Mentor & Protégé Series: Samantha Shultz & Staff Sgt. Krishna Menon
October 9, 2013
Mentor: Samantha Shultz - contracting officer Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Future of contracting
When I first started my career fat the Army Contracting Command, I was told by several individuals that it takes several years to really achieve a good grasp of the contracting process. After working as a contract specialist for over three years and now as a contracting officer, I can understand just how accurate those individuals were. The contracting processes that we were following a year ago are not the same processes we follow today. Policies and procedures are always changing, which makes every day different and challenging. However, when I receive reports or pictures of the tools, equipment, or supplies being utilized from contracts that I execute, it gives me a sense of achievement and fulfillment.
The need to keep skills current
It is imperative that contracting personnel keep up to date on training along with the current policies and procedures. Maintaining a current knowledge base helps ensure the correct supplies and services are being procured in an accurate and timely manner to support the customer's mission, while obtaining the requirement at a fair and reasonable cost.
Every procurement is unique, and therefore has its own distinct course of action. To be successful in supporting the war fighter, contracting personnel need to be able to think outside of the box while staying within the terms and conditions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation , the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation, and local policies in order to consider what is within the best interest of the government.
Being a mentor is very rewarding. I am currently a mentor for two Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Krishna Menon and Sgt. 1st Class Kayann Brown, and one civilian , Jason Childress. Assisting them in the day-to-day contracting operations gives me the opportunity to see them expand their knowledge and skills as well as gain new friendships. However, one of my biggest challenges with being a mentor is finding a balance between mentoring and my workload.
Recommendations for new contracting professionals
There is a great deal to learn in the world of contracting. It is easy to feel overwhelmed very quickly between the amount of actions the office handles to the complexity and attention procurements may require. I encourage new contracting professionals to be thorough and patient. Every day can be a new challenge with the opportunity to learn something new.
The importance of mentoring Soldiers
I take my role as a mentor to the military members very seriously, as there is a responsibility to share a lot of information with them in a relatively short amount of time. Many of the Soldiers who come to ACC are new to contracting, so the time we have to work together prior to their deployment or rotation is valuable to their development in the career field. There is an expectation that these military members will be successful contingency contracting officers when they are called upon to deploy, and the knowledge and skills that are developed during the mentorship are necessary in order to successfully support our war fighters in an overseas contingency environment.
Protégé: Staff Sgt. Krishna Menon, Contingency Contracting NCO
Contracting is one of the best fields to be in as a non-commissioned officer in the Army. I would recommend this military occupational specialty to any NCO, whether they plan on retiring in the Army, or whether they have plans on a life after the Army. After being in this MOS for a little more than a year, I have a different perspective on the business side of the military. I have come to realize how important it is to execute procurement actions at fair and reasonable costs.
Training in the contracting field is much like any other training you receive in the Army. The quality of your training is directly proportional to the quality of your trainer. A civilian mentor is an integral part of our training process. They have been in this field a lot longer and their knowledge of the contracting process is immense. I have been fortunate to have an outstanding mentor here, as well as the mentor from my previous unit.
Coming from Korea, the procedural difference between my previous unit and my current unit are the biggest challenges I encounter. There are certain courses of action within the acquisition process which are very different from overseas to stateside. For example, in Korea, small business set-asides were not a crucial part of the procurement method, whereas here, we employ small business set-asides as much as possible.
On working with a mentor
Ms. Shultz has a vast knowledge base and has been great to work with. As I previously stated, the quality of your training is directly proportional to the quality of your trainer. Ms. Shultz has the qualities of a great mentor, such as patience, character, command of the subject, communication skills and a quality that I believe is equally important, a sense of humor. My transition from overseas to stateside contracting has definitely been effortless and successful due to her tutelage.
On the importance of military integration
Military integration is essential to contracting. In the past, we have relied on civilians to deploy to contingencies, whether war or humanitarian relief, to perform contracting actions. These contracting actions helped Soldiers receive the supplies and services needed to complete missions. The integration of Soldiers into contracting field has helped alleviate the need for civilians to deploy and in turn has helped us carry out our inherent duty as contingency contracting NCOs and officers.