF: What were the challenges you faced in that exercise?
CORN: The biggest challenge at the time was funding. We started planning in early 2013, which was when we started feeling the pinch of what turned out to be sequestration later in the year. We received no funding to support the exercise directly, so we had to get a little creative. In the end, what it really turned out to be was getting back to the basics. We used [our government vehicles] for travel, we stayed in the training barracks, and we took each Soldier’s basic allowance for sustenance during the exercise and ate at the dining facility. Some Soldiers were unhappy with that arrangement, but I think we’ve forgotten how to go to the field. Our Soldiers now are so used to going TDY that some think that you go TDY everywhere, including the field, and still get a per diem allowance.
FOTF: What are your other memorable deployments?
CORN: I deployed to Djibouti in 2011 for seven months as the Ugandan Country Desk Officer in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn Of Africa, providing life support, mil-to-mil and humanitarian assistance contract support to Forward Operating Location Kasenyi, the Ugandan Peoples’ Defense Forces and Special Operations Command Africa. Performing contingency contracting there was great. It gave me a chance to work in a contracting office with Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps contracting personnel and to learn from them as well. It also gave me the opportunity to do site visits and conduct vendor day conferences to educate local vendors on how to do business with the U.S. government.
FOTF: Why did you originally join the Army?
CORN: To give back to my country and do my part. [When I joined] I had a cousin in the Marine Corps and a nephew in the Army, so I just followed their example. A friend and I enrolled in the Delayed Entry Program together and waited to join until we graduated from high school. We left for basic training two days after graduation, and the Army is all I’ve known since then. Funny story: Somehow, my friend got credit for me joining the Army and came in as a PV2 while I came in as a private, so he ended up out-ranking me and making more money than I did for the first six months. He retired two years ago as a master sergeant while I eventually became an officer, so I guess I got the last laugh.
FOTF: What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the acquisition workforce?
CORN: Being able to make a difference in the lives of the Soldiers that we support each and every day. It’s gratifying to see a Soldier use something that you contracted for them and to see the contracting process from cradle to grave. There’s absolutely nothing like it anywhere else in the Army.
- “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.
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