COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: 414th Contracting Support Brigade, 728th Contracting Team
TITLE: Contract specialist
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: 51C
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 1
MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Military
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 13
EDUCATION: A.S. in business administration, A.S. in business marketing, A.S. in human resource management, A.S. in general business, A.A. in supervision and management, all from Coastline Community College; currently pursuing a Bachelor of Professional Studies in business and management, Excelsior College.
AWARDS: Army Commendation Medal (6th award), Army Achievement Medal (6th award), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Meritorious Unit Commendation (2nd award), Army Superior Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal (4th award), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (1 Campaign Star), Iraq Campaign Medal (2 Campaign Stars), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (2nd award), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal (2nd award), the Army Recruiter Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Driver and Mechanic Badge and the Marksmanship Qualification Badge Expert (Rifle).
HOMETOWN: Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio
Staff Sgt. Jason Andrew Simmons
By Ellen Summey
Staff. Sgt. Jason Simmons enlisted as an infantryman at age 20 and had little exposure to other Army career fields, until he was selected for recruiting duty eight years later. “That assignment was eye opening,” he said. He learned all the talking points, the requirements and more military occupation specialty (MOS) codes than you can shake a stick at. “As a recruiter, I had to become the NCO [noncommissioned officer] who knew the details about all the jobs in the Army for the first time, and learning all of that information got me thinking about where I could make the biggest positive impact in the next 10 years of my career.” After four years in recruiting, he thought he had found the right fit. “In late 2019, I applied to become a 51C contracting NCO,” he said. It seems the Army thought contracting would be a good fit for him, too, because following the very competitive application and selection process, he was chosen to enter the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW).
Today, Simmons is assigned to the 414th Contracting Support Brigade in Vicenza, Italy. But he still finds himself offering a recruiter’s perspective to other Soldiers who are considering the 51C MOS. “I talk to them about the importance of displaying yourself to the selection board, not just your achievements,” he said. “The AAW is a very selective field, and being able to explain how your thoughts, leadership styles and characteristics would be a good fit in the AAW is of monumental importance.” He said people are often surprised by the scope of the Army’s procurement operations. “Many times, people don’t have a clue that the Army has a specific MOS dealing with procuring everything the Army’s warfighters need to operate, from pencils to plumbing to large-scale construction and everything in between. It’s really cool just seeing behind the scenes. It’s like the Army is the wizard in the Wizard of Oz, and we get to see behind the curtain.”
In his opinion, recruiting duty was actually the perfect assignment in preparation for his current role. “Recruiting fosters in a person the ability to build and maintain relationships with others,” he said. “That interpersonal communication is a big factor to be successful both as a recruiter and within the 51C field. Being able to connect with your coworkers, customers and vendors and establish a solid working relationship with them are skills that recruiting developed within me.” He stressed the importance of establishing rapport and a sense of trust with others, to encourage open and productive communication in both fields.
Though he’s been part of the AAW for less than a year, he’s already making waves—representing the Army Materiel Command in DA’s 2020 Best Warrior competition. “I’m looking forward to the final phase,” he said. “Because this is an opportunity that you are only able to do once in an entire Army career, I’m extremely grateful for the support of my brigade leadership, who have made it possible for me to spend time preparing for the competition.” In fact, he feels the support and mentorship of leaders across the AAW will be crucial to the development of the field. “Having senior members of your team who are willing to mentor younger members without reprisal or belittlement encourages excellent team cohesion and leads to an increase to morale and the quality of each member’s work,” he said. “The acquisition field is a very complex and technical one, which requires its members to be detail-oriented, creative thinkers. After all, the AAW is my squad.”
He recently completed the Army Acquisition Professional Course at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he gained insights into the acquisition process and the wide array of activities it entails. Students often say it’s like drinking from a firehose, but Simmons talked about it with a recruiter’s finesse. “A great deal of information was presented during the course,” he said, “and I feel it built a foundation of acquisition knowledge which I can continue to build upon during my career in the AAW.” It’s something of a personal philosophy for Simmons to always look for those opportunities for growth, and to help others grow as well. “You can’t control anything except your own actions, so you should make sure your actions work toward growing and learning, developing your unit and yourself to be better than you were yesterday,” he explained. “Beyond that, you should also try to make sure that when others walk away from an interaction with you, you have given them something they can then use to improve themselves.”
Combine those ideals with a healthy sense of humor, and you have Simmons in a nutshell. He’s an impressive and dedicated Soldier who is adept at making interpersonal connections—all with a smile. “People who know me, know my face is hardly ever serious,” he said. “Having a sense of humor makes the world go round.” And he tries to keep that positive attitude, even in difficult situations. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, you can always learn something from it,” he said. “Failure is the best teacher in the world.” If the past is prologue, Simmons will have to find another way to learn. He’s not doing much in the way of failing.
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.
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