FORT BELVOIR, Va., Jan. 23, 2017 - Army Capt. Raven Cornelius, the lead contract specialist for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command here, is good at saving the Army money.

During a 2014 deployment to Regional Contracting Center - East at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, when she served as joint team lead and contingency contracting officer for the U.S. Central Command - Joint Theater Support Contracting Command, Cornelius terminated and settled more than two dozen contracts valued at $20 million, and closed nearly a dozen more Defense
Contract Management Agency and C-JTSCC contracts worth $14 million.

At INSCOM, Cornelius manages contract actions from procurement to post-award for $7.6 billion in global intelligence support services contracts. Her work supports INSCOM, the U.S. intelligence community, combatant commands and Army service component commands, worldwide.

Supporting Combat Effectiveness

"My role is to ensure that requirements needed to shape the mission are available to the warfighter," Cornelius said. "Combat effectiveness is essential in the Army, and the work I do is an essential piece of the puzzle that enables mission success."

Cornelius said a group of mentors contributed to her career success. She noted that those mentors "pushed me to be the voice of the warfighter, and impact the military for positive change. A contract creates positive change to both the mission and the warfighter by allowing them to focus on their job."

Cornelius' mentors include Irvin Bonus, her former team leader and now team leader for Regional Contracting Office - Hawaii, part of the 413th Contracting Support Brigade.

Crediting Mentors

Bonus "is an excellent mentor who challenged me to learn the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and understand the importance of contracting," she said.

Cornelius said she employed Bonus' advice, and consequently, earned a certification of federal contract management from the National Contract Management Association, along with her Level III Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification in contracting to better-understand
the FAR.

Army Col. Kevin Nash, Cornelius' former commander, also has been an important part of her professional development, she said.

Nash's "leadership and mentorship were key in showing me what a military acquisition professional should be," Cornelius said. Cornelius said Nash helped her to master operational contract support and become a valuable business adviser to the command. Those skills, Cornelius said, improved her
ability to write contracts as well as to provide briefings and solicit input at the senior level.

Perfecting Skills

Perfecting those skills and building a solid foundation are vital to success, Cornelius said.

"Contracting is evolving, so don't be discouraged if you don't grasp everything," she aid. "Challenge yourself each day to learn something new, and assist with unfamiliar requirements. Learning opportunities are endless in this career, so take advantage of them."

She added, "Take pride in your career, and learn everything you can to be able to understand why acquisition is a mission enabler."

Cornelius' military career started right after high school. Following the path of her father, her "biggest hero," Cornelius joined the Army in 1999 as a private. She then left active duty and earned a bachelor's degree. She later returned to active duty to attend Officer Candidate School.

Successful Officer Candidate

Following OCS, Cornelius spent seven years as a Chemical Corps officer. In late 2011, she was working in the Operational Protection Directorate for 8th Army and was assigned to a team researching ways to measure and reduce warfighter exposure to radiation.

"As a result of our work, we identified and fielded radiation detection equipment to subordinate commands to allow for low-level radiation monitoring of more than 28,000 service members across the Korean Peninsula," Cornelius said.

That assignment, she said, also gave her the opportunity to meet people from the acquisition community.

"And I became very interested in that career field as a way to mitigate threats and provide products viable to the field," Cornelius said. She transitioned to the Acquisition Corps one year later.

"I have been exposed to many different levels of acquisitions to understand why what we do is invaluable, and I've had the opportunity to work with different services' components in multiple countries -- and I have found every minute of it rewarding," she said.

Maintaining mission focus is the most challenging part of her work.

"Sometimes the mission exceeds the existing capabilities," she said. "We face challenges in handling all the requirements in the time frame requested for each mission."

The solution is old-fashioned, hard work, according to Cornelius.

"Longer hours -- when they're needed -- to be sure we complete the requirements needed to enable the mission," she said.