Faces of the Force: Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kahyai
POSITION: Instructor / Mission Ready Airman Course (MRAC)
UNIT: U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC)
LOCATION: Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE: 20 years, Army active duty
DEPLOYMENTS/MISSIONS: Croatia and Bosnia 1995-1996; Bosnia 1999; Mbabane, Swaziland 2009; Kitgum, Uganda 2009; Afghanistan 2010-2011; Panama City, Panama 2012; and Belize City, Belize 2012
AWARDS: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (5), Army Achievement Medal (4)
EDUCATION: B.A. Psychology, Saint Leo University
By Steve Stark
FOTF editor’s note: Sgt. 1st Class (P) Michael Kahyai (rhymes with “Aye aye”) said that his most rewarding mission during his time in the Army Acquisition Corps was participating in Natural Fire 10 in Kitgum, Uganda. That exercise, led by U.S. Army Africa Command, involved nearly a thousand African troops from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda working with hundreds of American Soldiers to improve interoperability. “It was great. It was a good mission to be part of. We were interacting with all the other nations.”
Kahyai said that not long before the exercise, the Lord’s Resistance Army had been through that part of Uganda, “and raped and pillaged, so you still had camps of people who were displaced because of [Joseph Kony] and they were living in poverty, and when they saw people in uniform, they were a little bit scared at first.”
That was before Kahyai was selected to become an instructor. “SFC Kahyai was hand-selected to serve at MRAC because he represents the best 51C NCO the Army has to offer,” said Master Sgt. Jason Pitts, 51C proponent at USAASC. “He is definitely the best qualified for this important job.” Kahyai “belongs to” USAASC as the senior Army instructor and liaison at MRAC.
Kahyai said that his most meaningful day in the Army came when he was a recruiter. He went to pick up a young man he had recruited to “take him to processing, and he was sleeping on a bench outside his apartment, and I saw him when I pulled up. I asked him whether he was waiting for me or if he slept out there and he said he had slept there. When I asked him why, he said his apartment was so infested with fleas, it was just better for him to sleep outside.
“Making a difference like that, knowing that no matter what job he picked in the Army was going to be better than that, that was a good feeling.”
FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?
KAHYAI: I am an instructor at the contracting apprentice course, and I’m responsible for teaching Airmen and Soldiers how to become contracting professionals. I teach at the Mission-Ready Contracting Apprentice Course (MRAC) at Lackland Air Force Base. It’s an Air Force location, but there’s a memorandum of agreement in place where we can send 65 Army students in to get contracting training. The way the course is structured is that the only people who come here are enlisted Army and Air Force, and we’re putting through about 350 to 400 students a year, of which 65 are Army. They’re spread out, and so in each class of 12 there is usually one or as many as three Army and the rest will be Air Force students.
I’m just another instructor in the queue, so when I pick up a class, there may be Army students in it, but some of the Army students who come through, obviously, are not going to get me as an instructor. But I still will fill the role as the liaison for all their Army needs. I’m the face of the Army here, along with Sgt. 1st Class Mark Reynolds, who’s leaving. This is an Air Force schoolhouse, and there is no other Army representation other than the instructors and the students that come through MRAC.
The typical hours I’m here are seven to five, but in addition to instructing I’m the liaison for the Army even if they’re in other classes. I have to make sure they’re being taken care of the entire eight weeks that they are here, and I also have do all of their Service School Academic Evaluation Reports DA 1059s. So we’re not only the face of the Army, we’re specifically the face of Army contracting here.
FOTF: What has your experience been like? What has surprised you the most?
KAHYAI: When I was in my prior job, it was mentioned to me that there was a new MOS [the 51C military occupational specialty] in the Army and they were promoting people. I had been a staff sergeant for 10 years in a job that clearly wasn’t going anywhere, and I was looking for some career advancement, as well as something that would give me some skills outside the Army. I applied and was accessed into the field in 2008.
FOTF: What is most rewarding about your job?
KAHYAI: Aside from teaching the next generation of acquisition professionals, the best thing about my job is having an actual career path that to pursue after the military. The training and skills we get are 100 percent transferable to being a civilian afterward. There’s a lot of jobs in the Army that, when you’re finished with the military, you’re looking for another career where you hope something crosses over. For contracting, it definitely offers you a future after the Army.
FOTF: What do you do when you’re not at work?
KAHYAI: The only thing I do other than work and family is golf. For four hours every week I have no worries in the world. I have a wife, a four-year-old daughter and another one on the way, and I’m not trying to get away from the family thing—it’s just a moment of peace when I am on the golf course.
FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?
KAHYAI: I joined the Army in 1993 to do something different and exciting. My greatest satisfaction was being selected for Sergeant First Class, and now Master Sergeant. I feel that being recognized for my achievements and rewarded with promotions has been a validation of my 20-year career.
For more information on MOS 51C go to https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/military-nco/active-component-reclass-program/.
- “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 are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.