Staff Sgt. Comfort Johnson
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center
TITLE: Proponent noncommissioned officer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 6
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 16
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in contracting
EDUCATION: B.S. in developmental physiology, American Public University
AWARDS: Army Commendation Medal (eight oak leaf clusters (OLCs)), Army Achievement Medal (6 OLCs), Army Good Conduct Medal (5th Award), NCO Professional Development (Numeral 3); Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal.
HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois
by Susan Follett
Staff Sgt. Comfort Johnson describes herself as “a notorious market researcher for all things.” Whether it’s career development services for noncommissioned officers (NCOs) or essentials for her family, Johnson said, “I take pride in having the ability to get commodities at the lowest price technically acceptable. It’s a skill that certainly comes in handy as a contract specialist. We are charged with being great stewards of taxpayer funds, and being a diligent market researcher is a great skill to have.”
Johnson is the acquisition proponent NCO for the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, serving as the voice and advocate for various developmental and career opportunities for the 51C military occupational specialty (MOS), acquisition NCO. “The greatest satisfaction is knowing that I am part of something grander than myself. I have the opportunity to be part of the process of creating and implementing operational and strategic policies that can shape and move the contracting career field in an upward trajectory. That not only benefits the current workforce, but the workforce that is yet to come.”
Unlike other fields, NCOs in acquisition have the opportunity to get acquisition certification sponsored by the Army. “Many MOSs in the Army do not provide a pathway for their NCOs to be successful both in uniform and out of uniform,” said Johnson. “This is one of the few that provides countless opportunities for when service members decide to hang up their uniform.”
She has been in her current role since November 2019. “All jobs have their ups and downs, and this one is no exception. But the work we do is really rewarding, and understanding our role in the bigger organization makes things easier.” She added, “My belief is that we are all here to make life better and easier for the next person. For that reason, I’m excited to be part of the team that motivates Soldiers and fosters a great environment that more Soldiers would want to be a part of.”
That team-first mentality is an important component of doing her job effectively, Johnson noted. “If I were looking to hire someone for this job, I’d look for a team player who is friendly, honest, straightforward, customer-focused and passionate about giving back and being a part of something bigger than one’s self,” she said.
The biggest challenge she faces in her work is managing expectations. “We get a lot of requests for more schooling opportunities and development programs, and we do what we can to fulfill those requests. We do all we can to keep Soldiers in this MOS and give them what they need to be successful,” she said. “We can’t always get Soldiers what they want, but we can always get them what they need. The Acquisition Corps might not have all the cool locations that the other branches have, but we provide NCOs more than most branches, including the opportunity to attend college, Advanced Civil Schooling and the Naval Postgraduate School. In addition to preparing NCOs for a great career within the Army, they’ll acquire skills that they can use when they decide to leave active duty.”
Johnson has been in uniform for 16 years, the first nine of which she spent as a chemical specialist. “I was an administrative NCO in one of my early assignments, and helped NCOs get training and made sure their pay and assignment paperwork was correct. It was helping at the micro level, and I opted to switch to acquisition because it gave me the chance to help at the macro level. Being a part of something bigger than myself was what appealed to me the most.”
Her first acquisition position was at Army Contracting Command (ACC) – Warren, Michigan. “Most people know that contract specialists acquire commodities, services and construction for the government—in other words, we buy very cool stuff for the Army,” Johnson said. “But a lot of people don’t know that government contracting can be also be a tool to help economically disadvantaged businesses as well as small businesses. That’s another thing that appealed to me about this career field. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and one of the most significant contributions to the economy that we ensure is to guarantee the opportunities for them.”
At ACC-Warren and in her subsequent roles, Johnson discovered that one of her greatest strengths is to quickly calm high-stress situations and then to plan and implement strategies to mitigate the situation. “As a contract specialist at U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), I was recognized for repairing relationships and providing customer service to requiring activities that were dissatisfied with the service that they received,” she said. “That was a very proud moment for me, because this effort not only affected my organization in a positive manner, but it also mended a professional relationship that would otherwise remain frayed.”
She further supports her organization through mentoring. “As the proponent NCO, I’m asked how to be successful in this field. My advice to everyone is to first learn your craft and take pride and ownership in all that you do. From the basic contract, purchasing printers for an organization to the more complex acquisitions. Second, take advantage of all the opportunities that are offered—from educational opportunities to broadening assignments. Not many MOSs in the Army offer such opportunities,” she said. “And last, be kind and have fun! No matter what, kindness always wins. And having fun makes the job more meaningful and sustainable.”
“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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