Getting the Whole Story

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Remo Dela Cruz

TITLE: Contracting officer
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: 413th Contracting Support Brigade, Army Contracting Command
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Contracting
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 3
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 9 (U.S. Air Force)
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in contracting; Level I in program management
EDUCATION: Juris Master in American Legal Studies, Liberty University; MBA Liberty University; B.S. in international business management, American Military University; A.A.S., Construction Technology, Community College of the Air Force
HOMETOWN: Las Vegas, Nevada; and Manila, Philippines


 

by Susan L. Follett

Winters can be bleak at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, with subzero temperatures and only a handful of hours between sunrise and sunset. Summers are challenging, too, with temperatures often exceeding 100 and near-constant daylight. Those climatological extremes, as well as the base’s somewhat remote location, require a greater emphasis on quality of life and readiness issues.

Fortunately, Remo Dela Cruz is up for the challenge. As a contracting officer for the 413th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB) at Fort Wainwright, he develops and manages contracts for the U.S. Army Pacific in support of garrison operations in Alaska. He primarily supports operations at Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely, the Missile Defense Agency and partner organization Eielson Air Force Base. “As one of the most remote Army installations in the U.S., Fort Wainwright is at the forefront of some of the most unique challenges when it comes to improving Soldiers’ quality of life when they are here at home.” Near-constant daylight or almost no daylight at all can affect Soldiers’ sleep cycles, which affects performance and productivity. Low temperatures and snowy weather conditions mean treacherous conditions for car travel, and the closest big city—as well as big-city amenities—is a seven-hour drive away.

“One thing I enjoy about being part of the Army Acquisition Workforce is solving different acquisition problems and delivering solutions to our mission partners,” said Dela Cruz. “It allows me to gain valuable insight as to how every organization within the Army contributes to the overall mission. Being an Army Acquisition Workforce member also gives me access to modern and innovative industry solutions to problems.”

“If I were hiring for this position, I’d look for someone who is interested in learning new things and is really committed to the mission of supporting Soldiers,” Dela Cruz said. “Each acquisition is a chance to learn about a new challenge, as well as all the possible solutions to that challenge. Commitment to the mission translates to the ability to quickly contribute to the team, to hit the ground running, and that speed is vital given the pace of operations here. It’s probably the most important criteria: We can teach someone about contracts and acquisition, but we can’t teach commitment.”

Dela Cruz is a relative newcomer to acquisition and was stationed in South Korea with the Air Force when he first heard about the Army Acquisition Workforce. “As a construction manager there, I interacted quite often with our mission partners at the 411 CSB. They went above and beyond in answering my questions and feeding my interest about the contracting field and government acquisitions in general,” he said. “Contracting appealed to me because of the team- and project-based work environment.” Upon completing his enlistment with the Air Force, he accepted a job offer as a contract specialist with the 413 CSB. “Every day is different in contracting, and the acquisition challenges I face keep me engaged,” he added.

He noted that he learned two things from his Air Force experience that he has brought with him to his work in Army acquisition: compliance and innovation. “Rules are there for a reason, and we’re required to comply with them,” he said. “There are also procedures in place to change them if we determine that a rule is no longer as effective as it once was.” In acquisition, that process is reflected in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), he added. “Each year, the NDAA outlines what the changes should be, and it’s through the FAR that those changes are implemented.”

He added, “Innovation is vital to advancing the Army’s modernization priorities, and the Army Acquisition Workforce is at the forefront of working with companies to develop new solutions that solve warfighter challenges. An important component of that is developing requirements documents that are performance-based, which give industry more flexibility in developing solutions.”

Dela Cruz recently completed the Inspiring and Developing Excellence in Acquisition Leaders (IDEAL) program, which he enrolled in as a way to further enhance his leadership capabilities. “Initially, my expectation was that I was going to learn various leadership skills and techniques. However, as I progressed through the program, my expectations went from primarily learning leadership skills to learning more about myself and others,” he said. “The course exposed me to other leadership elements that are often not discussed in leadership-related discussions or leadership programs.”

Chief among those elements was the importance of mastering and telling one’s own story, he said. “Often, as humans, we form our own ‘stories’ about someone or something almost immediately with little to no information about what that something is,” he explained. “We might have only received 5 percent of the available and relevant information on an issue, but move forward as if we already have 80 percent of that information. That is dangerous because 75 percent of what we are acting upon could be based on false assumptions or biases that have long influenced the way we see things. This, in turn, ultimately influences the way we orient ourselves in making a decision that may not be the best solution for a given problem.”

Dela Cruz’s work as a contracting officer means that he deals with government and contractor personnel on a daily basis. “In spite of the information that I receive from both sides, I have to remain impartial and really focus on what is required by the terms and conditions of the contract and the regulations. That is easier said than done. But by mastering my own stories, I am able to see the facts from an objective perspective, while considering the relevant facts and information available, without biases and assumptions.”

Participation in IDEAL also helped improve his communication skills, Dela Cruz said. “Communication is an integral part of what most Army Acquisition Workforce members do on a daily basis,” he said. “These days, a lot of our communications are conducted electronically. Unfortunately, electronic communications are incapable of conveying nonverbal information, which is essential to meaningful communications. So I try to communicate in person as much as possible. This ensures that a clear and direct line of communication is established so we can have a meaningful exchange of information.”

The program has also helped him advance professionally. “Since I started IDEAL, my leadership has started entrusting me with more high-dollar and high-visibility projects. I also started gaining more opportunities to train and mentor other Army Acquisition Workforce members within and outside our organization,” he said.

IDEAL has also helped increase Dela Cruz’s awareness of the perspectives of others. “As part of the Army Acquisition Workforce, we are required to work as a team. This is especially true in finding solutions to problems,” he said. “By seeing how others perceive things, we are amplifying our ability to develop a diverse set of solutions to problems.”


 

“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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