COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Contracting Detachment (CONDET) Bravo, 906th Contracting Battalion, 411th Contracting Support Brigade
TITLE: Contracting officer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 8
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 15
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Certified Professional in contracting
EDUCATION: B.S. in professional studies, business and management, from Excelsior University
AWARDS: Various unit, overseas and personal achievement awards from 2008 to present. Of those his highest achievements include four Army Commendation Medals, the Air Force Commendation Medal and seven Army Achievement Medals.
by Holly DeCarlo-White
Whether stateside or overseas, Army units arrive to training or joint exercises with other countries expecting that all the amenities are staged and ready for use. What they don’t know or understand, said Staff Sgt. Robert Anderson, is that there is a military occupation specialty (MOS) within the U.S. Army working behind the scenes making sure it all happens. As a contracting officer with the Contracting Detachment (CONDET) Bravo, 906th Contracting Battalion, 41lth Contracting Support Brigade in South Korea, Anderson said, “Most Soldiers have never heard of our MOS, but when I explain how we assist them, and talk about the opportunities and the places we can travel and support, I usually grab their attention very quickly.”
“We procure items for the warfighter so they can maintain their ‘Fight Tonight’ mission on Kunsan Air Base,” said Anderson. “Being here is a unique experience for an Army contracting officer. On the peninsula of South Korea, the Army has the overall procurement authority. However, we not only procure items for Soldiers here, but our main customer is also the Air Force’s 8th Fighter Wing and subordinate units.”
Anderson has supported Air Force units as an Army contracting Soldier for more than five years, first at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, and now in his current station at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. “Being able to operate in a joint environment is a great satisfaction for me. Not only am I able to affect our Soldiers by providing them with the mission-essential equipment needed to complete their mission, but also give support to our sister branch, the United States Air Force,” Anderson said.
Acquisition sparked his interest after he overheard a few noncommissioned officers (NCOs) he worked with in the motor pool talking about a new career field “where you buy things for the military,” he said. “As a couple other NCOs mentioned it, I began to research it.” What sealed the deal for him to transfer was when his former company commander and operations NCO changed over to acquisitions. “I reached out and began putting a packet together so I could submit for acceptance,” he said.
Anderson initially joined the Army as a 91D generator mechanic and served under the Forward Support Company of the 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade. “I enjoyed my mechanic job and I loved fixing things, however, it wasn’t as fun putting the equipment back together after I got it running again,” he said. “I thought about it, and couldn’t see myself working as a mechanic well into my 50s or 60s.”
His first few years as an Army acquisition Soldier was at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, working in supply procurement. “I bought things as easy as cellphone equipment and services to robotic parts, to services required to monitor an endangered animal on our government installation,” he said. “The thing that most appealed to me was the opportunity to travel in this field.” In addition to regular duty station assignments, Anderson has had the opportunity to travel to Kuwait, Kwajalein Atoll, Thailand and Malaysia for his job.
“Everywhere I’ve been, there’s not an exact ‘how to’ manual. It’s not like a mechanic job where you can look in a technical manual and read exact steps on how to fix something or break it down,” he said. That’s why, for him, the opportunity for mentorship is the most important part of the acquisition career field. “When I came into this field, I was put on a team with another brand-new acquisition Soldier and given some work. It was new for the civilians we worked with to have us there and some never served, so many were unaware how to mentor or work with us military members,” Anderson said. So, he created a living document he frequently updates with websites and helpful information. “I give it to all our newly assessed acquisition Soldiers,” he said. “This career field is something you learn over time and not overnight, but if I can provide a good starting point, it’ll hopefully spark the learning intake a little faster for our new members.”
His advice to junior acquisition personnel: Be patient. “It took a few years for me to fully grasp the overall acquisition process,” he said. “Providing exercise support and having a real-world, fast-paced environment is where things clicked for me and the whole acquisition process began to come together, and I understood it more. I also learned a lot once I arrived at my current duty station, Kunsan Air Base, because at the time I was the most experienced acquisition Soldier in the office and the team seemed to gravitate to me for assistance, when needed. It forced me to get in the FAR [Federal Acquisition Regulations] and research things more extensively before providing my guidance.”
Anderson has supported exercises including the U.S. and Malaysian army exercise Keris Strike 2022, and the first ever contracting detachment exercise evaluation last April. “The exercise support was an amazing experience, but the team evaluation allowed me to teach, train and mentor our newly assessed contracting officers and NCOs,” said Anderson of the contracting evaluation developmental experience.
The most important lesson Anderson has learned through his military career is: “Time is precious. On and off the job. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. The work will always be here.”
“I had a platoon sergeant in my prior MOS when I was a mechanic who would always tell us, ‘Do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do’,” he said. “His name was Johntay Mitchell, he’s now a 1st sergeant, but his one statement has stuck with me for almost 10 years now. Both of my kids have heard it more than a couple times, too,” said Anderson speaking of his son Braylen, 13, and daughter Aubrey, 8. “It explains so much in one small phrase. The faster you complete your responsibilities the faster you can relax and enjoy your own personal time however you choose to.”
“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/.