Deployable Cadre Program helps to fill the void
June 25, 2013
The Army Contracting Command's Deployable Cadre Program may be able to help military contracting organizations overseas with staffing shortages.
Managed by the ACC Deputy Chief of Staff Human Capital G-1, the program assists in identifying and deploying civilian contracting and quality assurance volunteers in support of contracting requirements around the globe.
Deploying cadre members provide contract management skills and expertise in operations beyond the scope of the command's day-to-day mission including training exercises, natural disasters and high-visibility priorities across the command.
"Filling those positions can sometimes be a difficult task," said Sandra Merritt, ACC DCP coordinator.
"We have lots of people that sign up, but due to different circumstances they are not always available to deploy when they're needed. They might be dealing with family or health issues or school when we'd like for them to deploy. We have to find the right fit for the cadre member in order for it to be a win-win situation."
According to Merritt, cadre members have many questions they need answered prior to signing up.
"They want to know things like what happens when I get to the deployment center. Who'll meet me when I get there or what happens if I have an emergency at home," Merritt said. "Some even wonder if they have the skills to do the job."
To ease some of the tension, she and fellow DCP coordinators Beverly Johnson and Matthew Troxell spend a lot of time communicating with cadre members before, during and after deployments.
"This is the first deployment for many of them and sometimes the first trip overseas, so there are questions about passports, visas and what they should take or send before going," she said. "We try to provide as many answers as we can to help them transition to the environment they are going into."
Cadre volunteers are Department of the Army civilians from ACC units worldwide and their desire to take on these missions is supported by their local leadership.
"Encouraging employees to volunteer for the program is very important," said Harry Hallock, executive director, ACC--Warren, Mich.
"Our contracting experts gain valuable experience working in deployable contracting environments on programs they would not ordinarily be exposed to at their normal duty command. The program helps them develop unique skill sets they then bring back to the home office.
"In addition, contracting specialists often get to work up close and personal with Soldiers and are then better able to understand their needs and the ramifications of our not doing our best in the contracting process to provide them with the support they need for success."
Hallock said the exposure helps contracting specialists become well-rounded and ultimately better decision makers.
"Not only do they bring back best practices in contracting processes and procedures they've learned during their deployments, but they gain experience working with different contract mechanisms and in environments they hadn't been exposed to previously," he said.
"As a result, employees tend to return with a more positive and self-sufficient frame of mind. They also bring specific knowledge of the performance of our weapon systems and contracted service support to assist us in working with our supported activities to fashion better scopes of work and performance work statements.
In addition, they bring back a variety of skill sets such as working under difficult conditions, teamwork, team building, working toward a common goal, direct support to the mission and the Soldier, workload management, time management, flexibility and innovation."
Several ACC-Rock Island, Ill., employees have volunteered to serve as cadre members, providing a benefit to the center while serving as contracting officers forward deployed in Southwest Asia.
"I believe it's important for our personnel here to know they are supported in their decision to volunteer for the DCP," said Col. John P. Hannon, acting executive director, ACC-RI.
"I let them know we truly appreciate the fact that they are voluntarily leaving behind their families, homes, and stepping up to a challenge that few DOD civilians take on. I want them to feel that we will do all we can to support them while deployed and certainly welcome them back when they return."
While there are occasions where cadre members are mobilized within the states, the majority of the deployment locations are overseas.
"The deployable cadre program leverages the technical strengths of the civilians and enables them to go forward to use those strengths on the ground where the contracting mission is taking place," said Col. William J. Bailey, commander, 409th Contracting Support Brigade, Kaiserslautern, Germany.
"The program gives them the opportunity to see their contracts make an immediate difference for the Soldiers they are supporting."
The 408th CSB, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, uses the program to help fill its positions on a regular basis.
"The program is absolutely critical to our mission. With the current manning/hiring situation, it would be very challenging to operate effectively without it," said Sgt. Major Ricky C. Orange, 408th CSB senior enlisted advisor.
"These volunteers are ready to support the mission from day one of their deployment. We have been pleased with their motivation, eagerness to support and learn."
Orange said the number of deployable cadre members the unit needs depends on its current on-hand authorized strength. The 408th has an average of eight cadre members at any time split between its two battalions.
"These professionals bring experience and the knowledge required to ensure commodities and services are procured in a timely manner," Orange said.
"While here, they get first-hand experience in supporting war fighters in a contingency environment. In most cases, it's significantly different from what they were doing (stateside). The contracts directly impact the war fighter. Customer interaction is constant, but very rewarding."