Staying on top of the game

Faces of the Force: Staff Sgt. Charles Prihoda
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Staff Sgt. Charles Prihoda

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: 901st Contracting Battalion, U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command – Fort Hood
TITLE: Contracting noncommissioned officer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 3
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 13 (9 in the U.S. Army; 4 in the U.S. Marine Corps)
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level I in contracting
EDUCATION: J.D., Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University; B.A. in history, Ohio University
AWARDS: Army Commendation Medals (two oak leaf clusters (OLCs)), Army Achievement Medal (one OLC), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (two knots), Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon (Bronze Numeral 2), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Basic Parachutist Badge and Air Assault Badge


 

by Susan L. Follett

It has been a busy year for Staff Sgt. Charles Prihoda. He completed his first forward acquisition assignment, spending nine months in Poland in support of 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Right after his return, he began training for the upcoming Best Warrior Competition and was ultimately selected to represent the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) in the next round of the contest. And he’s a newly minted Texas attorney, having passed that state’s bar in the spring.

Prihoda is a contracting noncommissioned officer (NCO) for the 901st Contracting Battalion, part of the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) – Fort Hood, Texas. The 901st, which comprises five contracting teams, is responsible for planning and executing contingency contracting in support of Army and joint operations, preparing warfighters to accomplish operational contracting support missions, and training and deploying contingency contracting teams. In garrison, the battalion works with MICC – Fort Hood to provide contracting support for the 1st Cavalry Division and the installation.

Prihoda’s job is to facilitate the contracting needs of units in garrison and in deployed environments. “In some cases, I act as a business adviser to unit commanders, recommending appropriate acquisition strategies that will save money and comply with federal regulations,” he explained. “When I tell people about my job, they are surprised to find out that the Army contracts for so many different things, both large and small.”

Prihoda earned his law degree in 2010 and relies in part on what he learned in law school for his contracting work. “I’ve always enjoyed contract law, and one of the things lawyers learn is how to understand language and interpret statutes. Both of those skills come into play in my work now.” He noted that the most enjoyable aspect of his job was one that he didn’t expect: seeing the direct impact of his work. “I knew that contracting was an important part of acquisition, but I didn’t realize I’d see the impact it has so directly—on maintaining readiness, for example, or supporting a training mission.”

Acquisition is a dynamic field, he added. “With changes in policy and changes in regulation, you can’t get set in your ways. It’s really important to read policy updates and stay proficient in your career field so you can remain on top of your game.” He also relies on—and shares—advice that was given to him by a contracting officer he worked with at MICC, Staff Sgt. Louis Olvera. “His advice was to be eager to handle requirements, and to get involved in as many different requirements as early as you can to gain experience.”

Prihoda has been in the acquisition workforce for three years, following six years as an infantry Soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His military service also includes four years with the Marine Corps, where he served before attending college and law school. “I applied to become a 51C [contracting NCO] in 2015, and accessed into the field in 2016. What appealed the most to me was being able to use past experiences in the field of purchasing, and working with federal regulations.”

Fort Hood is Prihoda’s first acquisition duty station, and his nine-month stint in Poland was his first forward assignment as a contracting NCO. “It was a great experience to be forward with the units we support, and to see how contracting efforts have an immediate and direct impact on the mission,” he said. It was also somewhat of a baptism by fire. “In garrison, the contracting process has a fairly long timeline. But in a forward assignment, someone will come to you on Monday and ask you for something they needed yesterday. Missions change rapidly, so there’s a much shorter turnaround time. It really required me to think and move quickly.”

His return from Poland coincided with a request from a fellow Soldier to join him in training for the Best Warrior Competition. In May, he beat out nine other Soldiers in a weeklong event and was named ACC Best Warrior of the Year. He represented ACC at the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition, which was held at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, in July. (Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Alexander, a contracting NCO with the 921st Contracting Battalion at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, came out on top at that event.)

The competition includes physical fitness as well as knowledge of Army tasks and exercises. Prihoda and the other participants completed the Army physical fitness test, an 8-mile road march, weapons qualification, combat water survival, warrior battle drills and land navigation, as well as an interview with a board of ACC senior NCOs, a written test and an essay.

“Sergeant Prihoda is the total package, and well-deserving of the title of ACC’s best NCO,” said ACC Command Sgt. Maj. Jill Crosby. “He is articulate, in amazing physical condition, and exceeds the standards in all the best warrior competition events.”


This article is published in the Fall 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

“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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