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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command -- Fort Knox
POSITION AND TITLE: Procurement Analyst, Government Purchase Card Program Manager
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in contracting
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 14 years
AWARDS: Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, Recognition Letter from the Office of the Secretary of Defense
EDUCATION: Bachelor of General Studies, Western Kentucky University
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'I thought I had died and gone to heaven'

Although she has been in acquisition for just 14 years, Catherine J. "Jainie" Bell's federal civilian career dates back to the mid-1980s, when she left the banking industry for better-paying opportunities in the Army. "Banks were notorious for low pay, but we were expected to dress like a million," said Bell, who's now a procurement analyst and manager for the Government Purchase Card (GPC) Program for the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) -- Fort Knox. "When I began my civil service career I never dreamed I would be working 33 years later. I thought I was just working to supplement the family income."

Bell's career got off to a rocky start. "My first permanent position was with Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) at trainee pay using paper files. On my first day, I realized that I only had 89 more days before I could apply for another position--all I did all day was file, file and file some more." She held a handful of positions before joining MICC's contracting staff in early 2002, transitioning from an instructor role.

Bell's military experiences aren't limited to the workplace: she's an Army brat and is married to a Soldier. "Every day, I remember a long-retired post commander whose motto was, 'It's a Great Day to be a Soldier.' I try to do my best every day for the Soldiers in this great Army. They deserve nothing less."

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR POSITION, AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO THE ARMY OR THE WARFIGHTER?

I advise warfighters on micro-purchases of supplies and services. My work enhances the warfighter's ability to procure needed items in a timely manner while complying with procurement regulations. As a contract administrator, it's rewarding to work with the customer and the contractor to ensure that the contract was performed according to the terms written and that the customer was happy with the end product. In the GPC program, I've also enjoyed the opportunity to provide training to customers on the program--it sets the stage for their success.

HOW DID YOU BECOME PART OF THE AL&T WORKFORCE?

My first permanent position as a federal civilian was with DFAS in 1983. From there, I took a temporary position as a supply clerk and then a position in fire prevention with the Fort Knox Fire Department. I took that position hoping I could get into the Safety Intern Program, but that never came to fruition. However, during this time I was very fortunate to get a long-term training assignment that allowed me to finish my degree. At the end of that assignment, I transitioned to an instructor position, providing maintenance training to Soldiers on the M1 Abrams tank. I was in this position for five years, and I loved training Soldiers, but having to climb into and onto the tank was starting to get tiresome. When I was selected for the MICC-Fort Knox contracting position in 2002, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I have enjoyed every day since entering this career field.

CAN YOU NAME A PARTICULAR MENTOR OR MENTORS WHO HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER? HOW DID THEY HELP YOU? HAVE YOU BEEN A MENTOR?

My contracting officer was a very good mentor by way of her red pen. And just being in the environment and hearing and seeing what others were working on allowed me to learn and grow immensely. I've been fortunate to be able to develop the GPC Program over the years to what it is today: the largest program of its kind in MICC with more than 2,000 accounts. I try to be a mentor to all new personnel who enter the program and pass my knowledge to the next generation of contracting professionals.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHANGES YOU'VE SEEN OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR FEDERAL CAREER?

The biggest change I've seen is automation: I started on a Wang word processor that took up half of the office. Other changes include the growing diversity of the military and the increase in opportunities for all Soldiers to be successful.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS LOOKING TO FOLLOW A SIMILAR CAREER?

The contracting career path has a wide variety of opportunities. I always recommend the career field to people who are new to government service. It's always in demand, and positions can be found around the world. Always continue to learn and be open for new opportunities. Be adaptable, as change comes often.

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"Faces of the Force" is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.