MK contractors propel procurement process
February 24, 2014
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania - Service members serving at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania have spent months preparing facilities and organizing operations to support passenger and gear transit into and out of theaters in Europe and Southwest Asia, including Afghanistan. In order to do their jobs, service members rely not only on each other and supporting units in Europe and the continental U.S., but on local Romanian nationals for assistance with valuable life-support functions.
The locals, who provide services including food preparation, cleaning, snow removal, equipment and supply, are contracted by soldiers with the 928th Contingency Contracting Battalion, 409th Contracting Support Brigade, and airmen with U.S. Air Forces in Europe Headquarters.
"What we do is we contract for whatever services and supplies that are needed to support the mission," said Maj. Kevin Shilley, a contingency contracting officer with the 928th CCB and lead organizer of the MK contracting mission. "We interface with the military service, the local population and the vender base and then we write contracts in order to get supplies and services in support of the mission."
"There are several things that are not inherent to the military service, so we rely on the capabilities of the local vendor pool to accomplish those so we can focus on more mission-oriented tasks," added the Olympia, Wash., native.
Contracting is not just about providing services on the installation to support operations; it also means helping to boost the local economy and building valuable relationships with the Romanian people.
"This has helped strengthen our relationship with the local populous - we've seen that with our interaction with the vendors," said Shilley. "I think everyone benefits from it and ultimately what we want to stress to the local population is that it's not just a business transaction - it's a relationship that we can both benefit from."
A huge part of the contracting specialists' success stems from successfully working in a joint environment. Because operations at the MK Passenger Transit Center rely on both Army and Air Force cooperation, contracting specialists have to work together in order to accomplish their goals.
"The joint aspect of our mission is key to us and what we do," said Shilley. "This is truly a joint environment here, which allows us to work with the different services in order to meet their requirements. That's the unique aspect of this."
In today's operational environment, "everything is becoming more joint," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hollis, a contracting officer with USAFE Headquarters. "We have all gained some additional knowledge from the other services in the way they conduct business, and we take bits and pieces of that to make the overall mission better."
The contracting specialists arrived just weeks before the passenger transit center began operations. The mission was not without its challenges, but the professionals with the 928th CCB and USAFE have made strides in overcoming them.
"Some of the challenges that we ran into was our regulations are regulated by business systems that are in place in the U.S., so we have to adapt to the local business climate, all while still maintaining adherence to our regulations," said Shilley. "At times those are at odds, so we have to be crafty on how we make sure we can wade through that without any issues."
Another of the challenges they faced "has been trying to understand what the needs of the organization are," said Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo Bailey, a contracting specialist with the 928th CCB. "Everything happened so fast when we first got here, so it was a challenge to figure out what was needed in order to fulfill the requirements that were identified."
"We were able to overcome those challenges by exhausting all options available to us and finding technical experts that were able to lead us to the right answers we were looking for," added the Miami native.
Overall, the experience has given the contracting professionals an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the job while at the same time challenging themselves to do more.
"The experience has been great because it has given us the idea and the hands-on training of what it's like to work in a 'contingency contracting team' environment," said Bailey. "This is where you see what you're made of - this is where you see the real deal in contracting."
"The big picture is this provides training for my Soldiers and me," said Shilley. "We have the ability to respond to real-world crises, and this allows us to figure out how to think outside the box and get things done in the most expeditious manner possible."
Senior officials at MK consider the contracting team and the resources they procure essential to the success of the overall mission.
"They've been a huge enabler for us - an extremely valuable asset to have on the ground," said Col. Michael C. Snyder, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's deputy commanding officer and the officer in charge of MK's Regional Support Element. "They've not only found the right vendors to meet requirements but reached out to partners from the MK gates to the embassy. They exemplify the unsung heroes who have set the stage for mission success and made things happen day in and day out."
"Maj. Shilley and his team typify the unity of effort prevalent throughout this mission," added the Dallas, Ore., native. "They're demonstrably a 'team of teams.' They incorporate the holistic approach into everything they do."