FORT HOOD, Texas -- (Sept. 3, 2015) Operational contracting support skills honed by Soldiers from the 418th Contracting Support Brigade headquarters and its subordinate battalions and teams over the last six months in Afghanistan will serve to reinforce the Army's acquisition strategies for future operations.Members of the 418th CSB and lower echelons deployed in early 2015 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, a follow-on mission at the end of U.S. combat missions in December as part of Operation Enduring Freedom."This CSB headquarters performed phenomenally," said Col. Dennis McGowan, the 418th CSB commander who led the brigade's deployment. "The individuals who were selected to establish the core headquarters staff, given the limited boots on the ground restrictions we had, really came together and was the hub around which the regional contracting centers all rotated. All of them performed far beyond my expectations and far beyond their experience. Every one of them was a true professional."Command Sgt. Maj. Marlon Cooper, the 418th CSB command sergeant major, said the deployment marked two significant, historical events."It was the first time a contracting brigade has deployed as a whole entity," he said. "Second, we went there and assumed lead service for contracting."In April, McGowan assumed command from the U.S. Central Command Joint Theater Support Contracting Command headquarters at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, signaling the start of DOD's transition to a lead service structure in charge of contracting. The brigade served as the command and control element of Expeditionary Contracting Command-Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.McGowan said the change in construct from C-JTSCC to lead service to provide theater contracting support in Afghanistan comes as the scope of the mission to secure the country transitions from U.S. and NATO forces to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.As the senior Department of Defense contracting official deployed in the Afghanistan area of responsibility, McGowan led a team of Soldiers, civilians and contractors responsible for direct operational contracted support for operations in area of responsibility. ECC-Afghanistan members are responsible for acquiring necessary supplies, services and construction support to allow supported units to meet mission needs. This also included contracting for food service, security, fuel and information technology."The deployment gave already talented individuals an opportunity to learn new things and also bring their previous experiences to bear at the same time," McGowan said.As an example, he points to the infantry background and operations experience possessed by Maj. Ryan Sunderman."He took that operational experience and focused it on contracting operations, which he would not have an opportunity to do to this degree at home station," McGowan said. "He now brings that operational mindset to helping the CSB as Col. (Lynda) Armer takes command and provides an operationalized perspective that would not have been there in the past if not for this deployment."He added that Maj. Jamarcus Brooks would not have had the chance to manage the magnitude of contracts with which he was involved as the deployed lead for contract plans, support and operations while back at home station.As elements of the brigade from Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Drum, New York, and individuals who came together to form the team continue to return in the coming months, Armer, who is set to take command of the 418th CSB in a ceremony Sept. 3 and was at the airport to greet brigade members upon their return, said these Soldiers are a valuable resource. She said Soldiers returning from deployment possess the most current skills and will play a valuable role as trainers in their respective units and at the 2016 joint contracting exercise at El Paso, Texas.Experience, Cooper added, that will be put to immediate use."After they return from block leave, they'll go back into hitting the ground running," Cooper said. "We left here with a group of folks with an average of about one and a half years of experience. Now they're coming back with a significant amount of experience that benefits not only the organization but also Soldiers who haven't deployed."Operation Freedom's Sentinel entails working with allies and partners as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission as well as continuing counterterrorism measures against Al-Qaeda. The redeployment of the 418th CSB comes as command and control was handed off to the 410th CSB from Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in a transition McGowan describes as seamlessly executed."It was a very smooth hand off to the 410th CSB," said McGowan, crediting executive officer Lt. Col. Wayne Hiatt. "We left theater with all awards received and all evaluations completed. We left nothing for the 410th to do there that we should have done operationally or administratively."He also credits the success of the transition to the personnel and logistics functions at Qatar.As McGowan departs Fort Hood following the Sept. 3 change-of-command ceremony, he said he takes with him an experience that will benefit him as he takes command of the 412th CSB at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston later this month."This experience, for me, crystalized a few things. In particular, a commander has to craft intent and vision that is simple, easily communicated and could be understood by all," the colonel said. "You have to continuously beat that drum; keep on message with strategic communications. It's internal to the unit but also to your stakeholders at the higher headquarters and your customers. So this deployment emphasized the importance of clear, simple messaging internal to the organization and external to the organization. The message internal to the organization with regard to intent and vision was the right contract at the right time by the right organization with the application of consistency, accountability and transparency."Activated in July 2013, the 418th CSB enhances installation and operational contracting support to Army commands. The brigade is responsible for more than 400 civilians at nine subordinate contracting offices aligned to support customers throughout the country. Those include offices at Fort Hood, Texas; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Riley, Kansas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Fort Irwin, California.The 418th CSB is made up of more than 150 Soldiers assigned to four contracting battalions and 16 contracting teams who, when called upon, perform contracting in a contingency environment including military and stability operations as well as natural disasters and humanitarian events. Among the major customers supported by the brigade are III CORPS, the U.S. Army Reserve Command and U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command.