Reserve engineers assist USACE with year-end work
October 3, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany -- As the 2011 fiscal year drew to a close, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District wrapped up with a little help from nine new friendly faces. The Army's 733rd Facility Engineer Detachment (EFD) out of Leavenworth, Kan., arrived in late August to assist the district's Installation Support Branch with year-end work. The reservists spent two weeks here, during the busiest time of year, providing support to ISB project managers and fulfilling their annual training requirement.
Upon arrival, the reservists quickly jumped into a heavy workload -- conducting site visits, providing Independent Government Cost Estimates, or IGCEs, and developing scopes of work for various ISB projects, explained James "Dusty" Stehr, Europe District project manager.
The professional assistance of the reserve engineers allowed project managers to expedite some of their projects, Stehr said.
The 733rd was tasked with a wide variety of projects including designing a sewage system, rennovating a hanger that will be used as a blade shop, creating an outdoor area for the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, and developing force protection improvements.
"They took a big burden off the PMs," said Steve Roberts, Europe District's ISB chief.
The reservists were able to unburden district project managers by contributing to the completion of internal procurement packages for 30 projects valued at $7 million in just two weeks. The 733rd provided USACE an excellent return on the expense of bringing them to Wiesbaden, according to Lt. Col. Randy Bolz, a district project manager.
During their time with the district, the reservists created several IGCEs. Providing estimates is a time-consuming, but important step in the contracting process. The estimates serve as a basis for reserving project funds and for comparing costs proposed by contractors. The reservists readily took on this task and were able to go to project sites and prepare IGCEs, explained Lt. Col. Daniel Higgins, commander of the 733rd EFD.
"Our efforts significantly increased the overall productivity of the ISB. If the Independent Government Cost Estimate represents at least one-third of the man hours required to create an awardable contract package, we gave back at least that on nearly 30 projects," Higgins said. "In some cases, we did both IGCEs and scopes of work. I think one-third is a conservative number. We added a significant amount of value."
Thanks to the support of the reservists, USACE project managers were able to take on additional year-end work.
"They saved me two weeks of work. I was able to take on additional projects," said Charles Schiers, a district project manager.
The successful teamwork of ISB and the 733rd can be attributed to the detatchment's familiarity with USACE. Three of the nine reservists who traveled to Wiesbaden are Kansas City District employees.
"I have a project manager, an architect and an estimator," Higgins said.
While the Kansas City District may be home to only a few reservists, the entire 733rd has experience working with USACE.
"We have a rich history of working alongside the Corps," Higgins said.
During deployments, EFD reserve-component Soliders may not work directly for the Corps of Engineers, but in many situations they are working in tandem with the Corps, Higgins explained.
For this reason, it is important that the reservists understand the Job Order Contract process, used by USACE in the U.S. and overseas.
While the JOC process is relatively standardized throughout USACE, the software used to estimate contracts and receive contractor proposals varries greatly among stateside and overseas locations, Bolz explained.
"EURO JOC is the software we use to estimate contracts and it's the same software contractors use to submit proposals," Bolz said. "In the U.S. they use software that is RS-Means based."
The reservists received compressed EURO JOC training as soon as they arrived in Wiesbaden, learning the software system in two short days.
"Two days of training on EURO JOC is pretty minimal," Schiers said. "Normally training takes months."
Learning to use EURO JOC in an expedited timeframe was only one of the challenges the 733rd faced during its two-week annual training exercise. The reservists were also confronted with the unique and complicated business processes of the district, Bolz said.
"Getting up to speed on our business processes provided a few hurdles. They overcame the hurdles by developing relationships with PMs in the section and quickly adapting to the environment," Bolz added.
Despite the challenges, the reservists were able to adjust and successfully complete work on 30 year-end projects for the district. This had a tremendous impact, significantly easing the ISB year-end workload.
"Getting customers' projects packaged for award before the end of the fiscal year has been a little bit easier because the dedicated members of the 733rd were here to help," Stehr said.
While the arrangement to bring the 733rd over to Europe was somewhat of an unknown, Bolz proposed the idea to district leadership in 2010; it proved to be a positive experience for both the reservists and USACE.
"We learned and we delivered quality products to the PMs," Higgins said. "The exercise gave us real world projects to sink our teeth into."
The district was impressed with the technical engineering capabilities and the level of productivity demonstrated by the reservists.
"They came in and did a great job," said Roberts. "They were pounding away on the computers. Their output was far more than expected."
It is no surprise, given the postitive outcome of the annual training exercise, that the district would like to create a formalized partnership with the 733rd. The district's ISB will welcome future year-end help from the reservists without hesitation.
Instead of taking advantage of their training location and traveling throughout Europe, the 733rd spent most of their time working in the office or in the field, explained Scheirs.
"These guys worked weekends," Scheirs said.
When Scheirs arrived at the office at 6 a.m. the reservists were already at their desks. The 733rd was committed to adding value to the district and learning from the fast-paced environment in Europe.
The reservists are grateful that USACE brought them to Wiesbaden for annual training, Higgins said.
"We are thankful that the Corps was willing to take a shot [on us]," said Higgins. "It was a leap of faith."