• Contracting Experts Help Build Future Acquisition Leaders

    Daniel P. Elkins

    SFC Phil Charles, assigned to the 714th Contingency Contracting Team at Scott Air Force Base (AFB), IL, and Isaac Thorp, a KO with the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, discuss contracting actions Jan. 30 at Fort Bliss, TX, as part of the two-week readiness exercise Joint Dawn 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Daniel P. Elkins, MICC Public Affairs.)

    Uniformed contracting officers (KOs), training at the U.S. Army Contracting Command (AAC) pre-deployment readiness exercise Joint Dawn 2012,  benefited from a growing role by civilian contracting professionals.

    The exercise, conducted Jan. 19-Feb. 3 at Fort Bliss, TX, is designed to develop the Soldier acquisition skills necessary to meet mission needs in a Joint environment downrange, in a ramp-up to a deployment supporting the U.S. Central Command. Of the more than 250 participants in the exercise, 45 members from throughout the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) worked alongside their counterparts from the U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC) and sister services in roles ranging from leadership positions to mentors and policy experts.

    The teaming of civilian and uniformed acquisition personnel to improve this training illustrates the growing importance of integration efforts underway across MICC and ECC units.

    “As we bring Soldiers more and more in contracting operations, it’s essential that we integrate them with our civilian professionals who have grown up in contracting,” said BG Joe Bass, ECC Commanding General. “Because these Soldiers will be asked to be contracting leaders when they go downrange, it’s imperative that we all remain mindful that we’re training future commanders.”

    Expanded Integration 

    Joint Dawn, in its third year, prepares a growing number of uniformed KOs for deployment. In 2010, 34 KOs were trained at Fort Riley, KS. That number jumped dramatically in 2011 to 115 who trained at Fort Campbell, KY; at the same time, the exercise expanded the use of civilian contracting professionals as mentors. This year’s exercise includes 159 KOs in training.

    Robert Ash, a procurement analyst at MICC’s Mission Contracting Office Fort Eustis, VA, who served as a mentor during Joint Dawn, reviewed participants’ contract files for improvement.   “This training is vital since many of us have different perspectives. Not only will it provide us a little better understanding, but it can also incorporate that into our training back home. If I can understand [military counterparts] better, I can train them better.”

    According to Daryl Hughes, a fellow mentor and contract administrator at the Mission Contracting Office Fort Knox, KY, the operational tempo that trainees experienced during Joint Dawn in developing their basic contracting skills will prove valuable both at war and in garrison.

    “The number of requirements is what makes it a little more realistic, particularly if they get to the end of a fiscal year,” said Hughes, who provided guidance in a simulated regional contracting center. “It’s not only helpful during a deployment, but when they come back stateside.”

    For some MICC participants, the readiness training provided a more accurate understanding of training needs for Soldiers already integrated at MICC subordinate units.

    U.S. Army Contracting Command employees participate in Joint Dawn 2012 engagement skills training, including weapons simulation, sustainment marksmanship, and shoot/don’t shoot training. (U.S. Army photo.)

    “Since it’s our responsibility to make sure the 51Cs [contracting NCOs] are properly trained and learning simple acquisitions and some more complex acquisitions, we get to see a realistic combat environment and can help prepare them for their deployment,” said Cathy Bella, the MICC Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting from Fort Sam Houston, TX, who served as a policy adviser. “Without the exercise, we just don’t have that visual picture of what they’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”

    Joint Dawn also served as a measuring stick for training already underway for Soldiers in the MICC. MAJ Thomas Goerling, who was in charge of leading one of the 16 simulated regional contracting centers, believes the exercise was an excellent opportunity for military members to further build upon their contingency skills and gain some “semblance of critical knowledge” before deploying as a KO.

    “A lot of trainees have deployed in their basic branch or in a non-contracting job. While we may have deployment experience and be familiar with the field environment, very few of us have deployed as a contracting officer before,” Goerling said.

    Goerling, who supports contracting functions for both contingency contracting teams and a MICC installation KO from Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, agreed that the integration of civilians and other military services creates a more realistic training scenario.

    “When overseas, you’re going to be working with these same people. So to have that cross-reference and knowledge working with the other services and civilians is critical,” he said. “Civilians have institutional and historical knowledge; they do contracting as their Army career path, so they generally have more years of experience. And in this particular career field, experience is everything.”.

    Joint Approach 

    Joint Dawn 2012 consists of five phases and kicked off at the end of the 2011 exercise. The 904th Contingency Contracting Battalion at Fort Irwin, CA, led the first phase which included an initial planning conference, site visit, and establishment of working groups. It was during this planning phase that officials sought to replicate a more realistic Joint scenario by incorporating previous lessons learned and seeking the involvement of KOs from the U.S. Army Reserve, Army National Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve, and the U.S. Air Force.

    “In the end, we want contracting officers who are confident in their ability to survive on the battlefield, capable of using theater specific tools and authorities, and ready to excel with confidence in a joint contingency environment to support the warfighter.”

    In the second phase, the main body of participants arrived for warrior task training to prepare KOs and some civilian employees for the physical rigors and dangers of deployment. This entailed weapons familiarization and qualification, survival training in the event of an attack on an armored vehicle, convoy operations training, and medical skills training for varying degrees of bodily injury.

    “You can only replicate so much, but it’s very realistic. Everything we went through [represented] very key skills that could either save your life or save your battle buddy’s life,” said Goerling.

    Participants then moved into the classroom for the third phase to gain theater-specific training. Trainees covered such topics as ethics, procurement fraud, media relations, paperless contract files, finance procedures, and policy.

    The fourth phase involved the application of learned skills from the classroom in an operational environment. MICC civilian employees and their uniformed counterparts were divided into 16 simulated joint regional contracting centers of approximately 10 KOs each to conduct a full range of contracting actions that are typical in a forward location.

    The fifth and final phase involved a post-exercise evaluation that captured lessons learned for future exercises, as well as an awards ceremony.

    The Takeaway 

    Although Joint Dawn was compact, uniformed KOs left with a greater assurance in executing their acquisition missions.

    “In the end, we want contracting officers who are confident in their ability to survive on the battlefield, capable of using theater specific tools and authorities, and ready to excel with confidence in a joint contingency environment to support the warfighter,” said COL Jeff Morris, Commander of the 412th Contracting Support Brigade, Fort Sam Houston, TX, who ran this year’s readiness exercise.

    “Every action, every type of contract, every scenario is something that we will likely run into but not necessarily in six days,” Goerling said. “If you’ve seen it before, then you have a better chance of dealing with it when happens for real.”

    ANNUAL PRE-DEPLOYMENT EXERCISE ATTRACTS JOINT PARTICIPATION 

    David San Miguel

    “The simulations were real; the sounds were real. I left there feeling that I could actually save someone’s life,” said CPT Gina Ferguson, 634th Contingency Contracting Team, Fort Riley, KS, of the training she received during the Joint Dawn 2012 exercise at Fort Bliss, TX, Jan. 19-Feb 3.

    Ferguson is among more than 250 military and civilian contracting officers who participated in the U.S. Army Contracting Command (AAC) pre-deployment joint readiness exercise.

    Joint Dawn 2012 practice convoy operations use the Close Combat Tactical Trainer’s Reconfigurable Vehicle Simulator. This training provides a realistic reconnaissance or convoy environment featuring a three-dimensional view and accurate weapon systems. (U.S. Army photo.)

    The exercise is designed to enhance the ECC’s mission of providing contracting support to Army and other DoD organizations operating OCONUS, said COL Jeff Morris, Commander of the 412th Contracting Support Brigade at Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, TX, part of the Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC).

    Now in its third iteration, Joint Dawn has expanded to include participation by military and civilian contracting officers from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.

    Including the other services more fully exposes participants to how they will operate in a joint contingency environment to support the warfighter, Morris said. “This is a pre-deployment exercise geared toward deployment into the CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] theater of operations working with the CENTCOM Contracting Command,” he explained.

    In addition, the exercise includes combat engagement skills training; Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, vehicle rollover egress; tactical combat casualty care; weapon systems familiarization; and virtual battle-space simulation. Other scenarios challenge participants to ensure their technical proficiency to execute their contracting mission. This includes purchase requests and commitments, closeout actions, commander’s critical information requirements; contracting ethics issues; and simulated confrontations with disgruntled customers.

    CDR Michael Curran from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Acquisition and Procurement, added that this was the first time the Navy was invited to participate.

    “The Navy and Army have very different cultures,” he said. “This exercise is a great opportunity to train and learn how the Army conducts its contracting business to ensure that the warfighter is getting the best that we can provide.”

    Ferguson agreed. “It starts building teamwork here and gives us the confidence we need to go into theater and to work with someone we’re not normally familiar working with,” she said.


    • DANIEL P. ELKINS is Deputy Director of Public Affairs for MICC. He has served more than 23 years in support of public affairs for the Army and the Air Force. Elkins holds a B.S. in communications from Louisiana Tech University and an M.A. in communications from St. Mary’s University.
    • DAVID SAN MIGUEL is a Writer/Editor for the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL. An award-winning military journalist, he retired from the Army Reserve in 2005. Sam Miguel has attended multiple universities and colleges, including the University of Maryland, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Jacksonville State University, Cochise College, and Emory College.

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  • AbilityOne Partnerships a ‘Good Fit’ for Army Contracting

    David San Miguel

    The U.S. Army Contracting Command facilitates agreements with AbilityOne and other organizations supporting those with disabilities to provide work for people with disabilities. Here, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB) employee Henry Martinez describes his job to SGT Harlowe Allen at the SALB during a visit from 40 U.S. Army South NCOs in June 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Robert Ramon.)

    One needs only to read the headlines, listen to the radio, or watch the evening news to learn that the unemployment rate is high and that thousands of people are without jobs.

    The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor statistics reports that the Nation’s unemployment rate for November stood at 8.6 percent—meaning an estimated 13.3 million Americans are without work.

    Employment can prove even more challenging for disabled people, said Deborah A. Ault, Chief, Contracts Division, Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Fort Knox, KY. Ault was recognized in March as an AbilityOne Champion by NISH, formerly the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped. According to AbilityOne Program statistics, unemployment for individuals with disabilities is at an “alarmingly high rate of 70 percent.”

    The AbilityOne Program is a federal initiative that works with public and private organizations to generate employment for those who are blind or have other disabilities. It employs more than 47,000 disabled individuals, including more than 3,300 wounded veterans, at more than 600 community-based nonprofit agencies across the country.

    But the unemployment rate is just one reason that U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) is reaching out to contracting officers in the field to encourage them to do business with AbilityOne organizations. “It’s a good fit for the Army Contracting Command,” Ault said. “Contracts awarded under the program provide good job opportunities for people with disabilities, specifically disabled veterans. Once a service or supply is added to the procurement list, a long-term relationship is formed that should continually improve services over time and decrease procurement lead time.”

    Carol E. Lowman, ACC Executive Director, agreed. In September, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled.

    An avid supporter of the AbilityOne Program, Lowman does what she can to facilitate and encourage AbilityOne contracts. But, she added, “It’s the contracting officers in the field who do the work to support the program.”

    Contracts awarded under the program provide good job opportunities for people with disabilities, specifically disabled veterans. Once a service or supply is added to the procurement list, a long-term relationship is formed that should continually improve services over time and decrease procurement lead time.

    Partnerships between ACC and AbilityOne have extended to ACC-Rock Island, IL, where six legally blind individuals have been employed to help close out more than 120,000 contract files from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The workers came from the Chicago Lighthouse for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired, a 105-year-old nonprofit social service agency.

    Success stories like those found at Rock Island help educate the public about the variety of disabilities and how individuals with these disabilities can still contribute.

    “The biggest challenge is with the customer,” Ault explained. “Customers are concerned that people with disabilities cannot perform certain functions or that quality of service will decline. This is typically overcome by educating the customer about the variety of conditions that constitute disability, both cognitive and physical, and sharing contract success stories.”

    Lowman recalls an AbilityOne employee who was cleaning her office, and whose hours were being reduced as a result of budget cuts.

    “I asked him how he felt about his hours being cut,” she said. “He responded by telling me he didn’t mind because he knew that the money he would have made would be going to support the Soldier. He knew that he, too, was serving his country. That’s what this program is all about, and I am proud to support it.”

    “Support of the AbilityOne Program is the easiest part of my job as a contracting officer,” Ault added. “Knowing that as a result of my contracting efforts, people with severe disabilities will have job opportunities makes that support easy to give. It’s a win-win program.”


    • DAVID SAN MIGUEL is an award-winning Army journalist assigned to the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, where he serves as the Editor/Writer of the command’s weekly newsletter.

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  • For Contingency Contracting Officers, Humanitarian Relief Efforts in Pakistan Yield Valuable Lessons

    MAJ Scott L. McKee and MAJ Ryan E. Ocampo

    Contingency contracting officers (CCOs) are supporting American fighting forces worldwide while simultaneously providing global humanitarian assistance relief, as evident in their mission assisting flood victims in Pakistan.

    Tasked with command and control (C2) of DOD’s contracting role in last summer’s Pakistan relief efforts, the Office of Defense Representative-Pakistan (ODR-P) developed a plan to create life-support areas at and move supplies through Pano Aqil, Ghazi, and Chaklala airfields. All relief efforts are led by Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. In lieu of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program or the Defense Logistics Agency, a combination of government-furnished property and direct contracting was used.

    By mid-August, the 408th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB), Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, deployed two CCOs from Kuwait to Pakistan within 96 hours of notification of request for aid. MAJ Reese Hauenstein and MAJ Ron Blanch augmented ODR-P’s sole supporting CCO on the ground, MAJ Dave Ware.

    MAJ Reese Hauenstein, 408th CSB, works with a local national to obtain services during humanitarian relief efforts in Pakistan. (U.S. Army photo by MAJ Scott L. McKee.)

    The Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC), Fort Belvoir, VA, and its 412th CSB, Fort Sam Houston, TX, directed the 905th Contingency Contracting Battalion (CCB), Fort Bragg, NC, to deploy to Pakistan and provide C2 assistance to the CCOs in Pakistan. This was the ECC’s first battalion headquarters to deploy OCONUS.

    The 905th requested a specific mix of officers, noncommissioned officers, and civilians with unique talents to create a C2 package designed to provide oversight to contract operations.

    Team Member Duties

    LTC Dennis M. McGowan, Regional Contracting Center Chief, provided C2 supervision for contract operations, prepared the risk assessment, and provided contracting specific mentorship to CCOs on the ground in Pakistan. He coordinated staff actions in the absence of an executive officer.

    SFC Larry W. Metcalf, Senior Enlisted Advisor, was the personnel officer, logistics officer, and information technology (IT) officer, establishing secured and unsecured Internet access and accounts for team members and ensuring international communications. “Leadership drives the OPTEMPO [operational tempo] and morale of the office,” Metcalf said. “It also serves as the foundation of having a can-do attitude no matter the contracting experience.”

    MAJ Scott L. McKee was the Operations Officer responsible for planning, leading mission analysis, preparing all operations orders and fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), and managing the synchronization matrix in conjunction with tracking internal and external taskings.

    MAJ Ryan E. Ocampo was the Liaison Officer, vital to operational network and knowledge management. Ocampo integrated with higher-level staff elements to transmit accurate and consistent information for the commander to retain a common operating picture.

    To achieve this, Ocampo conducted staff visits with the U.S. Army Central Command logistics and resource management officers and attended the daily battle update brief. In addition, he developed a strategic communications plan, informing the contracting office’s customers—ODR-P and the U.S. Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT)—as well as other key decision makers on the what, how, and why of the contingency contracting humanitarian assistance support.

    As the 905th synchronized efforts, clear lines of communication internal to ECC and with external staff elements were critical to managing daily information and strategic communications.

    Knowledge of the Military Decision Making Process was vital to the team’s successful integration into CENTCOM and ARCENT’s planning process. It allowed the customer to be educated in contract support, which helped the execution of contracts to flow.

    Michael L. Shipman was the Quality Assurance Specialist, a role critical to the 905th and, more importantly, to the contingency contracting team supporting Pakistan humanitarian assistance providers. He also provided assistance to units developing Performance Work Statements and Quality Assurance Surveillance Plans for all service contracts. “The key role for a quality assurance specialist is to mitigate risk by clearly defining contract requirements during [the] preaward [phase] and conducting contractor surveillance, either directly or through Contracting Control Management,” Shipman said.

    Once on the ground at Camp Arifjan, the 905th immediately received guidance from the 408th CSB, and they began their mission analysis and developed a course of action.

    An Executable Plan

    With roles and responsibilities clearly defined at the onset of the mission, the team developed the commander’s guidance and intent into an executable plan. This became important when the Pakistani government stopped issuing humanitarian assistance visa waivers and the 905th’s mission changed from onsite C2 in Pakistan to remote C2 from Kuwait.

    With the 905th integrated into the 408th and the ARCENT staffs, the team implemented the Military Decision Making Process, developed additional courses of action, sought command approval to adjust the decision, and issued a FRAGO to conduct C2 of Kuwait contract operations. During the process, the 905th identified the need to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) specifically for use in Pakistan.

    The 905th established the needed SOPs for field ordering officer, reachback support, file management, contract close-out, contract action report processing (not possible in Pakistan because of information technology issues), customer handbook, and contracting officer’s representative management. The additional contracting tools required were:

    • Statement of Work and Performance of Work Statements development tool.
    • Service tracking contracting tool.
    • Vendor database.
    • Past performance tracking tool.
    • Simple acquisition plan to document the rationale behind decisions made during the contracting process.
    • Formal risk assessment.

    The Army Contracting Command-Kuwait contracting office’s SOPs and acquisition instruction from the 408th served as the foundation for the SOPs. Existing tools from the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Integration Office and previous deployments served as the basis for these tools.

    As the 905th synchronized efforts, clear lines of communication internal to ECC and with external staff elements were critical to managing daily information and strategic communications. Stakeholder analysis identified the key messages and the communication channel for each stakeholder. This was possible because of integration with and understanding the CCOs’ information needs in Pakistan, key ARCENT staff sections, the 408th commander, and ECC headquarters.

    A specifically crafted situational report and weekly telephone conference format ensured a common operating picture among the operational CCOs, the 905th, the 408th, and ECC. Situation reports and teleconferences occurred in a regular and predictable manner.

    By defining each team member’s roles and responsibilities, the team developed a battle rhythm, managed information, and synchronized events early in the deployment.  ARCENT update briefings were also part of the battle rhythm. The liaison officer provided critical information regarding threat analysis and weather updates.

    The effectiveness of an operation or system is measured in many ways, and customer satisfaction is one such measure. In this case, the C2 customer was the CCO on the ground in Pakistan. “As the staff grew in Kuwait, the C2 of the operation started to transform to a well-organized element,” Ware said. “In the end, the C2 provided by the 905th CCB was highly successful.”


    • MAJ SCOTT L. MCKEE, a 51C CCO, is the Team Leader for the 611th Contingency Contracting Team, Fort Stewart, GA. He holds a B.S. in agricultural economics from the University of Tennessee. McKee is certified Level III in contracting and is a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.
    • MAJ RYAN E. OCAMPO, a 51C CCO, is the S3/Operations Officer for the 904th CCB at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA. He received his commission from New Mexico Military Institute and holds a B.S. in business administration from California State University at San Marcos. He is certified Level II in contracting.

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  • U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Conference Draws Small Businesses Looking for Big Contracts

    Jill Lauterborn

    Business isn’t for the fainthearted. Consider the small business owner, who must shepherd a company through the entrepreneurial days of sweat equity to build a brand and experience sustainable growth. Challenges are myriad, and the turbulent economy requires an extra measure of resilience.

    Networking is critical for those seeking an edge. It’s no surprise, then, that 220 attendees and 40 exhibitors joined the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) for its Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry and Small Business Conference in Hagerstown, MD, eager to learn of opportunities and meet subcommand leaders. Their hope was to turn a stack of business cards into profitable contracts.

    COL Russell Coleman, Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Agency, greets Emily Shaw of All-Shred Inc., a Frederick, MD, a mobile document destruction company, at USAMRMC’s Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry and Small Business Conference in Hagerstown, MD, April 26. (U.S. Army photo by Jill Lauterborn.)

    Jerome Maultsby, organizer of the inaugural April 26 conference and Associate Director of the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) at USAMRMC, said, “Our goal was to help [business firms] become better acquainted with our mission requirements … while gaining a better sense of what’s on the horizon in terms of current and future procurements.”

    The OSBP forges business-government alliances and equips small businesses to compete for procurements. The office supports firms that provide relevant products, services, and solutions in research, acquisition, logistics, and technology that benefit the Nation’s warfighter.

    USAMRMC, the Army’s medical materiel developer, is responsible for medical research, development, and acquisition, as well as medical logistics management. It’s a major contributor to the overall Army Small Business Program, with 24 percent of its $2 billion budget going to affiliated contractors. The U.S. Army Medical Command alone spends roughly half of its budget on small firms. Small businesses are the beneficiaries of much of this spending.

    Winning a coveted contract can be a complex, bewildering experience, and the conference helped to demystify the process. It drew local and regional prime contractors and subcontractors, both seasoned and novice business firms. The day’s agenda centered on 20-minute project overviews from USAMRMC program managers and commanders, who reviewed the multifaceted program requirements with attendees.

    Developing Better Business

    MG James K. Gilman, Commanding General of USAMRMC and Fort Detrick, MD, urged attendees to put their best foot forward. “This conference is all about fostering competition. When you compete for our business, we win. And you win, too, because you develop a better business.”

    Christine Demas, Director of the Fort Detrick Business Development Office (FDBDO), encouraged prospective contractors to work closely with FDBDO as they develop their proposals. “We want you to be able to come to the table with everyone else and compete,” she said.

    FDBDO advises companies on all facets of doing business with Fort Detrick. “We offer training, from programs on federal contracting for beginners to teaming,” Demas explained. “We moved this year to webinars … you can attend our class from your desk over lunch.”

    COL Russell Coleman, Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, emphasized the importance of niche businesses: “The government does not build a single thing. We do it by relying on the commercial world, the business world. The challenge is making the right connection … and you have to do a good job selling what you have to offer.”

    Exhibitor Dave Lucas, co-owner of Convergent Solution Inc., demonstrates Cyber-Anatomy 3D simulation software at USAMRMC’s Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry and Small Business Conference in Hagerstown, MD, April 26. (U.S. Army photo by Jill Lauterborn.)

    The conference provided such an opportunity to exhibitors Sheila and Dave Lucas, co-owners of Convergent Solution Inc. The Lakewood, CO, company sells an array of simulation software for interactive training in the medical and other fields.

    “I’ve been trying to network into USUHS [the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences] since last June,” said Sheila Lucas. “COL [Judith D.] Robinson [Fort Detrick Garrison Commander] came over early in the morning, looked at our Cyber-Anatomy system and said, ‘Here’s the name of a key decision maker at the SimCenter [National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center].’ ”

    A hopeful smile spread across Lucas’ face. “All we need are a few good contacts. All we need is to connect with a few key decision makers.”

    Richard Smerbeck, Business Acceleration Manager for Dawnbreaker Inc., a Rochester, NY, company that helps commercialize small, high-technology businesses, was pleased with the high rank and level of the presenters. “It isn’t often you have the opportunity to meet so many decision makers in one place,” Smerbeck said. “I was even more impressed by [their] approachability. I wish more meetings were structured like this one.”

    Smerbeck, an old hand at procurement, counseled newcomers to contracting to stay the course.
    “Persistence and patience are very important, especially when you are starting out,” said Smerbeck. “You need to get your name and your services in front of purchasers and decision makers. Take the time to learn from others who are successful in gaining contracts. There’s a lot of assistance available. Submit white papers, respond to RFIs [Request for Information] and RFPs [Request for Proposal]. Always request a debrief on any proposal—successful or unsuccessful. Your diligence will pay off.”

    For more information, please visit http://www.mrmc.smallbusopps.army.mil/ and http://www.fdbdo.com/


    • JILL LAUTERBORN is a writer for USAMRMC. She has nearly two decades of editing and writing experience.

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  • Army Contracting Command Announces Annual Award Winners

    The U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) has selected 24 individuals and six teams as recipients of this year’s ACC annual contracting awards. Jeffrey P. Parsons, ACC Executive Director, presented the awards at a formal ceremony May 17 in Huntsville, AL.

    ACC Executive Director Jeffrey P. Parsons (second from the left) presents JoDeen Cuffe, MICC, Fort Knox, KY, with the ACC's Small Business Champion Award. Joining Parsons and Cuffee are LTG Dennis Via, U.S. Army Materiel Command Deputy Commanding General (left), and BG Stephen B. Leisenring, MICC Commander (far right).

    “It’s an honor for me to recognize the recipients for their hard work and dedication,” Parsons said. “These contracting professionals exemplify the best of this command and are the type of individuals others can aspire to become.”

    The awards are presented for excellence in acquisition, contracting, and small business. Those selected were recognized for their outstanding achievements between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010. A panel of representatives from ACC, Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC), Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC), and the ACC Contracting Centers reviewed more than 100 nominations before making the selections.

    This year, MICC teams and employees received seven awards; personnel and teams from the Army Contracting Centers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, and Rock Island Arsenal, IL, received six awards each; ECC personnel and teams received four awards; personnel and teams from the Army Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL, received three; and personnel and teams from the Army Contracting Centers at Warren, MI, and Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, each received two awards.

    The recipients are:

    Outstanding Procurement Analyst (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    Sherrill King, Installation Contracting Office, Fort Jackson, SC, MICC

    Outstanding Contracting Officer (Major Weapon Systems)
    Marianne Shuster, ACC—Picatinny

    Outstanding Contract Specialist (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    Martha Livsey, Installation Contracting Office, Fort Sill, OK, MICC

    Outstanding Contract Specialist (Major Weapon Systems)
    Harmony Hunsanger, ACC—Warren

    Outstanding Contingency Contracting Officer (Noncommissioned Officer)
    MSG Sandra C. Williams, 409th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB), Kaiserslautern, Germany, ECC

    Outstanding Contingency Contracting Officer (Officer)
    MAJ Stephen R. Tautkus, 409th CSB, Kaiserslautern, Germany, ECC

    Outstanding Active Duty Military Officer (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    LTC Jeffery Phillips, 901st CSB, Fort Hood, TX, ECC

    ACC Excellence in Acquisition Leadership (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    Installation Contracting Office, Fort Campbell, KY, MICC

    ACC Excellence in Acquisition Leadership (Major Weapon Systems)
    Bradley Definitization Team, ACC—Warren

    ACC Innovation (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    David Fieltsch, ACC—Aberdeen Proving Ground

    ACC Innovation (Major Weapon Systems)
    Tonya Wood, ACC—Redstone

    Acquisition Change Advocate (Major Weapon Systems)
    Apache Contracts Directorate, ACC—Redstone

    Outstanding Price Analyst (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    Angela Williams, ACC—Rock Island

    Outstanding Price Analyst (Major Weapon Systems)
    Margaret Gunsiorowski, ACC–Aberdeen Proving Ground

    Outstanding Procurement Analyst (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    Catherine H. Olvera, ACC—Rock Island

    Outstanding Procurement Analyst (Major Weapon Systems)
    Jennifer Arber, ACC—Aberdeen Proving Ground

    Outstanding Intern of the Year (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    Michael DeBisschop, ACC—Rock Island

    Outstanding Intern of the Year (Major Weapon Systems)
    David Hansen, ACC—Aberdeen Proving Ground

    Outstanding Workforce Development
    Rock Island Contracting Center Human Resources Team, ACC—Rock Island

    Outstanding Workforce Development Individual
    Tonya Wood, ACC—Redstone

    Personnel Development Achievement
    Jessica Dobbeleare, ACC—Rock Island

    Excellence in Direct Sales Contracting
    Debby Broyles, ACC—Rock Island

    Outstanding Mission Support/Business Operations (Other Than Major Weapon Systems)
    410th CSB, Fort Sam Houston, TX, ECC

    Outstanding Mission Support/Business Operations (Major Weapon Systems)
    Heather Yaworski, ACC—Picatinny

    Customer Service Excellence
    Orlando Team, ACC—Aberdeen Proving Ground

    ACC Ability One
    Pam Munoz, MICC, Joint Base Lewis–McChord, WA

    Small Business Specialist of the Year
    Deanna Ochoa, HQ MICC, Fort Sam Houston

    Small Business Champion
    JoDeen Cuffe, MICC, Fort Knox, KY

    Small Business Champion
    Pete Hunter, Office of the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting, 410th CSB, Fort Sam Houston, ECC

    Small Business Program Supporter of the Year
    Debbie Swindell, Installation Contracting Office, Fort Stewart, GA, MICC


    Article courtesy of ACC Public Affairs.


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  • U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Conducts CDG/AAF Orientation, Induction, and Graduation

    Robert E. Coultas

    YG11 CDG/AAF selectees, front row from left: Rita M. Tejeda, Monet D. Gray, Randall C. Bunley, Renee H. Kelly, Stephanie S. Gilkes, Ruanda M. Cooper, and Karen M. Burke. Back row from left: Drexie T. Jennings, Stanley Scott, Shelby L. Johnson, Jacques D. Eckles, Stephen M. Eastham, and Michael J. Holthe. (U.S. Army photo by Robert E. Coultas.)

    The U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship (CDG/AAF) Program graduated six Fellows and inducted 13 at its Orientation, Induction, and Graduation March 7-9, 2011.

    CDG/AAF is a 3-year leadership program that offers board-selected individuals leadership training, developmental assignments, and mentoring to gain experience and knowledge that prepare them to fill future critical acquisition positions and key leadership positions.

    “You personally have to choose what your experience is going to be,” said Craig A. Spisak, Deputy Director, Acquisition Career Management and Director, USAASC, in advising the Fellows on how to succeed. “You have to take experiential opportunities and say, ‘I’m going to learn something. I’m going to do everything they ask me today. I’m going after challenges to prove to people who don’t know me that I am a superstar.’ ”

    At the three-day forum, graduating and mid-term Fellows shared their developmental assignment experiences, while new inductees learned about expectations for their rotation into the program. Year Group (YG) 2008 graduate Todd P. Pesicek began his fellowship program assignment at Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation. “I’ve made quite a few contacts over the past three years, developed a lot of leadership skills, and got a lot of excellent training from the [University of Virginia] Darden School of Business,” he said.

    YG08 CDG/AAF graduates, from left: Jeffrey B. Hart, Karen M. Arnold, Michael W. Price, Ginette A. Braziel, Horace E. Green, and Todd P. Pesicek. (U.S. Army photo by Robert E. Coultas.)

    Pesicek also completed an Excellence in Government program and was later assigned to the U.S. Army Materiel Command. “I work with the Army Prepositioned Stock [APS]. I had a chance to go overseas to Japan where I was responsible for APS-4, which included areas in Japan, Korea, and Hawaii,” he said, also advising the new YG11 selectees to “take the challenging assignments, build a network of contacts, keep a balance in life, and to work hard, but play hard.”

    The event culminated with a graduation dinner, where honored guest speaker Kevin M. Fahey, Program Executive Officer Combat Support and Combat Service Support, congratulated the Fellows and offered advice on achieving a successful leadership career. “I believe this is the best development plan in the Army because it is perfect for this time in your career to broaden your job skills,” he said.

    Fahey told the Fellows to keep focusing on their job throughout their careers, because circumstances can change from year to year that could change their priorities. “What you thought last year you would be doing next year probably will be different this year. You may have learned something different that is more exciting to you. Your parents may be getting old and have to be taken care of, so then your priority would be at home,” he said.

    You are the future leaders of the Acquisition Corps. If you don’t ask the right questions to the right person now, you won’t be able to lead this Acquisition Corps in the future.

    Fahey emphasized that the Fellows should never focus on getting promoted. “I’ve known people whose only focus was to be a SES [Senior Service Executive], and today they are not because that was their only focus,” he said. “Your focus has to be on the job you want to do and doing a good job.”

    Fahey also recommended that the Fellows always ask questions. “There are no stupid questions. The only stupid one is the one you don’t ask,” he reiterated. “You are the future leaders of the Acquisition Corps. If you don’t ask the right questions to the right person now, you won’t be able to lead this Acquisition Corps in the future.”

    Build a strong core competency, focus daily on future career opportunities, and always keep the warfighter in mind, he said. “It’s pretty easy to get caught up in your organization’s mission and vision, but for me it’s simple. My focus is always on the warfighter. … Work as if your life depends on it, because theirs do,” Fahey concluded.


    • ROBERT E. COULTAS is the Army AL&T Magazine Departments Editor and an Army AL&T Online Editor. He is a retired Army broadcaster with more than 35 years of combined experience in public affairs, journalism, broadcasting, and advertising. Coultas has won numerous Army Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Awards and is a DOD Thomas Jefferson Award recipient.

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  • Acquisition Education and Training Corner: April 2011 Update

    Upcoming Training Opportunities

    • We have many educational and leadership opportunities available in the near term. Our updated Acquisition Education, Training, and Experience Catalog provides in-depth information on all training and developmental opportunities. Please view the catalog on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) website at http://asc.army.mil/career/pubs/aete/default.cfm for information on all training opportunities available to acquisition civilian and military workforce members. Eligible and interested applicants may apply for all of our programs by using the Army Acquisition Professional Development System tab within the Career Acquisition Management Portal/Career Acquisition Personnel and Position Management Information System (CAMP/CAPPMIS) at https://rda.altess.army.mil/camp.
    • The School of Choice (SOC) announcement is open until May 2. SOC is a highly competitive 18- to 24-month full-time degree-granting program that provides civilian Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce members GS-11 through 15, or broad/pay band equivalent, an opportunity to keep their acquisition position while completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree during duty hours. For more information, visit the SOC website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/soc/default.cfm.
    • The Naval Postgraduate School Master of Science in Program Management (NPS-MSPM) (distance learning) announcement runs through June 17. NPS-MSPM is an eight-quarter, 24-month part-time master’s degree program. The program requires students to take two courses per quarter over a 24-month period. For more information, visit the NPS-MSPM website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/npsmspm/default.cfm.
    • The announcement for the Congressional Operations Seminar runs through May 6. This five-day seminar on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, offers civilian AL&T Workforce members a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Congress as they relate to the performance management of the defense acquisition system and policy. For more information, visit the Congressional Operations Seminar website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/ConOps/default.cfm.
    • The announcement for the Acquisition Tuition Assistance Program (ATAP) will be open July 15 through Aug. 31. ATAP offers an opportunity for civilian AL&T Workforce members to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree or fulfill the certification of U.S. Army Acquisition Corps membership business-hour requirements. For more information, visit the ATAP website at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/atap/default.cfm.

    Defense Acquisition University Highlights

    • Registration for FY12 Defense Acquisition University (DAU) classes begins May 18. Students may apply through the Army Training Requirements and Resources Internet Training Application System (AITAS) at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas.
    • The DAU course cancellations timeframe has changed from five business days to 30 calendar days from the date the student receives a reservation. Cancellations for a confirmed reservation must be received at least 30 calendar days before the class starts or the reservation cutoff date, whichever is earlier. Cancellations submitted after that deadline must have general officer or Senior Executive Service member approval per Department of the Army DAU Training Policy and Procedures signed April 18, 2011.
    • On March 28, the Director for Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy released a memorandum on “Upcoming Changes to the Contracting Curriculum in Fiscal Year 2012.” The changes affect the certification requirements for acquisition workforce members in contracting-coded positions. The Deputy Director for Acquisition Career Management provided supplemental guidance for the FY12 contracting changes. Please view the changes and recommendations at http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/dau/changes.cfm.
    • DAU has successfully procured a commercial-off-the-shelf New Student Information System to replace the current distinct DAU registration systems for the four services. The system, named PORTICO, is Web-based and will interface with DAU and DOD systems, AITAS, and CAMP/CAPPMIS. Army workforce members will be able to authenticate via a DOD common access card. PORTICO will standardize functionality and capability for all services. It will allow more transparency and up-to-date status information for students when applying for DAU courses. The initial operating capability date is targeted for June 2012.
    • To address the shortfall in Level II contracting classes, there are six commercial vendors and four universities that offer CON 215, 217, and 218 equivalent classes. For more information on equivalencies, please visit DAU’s website at http://icatalog.dau.mil/appg.aspx. Please email the program execution point of contact at usaascweb-ac@conus.army.mil if you are unable to obtain CON 215, 217, and/or 218 this fiscal year and would like to use Section 852 funds to pay for an equivalent provider. USAASC plans to offer this to individuals who need these courses and are unable to get an FY11 reservation. DAU continues to work to offer more Level II contracting courses in the current fiscal year.
    • To address the shortfall in Level II business, cost, and financial management (BCFM) courses, the Army is placing only first-priority students into available BCFM classes. DAU is well aware of the backlog and is working to expand classroom size for current and additional course offerings. The demand is due to a temporary surge of BCFM certification requirements. For experienced BCFM personnel, fulfillment of the course is recommended. Fulfillment information can be found at http://icatalog.dau.mil/DAUFulfillmentPgm.aspx.
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  • U.S. Army Contracting Command Launches Industry Executive Council

    Dr. Ashton B. Carter, USD(AT&L), announced a series of Better Buying Power Initiatives last November. Here, Carter talks about efficiencies at the 2010 Program Executive Officers’/System Command Commanders’ Conference Nov. 2 at Fort Belvoir. (U.S. Army photo by Erica Kobren.)

    Senior U.S. Army Contracting Command (AAC) leaders and a group of industry representatives came together at ACC headquarters on Fort Belvoir, VA, Feb. 24 for the first meeting of the ACC Industry Executive Council.

    The council is a forum to exchange information, identify common issues, build partnerships, and develop solutions to advance ACC’s efforts to improve Army contracting.

    “We have been planning this for over a year and now it aligns very nicely with DOD’s recent Better Buying Power Initiatives,” said Jeff Parsons, ACC’s Executive Director. “We’re here to gain a common understanding of how we can work together to face future challenges, including anticipated cutbacks in the Army budget.”

    Dr. Ashton B. Carter, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)), announced the Better Buying Power Initiatives last November. They include targeting affordability and controlling cost growth, incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry, promoting real competition, improving tradecraft in the acquisition of services, and reducing non-productive processes and bureaucracy.

    In addition to these initiatives, the council discussed an Office of Management and Budget memorandum dated Feb. 2 titled “ ‘Myth-Busting’: Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communication with Industry During the Acquisition Process,” which recommends that “each agency develop a high-level vendor communication plan.” The establishment of ACC’s Executive Industry Council is a step in that direction.

    We’re here to gain a common understanding of how we can work together to face future challenges, including anticipated cutbacks in the Army budget.

    The council is made up of senior contracting executives from ACC’s large business partners and the small business community. According to Christopher Evans, Deputy Associate Director, ACC Office of Small Business Program, “It’s imperative that small businesses have a voice, as well as a vote, when decisions are being made.”

    One initiative the council will explore at future meetings is the possibility for ACC contracting professionals to train with industry, which would expand their insights into industry’s business processes and further the government-industry relationship.

    The council decided to meet three times a year. The next meeting is planned for this summer.

    Watch the ACC website, www.acc.army.mil, and the command’s magazine, ACC Today, for updates on the council’s activities.


    • Article courtesy of ACC Public Affairs

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  • Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Shapes Future Contracting Professionals

    Marnita Harris and Allison Laera

    To retain a high-quality workforce, Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) leaders are committed not only to the warfighter, but also to providing a career path that will develop expertise as well as an exciting professional and personal challenge. PEO STRI’s intern program provides a strong start toward building a career within the Contracting and Acquisition Career Program 14.

    PEO STRI’s intern program provides a strong start toward building a career within the Contracting and Acquisition Career Program 14. Shown here are interns selected for the first class of the PEO STRI Acquisition Academy in 2008, along with Intern Coordinator Emilce Hessler (back row, second from right) and Acquisition Academy Dean Jean Burmester (back row, first from right). (U.S. Army photo by Doug Schaub.)

    A Vision

    In 2007, Kim Denver, then PEO STRI Acquisition Director and Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting (PARC), had a vision to establish an intern program within the Acquisition Center. “The purpose of establishing a robust intern program was to address the disparity between the high demand for and low supply of qualified contracting personnel based on the significant vacancies in contracting across DOD,” she said. “The most effective approach to address the issue was to develop an intern program to hire new employees and develop them into seasoned contracting professionals.”

    In 2009, Joseph A. Giunta Jr. was appointed as the PARC for the PEO STRI Acquisition Center. He is involved with the progress of the intern program.

    Giunta selects one intern per week to attend the program executive officer’s staff meeting. These meetings, in which senior leadership discusses current issues and future planning, are a valuable experience for the interns to watch leaders make decisions, discuss programs, and work together.

    “The quality of the interns we are bringing into the PEO STRI Acquisition Center workforce today is outstanding,” said Giunta. “The PEO’s investment in the Acquisition Academy and other initiatives focused on recruiting and selections have proved to be a great success, and I am extremely confident and excited about the future of our young contracting workforce.”

    Program Environment

    Emilce Hessler, Senior Procurement Analyst, provides a stable training environment that promotes growth and career advancement. Hessler has supplied a structured schedule for interns to receive Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification, yearly rotations among the various divisions, and 30-day rotations for experience in the Office of Small Business Programs and the Acquisition Center’s Policy Division.

    The interns gain valuable knowledge through this structured environment while working on the job, rotating positions, completing required training, and doing special projects. Hessler provides a sounding board for interns, gives advice when needed, and is available to provide any assistance that interns need during their first three years of government employment. “It’s been extremely rewarding to be a part of an individual’s professional development and to witness personal growth,” she said.

    The PEO’s investment in the Acquisition Academy and other initiatives focused on recruiting and selections have proved to be a great success, and I am extremely confident and excited about the future of our young contracting workforce.

    Specialized Training

    Interns are provided with an opportunity to further their professional careers within a structured environment. Specialized training in the program is accomplished through the Acquisition Academy, on-the-job training, rotational cross-training, and continuous learning.

    Interns attend the Acquisition Academy for 11 weeks before entering the workforce. They receive valuable information preparing them to succeed as federal employees, including Army organizations, installations, ranks, and structure. This training program is composed of various career fields to include engineer, budget analyst, program analyst, acquisition contract specialist, logistics management specialist, and project director intern. Subject matter experts provide daily training to the interns on topics such as the basics of contract types, financial regulations, market research, source selection criteria, performance-based logistics, small business requirements, risk management, and legal reviews.

    After successful completion of the academy, interns enter the workforce and are assigned to a senior contract specialist for mentorship, to help the interns become more self-confident and competent in their careers.

    Lovisa Parks, Senior Contract Specialist at PEO STRI, stated, “You are only as good as the organization you work for and the people who you share your values and corporate culture with. I chose to help junior contract specialists because eventually we will be working side by side, and I may even eventually end up working for them. Mentorship will only enrich your life and add value to your organization as a whole.”

    Interns such as Iain Skeete gain valuable knowledge through the structured Acquisition Academy environment while working on the job, rotating positions, completing required training, and doing special projects. (U.S. Army photo by Emilce Hessler.)

    On-the-job training offers interns the opportunity to learn different skill sets. It also allows them to develop their own time management system that best facilitates multitasking on-the-job. Interns attend meetings with contractors, integrated product teams, and other contract specialists. Senior contract specialists also advise interns on answering questions from Integrated Product Teams or contractors. Interns are delegated new tasks as their knowledge base grows. Interns learn how to use the Standard Procurement System while learning how to choose which contract vehicle to use. They also learn contract administration, file management, and contract modifications, and are trained in how to document the file, interpret and implement laws and regulations, and use the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

    At monthly meetings, guest speakers elaborate on topics such as the Government Purchase Card Program, Procurement Administration Lead Time Memo, policy updates, and temporary duty tips. Interns also present topics to the group to gain presentation experience.

    While performing the duties of a business advisor, the interns are coached in determining the best solution and developing a decision.

    The program lays the foundation for networking opportunities as well. The interns are in direct contact with senior leadership, guest speakers, and other interns, which helps to build future relationships within their new career fields. Successful completion of the management training program leads to a full-performance federal acquisition career with the potential to move into mid- or high-level management positions.

    Voices of Experience

    “Beginning my Army career in the Acquisition Academy, I was able to meet and learn from program and budget analysts, engineers, and fellow contract specialists,” said Susan Abascal, a contract specialist intern. “By making these connections early on, I am now able to find support from these colleagues throughout my rotations.”

    On-the-job training offers interns the opportunity to learn different skill sets. It also allows them to develop their own time management system that best facilitates multitasking on-the-job.

    Michelle D. Williams, a recent intern graduate, said her experience from the intern program was gratifying and humbling, considering how her work influences the warfighter. “Learning how to do what we do by being exposed to different divisions and departments through on-the-job training, courses, and mentoring has contributed to my professional development immensely. I am confident this growth will continue and follow me throughout my career. The simulation, training, and instrumentation area of acquisition directly affects the warfighter, because without the proper training, products, and services—along with the maintenance and sustainment of these products and services being put on contract [on time] and efficiently—our Soldiers would not receive proper training, which can negatively impact their service to our homeland.”


    • MARNITA HARRIS is a PEO STRI Contract Specialist. She holds a B.S. in business management and an M.B.A. from Indiana Wesleyan University. Harris is certified Level III in contracting.
    • ALLISON LAERA is a PEO STRI Contract Specialist. She holds a B.S.B.A. in management information systems and an M.B.A. from the University of Central Florida. Laera is certified Level I in contracting.

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  • Flying the CH-47F Chinook Helicopter: A Contracting Officer’s Journey

    Jean Hodges

    When I started out in contracting, doing construction for the Kansas Army National Guard in the late 1980s, not a week went by that I wasn’t out at the job site climbing ladders, examining pipes, or doing aircraft hangar walk-throughs. But for many of us in contracting today, our phones, computers, and videoconferences wall us into our offices and chain us to our desks, as we try to keep up with an ever-growing workload. Touching what we procure has become a treat, and when it comes to systems, actually operating one is even more of a rarity.

    Jean Hodges sat in a Common Aviation Architecture System simulator, seen here, procured by Program Executive Office Aviation to experience the sights, sounds, and feeling of piloting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by Nick Vann Valkenburgh.)

    I recently had the opportunity to sit in a helicopter simulator that my office procured. I felt the rumble of the cockpit seat and experienced the thrill that those CH-47 Chinook pilots whom I support experience every day.

    From California to Afghanistan

    My “co-pilot,” Dennis Booth, CH-47F Transportable Flight Proficiency Simulator Device Manager, guided me expertly through the simulator’s displays, stick and thrust controls, pedals, and flight modes as I took off from Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA, cruised over the hills, and dodged the skyscrapers of San Diego—maneuvers made possible with projectors and mirrors right here at Program Executive Office Aviation in Huntsville, AL.

    Just as I was wondering what happens if the Chinook’s computer goes down, Dennis demonstrated the manual and fail-safe displays and controls familiar to me from Hollywood re-creations. At this point, Dennis suggested that I land “somewhere.” I opted against the water landing Chinooks can make for my first try, and since we headed inland, I decided instead on an uneven grassy hillside. Pushing downward on the thrust with my left hand while pulling back on the stick with my right, I was able to reduce my speed and altitude without losing alignment with the quickly approaching ground, as shown on the three different glowing displays in front of me.

    Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

    When Dennis asked if I wanted to go to Afghanistan, of course I couldn’t pass that up. Two minutes later, against the natural forces of time and space, we were on the runway in Jalalabad, powering up to accompany three other Chinooks on our mock mission. Were it not for a moment of panic when Dennis left his co-pilot seat to adjust the computer, I think I could have executed another perfect takeoff. But, alas, I pitched right, then overcompensated—straight into the holographic hangar. With red flashing before my eyes, my death was instantaneous.

    Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

    Dennis, still behind me at the “real” helm, suddenly created a thunderstorm at my 2 o’clock. It doubled and then tripled in size, the lightning fierce and the black clouds truly ominous. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dennis and his computer took us from noon to midnight in a split second. I could see the lights of two of my brethren, but not the third.

    As my allotted time ended (because Dennis was scheduled to be the co-pilot for another lucky adventurer) we emerged back into the comfort and safety of the simulator cockpit. I first thought of the skill, bravery, and pride of real pilots who fly every day. My second thought was, Wow! I buy not only these simulators that are part of pilots’ training, but also the actual helicopters they use to carry cargo and save Soldiers’ lives.

    I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.

    ‘Nothing More Important’

    By afternoon, I was back to the four walls of a conference room, listening to a debate about identifying and obtaining parts and kits and waiting anxiously for that little nugget of contracting information that makes those meetings worthwhile.

    Lo and behold, my ears perked up when someone mentioned “CAAS.” Before today, my brain would have immediately interpreted this as “Contract Administration and Audit Services.” Now, when someone says CAAS, I imagine myself in that cockpit, following the instructions from the Common Aviation Architecture System to safely take off, fly, and land a CH-47F helicopter, albeit simulated.

    And when I review a Statement of Work or negotiate a contract for the CAAS component, I have a point of reference that brings to life the words and numbers in front of me. At that moment, I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.


    • JEAN HODGES is the Director for Program Executive Office Aviation’s CH-47 Contracts. She holds a B.A. in psychology, human development, and crime and delinquency from the University of Kansas, an M.A. in contract management from Webster University, and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hodges is certified Level III in contracting and Level I in program management and in business, cost, and finance. She is a Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship graduate and a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.

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