Supporting ‘The Heartbeat and the Backbone’

By November 19, 2019November 20th, 2019Faces of the Force
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Staff Sgt. William Phipps

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Proponency and Analysis Division, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center
TITLE: Acquisition proponency noncommissioned officer
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in contracting
EDUCATION: BBA, Ashford University; associate degree in general studies, Central Texas College


By Susan L. Follett

Fortunately for the acquisition community, Staff Sgt. William Phipps likes mysteries. Before joining the Army Acquisition Workforce nearly six years ago, he served as an Army logistician. “I heard chatter about the 51C [contracting noncommissioned officer (NCO)] MOS throughout the ranks of the formation in which I stood, and I was intrigued,” said Phipps. “There was no solid answer as to what an acquisition NCO was or did. I was able to conduct some research about what the MOS entailed, and I came to the conclusion that it was a business adviser. I thought that I could leverage the knowledge and skills gained from this MOS to help propel my career, on active duty and after the Army.”

Now serving as an acquisition proponency NCO with the Proponency and Analysis Division of the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, Phipps advocates for opportunities and career progression for NCOs “who operate as the heartbeat and the backbone of the Army’s acquisition workforce,” he said. “This position can maintain the motivation of the NCO at a high level to help ensure optimal productivity and progression. That in turn enables NCOs to provide what the warfighter needs in a timely manner and at the right price, and provides combatant commanders prolonged sustainment support in order to accomplish their portion of the Army’s overall mission.”

His first acquisition position was as a member of a contracting team in the 928th Contracting Battalion in Grafenwoehr, Germany. “Because of the military leadership, the amount of people with positive outlooks, and the understanding and tremendous patience of the German nationals who willingly shared their years of experience, the opportunity to have served in that location as a first contracting experience was really rewarding,” said Phipps.

Now, almost six years later, he finds that he still relies in part on what he learned in his previous career. “There have been some contracts that I previously worked that went hand in hand with my previous MOS,” he said. “For example, I had to complete a contract for a gravel parking lot in Europe that was going to be used to store refueling vehicles. I know from working as a logistician that those vehicles are required to have a certain amount of space between them. Without that knowledge, the space acquired would have been too small, since the request failed to incorporate the proper amount of square footage.”

For Phipps, “one great thing about the Acquisition Corps is the humility of the workforce—whether you wear a military uniform or civilian clothes,” he said. He has also found that an acquisition career isn’t built on what you know, “but who knows what and who’s willing to share what they know,” said Phipps. “To be successful, it’s important to maintain a strong team with a give-and-take mentality.”


Staff Sgt. Phipps and colleagues complete the #BeThere resilience obstacle challenge on Fort Belvoir, Virginia in September 2019. From left, Phipps and co-workers Maj. Christopher Williams, Adam Polite, Sgt. 1st Class Gentle Gladney and Lt. Col. Teresa Childs at a running event at Fort Belvoir. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. William Phipps)


It’s also important to take the initiative when it comes to developing that team, he added. “You’ll come across people who inspire you, people who help you progress, and people who already know what you are attempting to learn,” he said. “It is up to the individual to build relationships with those people and maintain a positive, progressive relationship as time elapses.” He added that he has met “plenty of intelligent people throughout this career field. There are a specific few that I rely on for ideas and input on how to increase the expertise and excitement within the NCO corps of the Army Acquisition Workforce.”

He also finds motivation and good ideas in the classroom, and recently completed the Senior Leaders Course at Fort Lee, Virginia. “The main thing that I took from the course is the realization that the NCO workforce is becoming more institutionally intelligent, and the Army needs to increase the challenges and opportunities it provides to its enlisted members,” Phipps said. “The course was a real treat, for the simple fact that it was great to be in the company of future leaders of the Acquisition Corps.”

The most notable lesson that he has learned—“both on and off the job, over the course of my career,” he said—is the importance of efficiency and effective communication. “Keeping those things in mind allows me to excel at work. In a nutshell, they remind me to conduct myself above reproach, to put my all into what is important, and to have the knowledge to identify what is important and the foresight to predict second- and third-order effects of my actions and responsibilities.”

Phipps’ mindset is also a big factor in what he has been able to accomplish so far. “Outside of supporting those who operate to support the American way of life, the greatest satisfaction I have in being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce is the ability to be part of something that’s greater than myself,” he said. “I enjoy the weight of my roles and responsibilities, and I enjoy having the opportunity to help make a difference in people’s lives.”

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