Military contracting specialists prepare for future deployments
February 9, 2011
More than 200 contingency contracting warfighters, coming from as far away as Japan, Alaska and Hawaii, descended onto Fort Campbell, Ky., January 24 through February 4, to participate in the 412th Contracting Support Brigade's Operation Joint Dawn, the largest joint contracting field training exercise of its type.
Active Army, Air Force, Army Reserve and Army National Guard warriors participated in the two-week exercise. The goal of the training was to provide a ready-trained contingency contracting force capable of supporting warfighters and conducting the contingency contracting mission.
Joint Dawn is an evolution from last year's Operation Bold Impact exercise, according to Col. Jeff Morris, 412th CSB commander at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 412th CSB, composed of five contingency contraction battalions, sponsored both exercises. The U.S Army Expeditionary Contracting Command, the 412th's higher headquarters, provides contracting support to the Army and other Department of Defense organizations operating outside the continental United States.
"Last year we trained about 35 Soldiers," Morris explained. "This year, we opened it up, said let's make this joint. We brought in the Air Force and a couple of dozen Soldiers from the National Guard and the Army Reserve. They are operating in an environment with civilians, they are operating in an environment with National Guard and Reserve, and they're operating with a whole lot of Air Force people."
The exercise included combat engagement skills, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle roll-over egress, tactical combat casualty care, and virtual battle space simulation. It also challenged the military contracting professionals with more than 1,300 master scenario events list actions, including purchase requests and commitments, close-out actions, commander's critical information requirements, contracting ethics issues and confrontations with disgruntled customers.
Morris said his staff worked extremely hard to make this exercise as close as possible to contracting operations within theater. The 900th Contingency Contracting Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C., led the exercise's planning and execution. Lt. Col. Carol Tschida, 900th CCBn commander, said the exercise provided contracting professionals some of what combat units gain through pre-deployment training at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
"This training is very important for contracting officers because we don't have the opportunity to get together like this and practice for deployments." Tschida explained. "We've put together realistic scenarios of what contingency contracting officers can expect to see in theater."
Tschida said they captured lessons learned from Operation Bold Impact, as well as input from exercise participants who have since deployed. She said deployed CCOs also provided current sample contract actions that were included in the exercise play.
"When I went into theater there was no expectation management," said Sgt Maj. Douglas Adams, 412th CSB senior enlisted advisor. "It was - this is the date you need to be in theater, figure out how to get there and we'll see you on the other end. We're taking our experiences and we're trying to offer current deployers what we didn't have."
Air Force contracting airmen are also benefitting from the training. According to Col. Roger H. Westermeyer, director of Contracting at Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the training will help deploying airmen because they will train like they will fight when they are deployed to regional contracting centers in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.
"Our regional contracting centers are joint," he explained. "That's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines - all working together to get the mission done. It's important if that's the way we're going to operate in theater, then we should train that way now. That way we learn each other's lingo and how we operate so when we deploy together we'll be ready from day one."
Westermeyer said airmen received a lot of exposure to combat skills they don't normally experience including firefights with aggressors as the contracting teams worked to rescue and treat casualties.
"A lot of it (the warrior skills training) is training that I could spend 20 years in the Air Force and maybe not even see ," said Senior Airman George Halley, 18th Contracting Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan. "I might see something similar, but I wouldn't see what the Army is doing."
Halley said rolling over in the MRAP trainer was "an interesting experience. I hope I never have to do it in real life, but I'm prepared now; I know what to expect."
"I think this is clearly the premier contracting training exercise that we have anywhere in the services today," said Morris, who highly praised the training. "And I say that not because it's us, I say that because I've talked to the people here that have done the others. And I just can't impress upon you enough the motivation that is shown by the Soldiers and airmen that we have here today. Everybody's going out there with a great attitude. It doesn't matter if we have three inches of snow on the ground; they're out there doing their job, digging in and doing the things they need to prepare them for deployment."