FORT BLISS, Texas -- (March 25, 2016) In today's global environment, America relies on every branch of the Department of Defense to support national goals. With that philosophy, Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016 combines more than 500 participants from across the DOD to train OCS personnel and improve strategic and operational relationships.The exercise unites Service members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom and other partner nations to plan for and execute realistic and effective OCS outcomes.OCSJX provides "a great opportunity to exercise and synchronize multiple staff elements," said Army Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna, the Army deputy chief of staff, G-4. "Additionally, our partner nations' participation in the exercise will set the foundation for enhanced cooperation, interoperability, and security throughout our area of responsibility."The first phase of the exercise, which began March 21, took more than 225 participants through combat skills and first aid training to prepare the trainees for deployments in any environment. The second phase, beginning March 28, takes participants through OCS academics. The third and final phase, starting April 1, commences OCS operations as participants work in teams to complete the full spectrum of OCS from requirements generation through contract execution. Teams are divided into groups that will benefit operational needs in the near future.The exercise focus is to support the warfighter using a U.S. Southern Command scenario of defending the Panama Canal while providing humanitarian assistance."The joint and coalition nature of the training introduces new concepts, creates an understanding of other service and partner nation OCS doctrine, and helps develop an understanding of the importance of OCS," said Army Col. Joshua Burris, the OCSJX-16 Army lead and co-executive director.One of the unwritten benefits of this joint exercise is the working rapport participants build while going through the exercise."I don't get to work with the Air Force or Army often, so this exercise is a great opportunity to build relationships with other services to get familiar with how they operate," said Marine Sgt. Tyler Sullivan, a contract specialist with Regional Contracting Office Northern Capitol Region from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. "When I deploy in a joint environment, I will be familiar with how things will work."Another benefit of OCSJX is that exercise participants get hands-on experience that replicates the deployed environment. Kevin Weaver, an exercise participant and a contract administrator from the Defense Contract Management Agency-Orlando in Florida, is deploying later this summer to the Middle East. Weaver received word March 23 that he will be deploying."A lot of the overseas mission has been taken over by the Army, and a lot of DCMA deployments will be with the Army so I believe this will be a good precursor for what is coming up for me," Weaver said. "The combat skills, first aid and buddy care training was great, but the best part of the exercise is the joint environment because we get to interact with all branches of service and DOD civilians. Going through this exercise, our team has grown together, which will be invaluable during our time here as well as later in our careers."The exercise benefits those who have never deployed for the acquisition community, too."For those like me who haven't deployed yet, it gives me the experience before we actually go downrange," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Shafer, a contract specialist at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "This is my first time working with a big group of joint services toward one mission. When we do deploy in the contract world it will be in the joint environment, so to get this experience now is very beneficial."Army Staff Sgt. Formeka Griffin, an exercise participant and a contracting specialist with the 901st Contracting Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas, echoes those remarks. With just nine months in the contracting career field, this exercise gives individuals like Griffin the chance to gain acquisition and OCS knowledge from the OCS professionals from all the services."This exercise will really benefit me because I will be able to reach out to other contracting members with questions after the exercise, no matter if they are in the Army, Air Force or Marines," Griffin said. "Different services in different specialties coming together to work as a team to teach and learn from each other are lessons that will benefit my career and the warfighters we serve."Exercise personnel will focus on a scenario incorporating operational contract support across the services and to its Central and South American partners to further interoperability. OCSJX will train service component commands and other major force headquarters that may be designated as a joint task force to better integrate OCS into operational access missions to preserve national interests or provide humanitarian or disaster relief.OCSJX-16, sponsored by the Joint Staff J4, is a training venue that unites joint non-acquisition and acquisition professionals to plan for and execute realistic and effective OCS outcomes. The exercise training audience includes warfighters from Army South, 1st Armored Division, Air Force South and Special Operations Command South for execution of contract support integration and contractor management tasks.OCSJX-16 runs from March 21 to April 8.