Coming from as far away as Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii, more than 200 contingency contracting warfighters descended onto Fort Campbell, KY, to participate in the 412th Contracting Support Brigade’s (CSB’s) Operation Joint Dawn 2011 Jan. 24-Feb. 4.
Active Army, Air Force, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard members participated in the two-week exercise, the Army’s largest joint contracting field training exercise. The goal was to provide a contingency contracting force capable and ready to support warfighters and conduct their mission.
Joint Dawn is an evolution from last year’s Operation Bold Impact exercise, according to COL Jeff Morris, Commander of the 412th CSB at Fort Sam Houston, TX. The 412th CSB, with five contingency contracting battalions, sponsored both exercises. The U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command, the 412th’s higher headquarters, provides contracting support to the Army and other DOD organizations operating outside CONUS.
“Last year we trained about 35 Soldiers,” Morris explained. “This year, we opened it up, said ‘Let’s make this joint.’ We brought in the Air Force; we had about 20 Airmen here. We said, ‘Let’s make this multi-component.’ We invited a couple of dozen Soldiers from the National Guard and the Army Reserve. It’s become much more like it is down range because when they go down range they’re not operating in an Army environment. They are operating in an environment with civilians, they are operating in an environment with National Guard and Reserve, and they are operating with a whole lot of Air Force people.”
MIXING WARRIOR, CONTRACTING TASKS
The exercise kicked off with a week of warrior task training that included combat engagement skills, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle roll-over egress, tactical combat casualty care, and virtual operational environment simulation.
Operation Joint Dawn provided contracting officers and noncommissioned officers some of what combat units gain through pre-deployment training at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.
Week Two focused on contingency contracting operations. The joint teams were divided into 13 regional contracting centers that were challenged with more than 1,300 master scenario events list (exercise script) actions, including purchase requests and commitments, more than 350 close-out actions, commander’s critical information requirements, contracting ethics issues, and confrontations with disgruntled customers.
Morris said that all administrative paperwork, such as warrant packages that allow contracting officials to write and issue contracts, and forms required for access to the information technology systems, were the same in the exercise as those used in theater.
“So you’re only going to fill it out once,” he explained. “You fill it out here; we’re going to take it and send it to the theater.”
The 900th Contingency Contracting Battalion (CCBn), Fort Bragg, NC, led the planning and execution of the exercise. LTC Carol Tschida, 900th CCBn Commander, said Operation Joint Dawn provided contracting officers and noncommissioned officers some of what combat units gain through pre-deployment training at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.
“This training is very important for contracting officers because we don’t have the opportunity to get together like this and practice for deployments,” Tschida explained. “This exercise is a culminating event. We trained on 15 warrior tasks and about 28 of more than 36 contracting officer proficiency guide tasks. We’ve put all that together in realistic scenarios of what contingency contracting officers [CCOs] can expect to see in theater so that they are prepared for realistic scenarios and for handling those situations when they happen.”
“I got a lot out of this exercise,” said SFC Joseph Crowell, 900th CCBn, Redstone Arsenal, AL. “The exercise was unpredictable and we had a lot of different scenarios thrown at us.”
The medical training included firefights with aggressors as the contracting teams worked to rescue and treat casualties. Combatants were armed with paintball guns and were cleared to engage the enemy.
SrA George Halley, 18th Contracting Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, particularly appreciated the warrior skills training. “A lot of it is training that I could spend 20 years in the Air Force and maybe not even see,” he said. “I might see something similar, but I wouldn’t see what the Army is doing.”
Halley said the urban assault using paintball guns had a “fun factor, but it really brought to light how confusing things can get, especially if you’re not trained.”
He took a few hits in the paintball exchange, “more than I thought I did until I took my gear off.” He said taking hits made him realize how much more training he would like to have for combat situations.
Tschida said that Operation Joint Dawn captured lessons learned from Operation Bold Impact, its predecessor, as well as input from exercise participants who have since deployed. She said deployed CCOs also provided sample contract actions.
“Operation Bold Impact represented the ‘crawl stage,’ ” Tschida said. “We’ve added all of that to the exercise so now we’re at the walk stage. We hope to add the Navy and the Marine Corps next year, and that’s when we’ll run.”
VOICES OF EXPERIENCE
SGM Douglas Adams, 412th CSB Senior Enlisted Advisor, said he wished he had received this training before his deployment to Southwest Asia in 2005.
“When I went into theater there was no expectation management,” he said. “It was, ‘This is the date you need to be in theater; figure out how to get there and we’ll see you on the other end.’ We’re taking our experiences and we’re trying to offer current deployers what we didn’t have.”
This training is very important for contracting officers because we don’t have the opportunity to get together like this and practice for deployments.
Air Force contracting Airmen also benefited from the training. According to Col Roger H. Westermeyer, Director of Contracting at Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, UT, deploying Airmen train like they will fight when they are deployed to regional contracting centers in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.
“Our regional contracting centers are joint,” he explained. “That’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines—all working together to get the mission done. It’s important that if that’s the way we’re going to operate in theater, then we should train that way now. That way we learn each others’ lingo and how we operate so when we deploy together we’ll be ready from Day One.”
Westermeyer, the Air Force’s senior participant in Operation Joint Dawn, served a one-year tour in Iraq as the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting, making him the senior contracting official. He played a similar role in the exercise and served as a senior mentor.
Westermeyer said Airmen received a lot of exposure to combat skills that they don’t normally experience.
Our regional contracting centers are joint. That’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines—all working together to get the mission done. It’s important that if that’s the way we’re going to operate in theater, then we should train that way now.
Westermeyer observed that Soldiers excelled in the combat skills while Airmen brought a wealth of contracting experience to the fight. He said that is primarily because the Air Force brought many Airmen into the contracting career field from Day One of active duty, while Soldiers cross train into the career field later.
“I think this is clearly the premier contracting training exercise that we have anywhere in the services today,” said Morris. “And I say that not because it’s us. I say that because I’ve talked to the people here that have done other exercises. And I just can’t impress upon you enough the motivation that is shown by the Soldiers and Airmen that we have here today. It doesn’t matter if we have three inches of snow on the ground; they’re out there doing their job, digging in and doing the things they need to prepare them for deployment.”
- ED WORLEY is the Public Affairs Team Chief for the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) in the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs. He served more than 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and 3 years in the private sector before joining the ACC Public Affairs team.