COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: 414th Contracting Support Brigade, U.S. Army Contracting Command
TITLE: Supervisory contract specialist
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 15
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 4
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in contracting
EDUCATION: M.S. in dogmatic theology, Holy Apostles College and Seminary; MBA, Liberty University; B.S. in aeronautics and aviation management, University of North Dakota; associate of applied science in avionic technology, Community College of the Air Force
AWARDS: Secretary of the Army Award for Excellence in Installation Level Contracting Office and/or Directorate of Contracting; Achievement Medal for Civilian Service (2); Commander’s Award for Civilian Service; NATO Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Excellence in Contracting Award: District of the Year; Secretary of the Excellence in Contracting Award for Outstanding Team in Services/Construction; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Product Delivery Team of the Year Award; U.S. Air Force Good Conduct Medal (4); Humanitarian Service Medal
HOMETOWN: Sierra Vista, Arizona
by Susan L. Follett
A four-year stint in the Air Force taught Shaun McAfee a great deal, personally and professionally. Now a supervisory contract specialist for the 414th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB) in Italy, he finds that one thing he learned in flight school still resonates: the functions of oil.
“Oil has five specific functions: lubrication, cooling, cleaning, sealing and corrosion protection. Nearly every matter of production and fighting power used by our warfighters uses oil. Even items as different as a tank and an M-16—they cannot function without the right oil in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Contracting is like the oil of the U.S. military: it keeps the Army running with solutions, timely services, quality supply lines and state-of-the-art technologies. Nearly every matter of production and fighting power used by our warfighters uses a contract vehicle, and it’s super cool to be part of the fight.”
McAfee explained that the mission of the 414 CSB is somewhat different from other units. “In addition to the typical base services and support functions, many of the 414 CSB’s contracts directly affect Soldier readiness,” he said. “We maintain and certify jump towers, firing ranges and a host of other facilities and training events that enable our forces to be ready and lethal.”
Army acquisition “is not an easy career field,” McAfee noted, “but with some patience and persistence, it can be very rewarding. Also, there are many avenues to traverse during a career, and it’s important to be aware of them all to balance career goals and personal goals. I don’t see myself as the model of perfection, but I love sharing knowledge with others.”
McAfee’s career began 15 years ago, thanks in part to his mom’s urging. “I was living in Alaska after having been honorably discharged from the Air Force, and was hired for a job I applied for months before that. I didn’t know anything about contracting and I admit I applied because my mother asked me to.” He started as an intern with the Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Nebraska, handling contract modifications and closeouts. “What appealed to me then is what appeals to me now: the mission. I love the tempo and the ability to exercise some independent judgment while being a trusted advisor adviser to a diverse range of customers.”
Among the most memorable parts of his career is the year he spent in Afghanistan with the Corps of Engineers’ Transatlantic – Afghanistan District. McAfee was responsible for contracts in a large military construction program, much of which contributed to the Afghan reconstruction, revitalizing the country’s infrastructure and restoring its military readiness. He was involved in a variety of projects, including the Northern Electrical Interconnect, which placed hundreds of miles of a power grid in strategic locations, and the construction of the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, which trains and educates Afghan military leaders. “It was like a microcosm of the huge district operation I was used to for years, and finally I saw how all the pieces fit together to build a mission-supporting action,” he said. “I liked my job before this, but during that assignment, finally I felt like I was making a direct impact on the mission.”
Late last year, McAfee received the Secretary of the Army Award for Excellence in Installation- Level Contracting. McAfee executed a $49 million multiple-award task order contract for installation-level construction requirements that reduced procurement administrative lead time by 75 percent and cut average project cost by roughly 20 percent. The switch from time and materials contracts involved directing a cultural shift to gain client buy-in, integrating customer milestones, and creating an adaptable, engaged and ready workforce.
News that he had won the award caught him off guard at first. “I figured I was reading the announcement incorrectly, maybe reading from the list of nominees,” he said. He realized on his third read-through that it wasn’t an error, and his next thoughts were for the team who that helped him win—“a sense of gratitude for all the people who enabled that accomplishment. It’s nice to have an individual award, but in reality, nobody in contracting achieves anything in a vacuum.”
It’s one of several awards that he has received over the course of his career, but he noted that it’s difficult to pick which is the most meaningful. “They all bring me so many memories. Some awards are for single accomplishments, but a supervisor once told me that every time a manager gets an award, it really belongs to the team. I think that’s true.” During his time in Afghanistan, his team received the Corps of Engineers Excellence in Contracting – District of the Year Award. To mark the occasion, the team purchased coins in the shape of the country. “We worked endlessly to solve some of the toughest problems, and we formed a very tight-knit family in the process,” he said. “Most people would look at the coin and see a paperweight, but to us, it represents commitment to the mission and to each other.”
When he’s not drafting contracts, McAfee can often be found writing blogs, books and articles on Catholicism and Christianity. He started writing on the subject in 2011, and “over the course of the last 6-8 years, I’ve moved from hobby to profession. I have published eight books and thousands of online articles, founded successful websites, and am often sought for my expertise in theology, philosophy and other related subjects,” he said. “Although it is not related much to acquisition, my writing and editing skills have developed immensely, as has my ability to express vision for success, and to articulate myself to individuals and groups.”
“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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