JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (December 3, 2015) -- Since the Civil War, it has been the final resting place for our nation's warfighters. Covering 624 acres of hills dotted with centuries old trees, the responsibility for the care and maintenance of this burial ground and the Soldiers who perform ceremonies daily at Arlington National Cemetery belongs to a team of Mission and Installation Contracting Command professionals at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.Today, contracting professionals at MICC-Fort Belvoir stay busy providing the contract support to ensure the cemetery and its ceremonial unit are mission ready. The team is comprised of Akefeh Lambert, division chief, Sherry Carner, contracting officer, and contract specialists Tony Roberts, Denese Henson, Capt. Tessa Jones and Ryan Macdonald. Since the beginning of fiscal 2014, the team has awarded 70 contracts in the amount of more than $5.4 million for items rarely referenced on a procurement list.Arlington National Cemetery is also home to the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army. One of the hallmarks of the cemetery is the six-horse caisson funeral procession. The horses and their riders are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard, caisson platoon. The platoon conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each week and between six and eight services on Saturdays. The horses are an integral part of the caisson platoon's mission, as they transport the remains of fallen service members to their final resting place at the cemetery.For the caisson platoon, the team buys working uniforms, ceremonial uniforms, specialized war uniforms, horses, horse feed, supplements and stable care to include hay, grain, salt blocks, specialized feed supplements, stall freshener, bedding, stall mats, hay feeders and grain silos, chains, whiffletrees and gun covers for antique ceremonial cannons in support of the unit. For the care of the grounds, the team buys utility vehicles, riding lawn mowers and skid steers, tractor maintenance, storage buildings and other ground maintenance needs.To fulfill their requirements and identify any issues, the contracting team regularly conducts working groups with the Old Guard. The group is comprised of technical experts, budgeting staff and supply management personnel."With too many requirements and the uniqueness of the mission, we use working groups to ensure we fill the requirement correctly," Lambert said. "These requirements have high visibility and we need to be correct the first time."During the working groups, customer team members discuss their current and forecasted needs, supplies or services they believe will fulfill those needs and funding options. The contracting team oftentimes partners with the customer to assist them in understanding the procurement process to help set priorities, provide guidance on necessary pre-award documentation, and develop acquisition strategies to support the unit's mission and strategic goals.Members of the group agree this process facilitates a culture of openness, accountability and communication throughout the acquisition process and between the procurement team and the unit.Because of the Old Guard's ceremonial importance, the contracting team operates on a short deadline to fulfill requirements and award contracts."The maximum time line is 60 days; however, we get these requirements sometimes based on urgency and a quick turnaround," Lambert said. "In most cases we only find one vendor that responds and sometimes with no response, so we have to go back and re-solicit it again."In addition to time constraints and uniqueness of the Soldiers' uniforms, Lambert said the Army relies on her contracting team to effectively communicate the requirements and detailed specifications to the vendors so that the items purchased meet the customer's need and they are requisitioned properly the first time."The uniforms procured for the Old Guard must be historically accurate down to the type of materials and placement of the stitching and buttons," Lambert said. "The Old Guard presents historic theatrical productions to audiences in the Washington, D.C., area. The Old Guard annually participates in more than 6,000 ceremonies a year or an average of 16 per day."When soliciting these requirements, the greatest challenge faced by the contracting team is the task of finding vendors who can fulfill these specialized requirements at a competitive price in accordance with a strict timeline."These requirements have high visibility and are fast paced, and at times very urgent, which gives us few weeks to prepare for awards," Lambert said. "The Old Guard and Arlington National Cemetery have not failed a mission; therefore, we have to get it right the first time."With contracting support from MICC-Fort Belvoir team, the Old Guard's caisson platoon and its 624-acre home continues the tradition of being a place of honor for all our nation's fallen service members and their families since the Civil War.Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the MICC is made up of more than 1,500 military and civilian members assigned to three contracting support brigades, one field directorate office and 32 field offices responsible for contracting for Soldiers. In fiscal 2015, the command executed more than 36,000 contract actions valued at more than $5.2 billion across the Army, including $2.25 billion to American small businesses. The command also managed more than 600,000 Government Purchase Card Program transactions in fiscal 2015 valued at an additional $747 million.