JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 3, 2013) -- The demanding pace of contract operations in a deployed setting is testing the mettle of a Mission and Installation Contracting Command contract specialist from Fort Carson, Colo.Following five days of travel with very little sleep, Jessica Merrill arrived at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, the first week of July and found the exasperating transportation delays along her route there would quickly be replaced by the hurried pace of contracting.Merrill is deployed for 12 months as a contract specialist in support of contract administration at the General Support Contracting Center at Camp Phoenix, which is responsible for theater-wide procurements. Her primary duties include invoice processing, contract action close-outs and claims.The Colorado Springs native admits that the contracting work itself is not much different from what she's performed at MICC-Fort Carson for the past four years, but the tempo of operations is far greater."The work hours are much more demanding and the amount of workload is significantly larger," Merrill said. "It's a faster pace with constant changes as personnel redeploy. It's more hands on, and learning and living in an environment unlike anything I have ever experienced before."Although the 31-year-old misses her family, friends and pets, her greatest adjustments have been getting used to limited privacy and "being able to just get up and go" when she wants. She does spend her little spare time going to the gym and watching movies when not sleeping.Frank Petty, the deputy director for MICC-Fort Carson, said that while the yearlong absence of the promising contracting specialist at his office is significant, the benefit outweighs the loss."The experience gained supporting Soldiers at war is most beneficial for her career development," Petty said. "We are proud of all she has accomplished and will accomplish, but also can't wait to have her back with her newly gained understanding of contracting."