FORT BLISS, Texas -- Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise - 2017 kicked off here March 15. OCSJX is the Department of Defense's premier operational contract support exercise.

Nearly 450 service members and civilians from across the DOD and allied nations will participate in OCSJX-17. The participants will test their skills and hone their abilities in tactical- and strategic-level scenarios focusing on total force integration for contingency readiness, and improve their OCS capabilities.

OCSJX-17 is designed to train individuals from the logistics, personnel, finance, legal, and contracting career fields. According to OCSJX leaders, participants will come away with expertise to improve strategic and operational relationships.

"We're teaching participants how to plan for, understand and think ahead for the second and third order effects," said Col. Brian Ucciardi, Director of Contracting Operating Location Pacific for the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii, and this year's lead director of OCSJX-17. Ucciardi, stressed the importance of planning, "If you don't get it right during the planning phase, it [a contract] will never execute correctly and create the effects a battlefield commander is requiring."

Ucciardi stated that there is a lot of money spent in the battlefield that has the right intentions, but may produce the wrong results and this exercise is designed to provide the participants with practical training across the full spectrum of OCS to help make sure that does not happen.

Col. Lynda Armer, the 418th Contracting Brigade Commander at Ft. Hood, Texas, and the co-director of OSCJX-17 echoed Ucciardi's statements about the significance of planning early.

"OCSJX is not about writing contracts it's about the planning that goes on before contracts are written. This exercise provides participants the opportunity to understand why planning and recognizing any gaps is vital. This way the gaps can be planned for to better ensure the contract is awarded and meets the required effects."

This year, the eighth iteration of the exercise, it consists of two phases. Participants begin with a week dedicated to academics followed by a week of OCS-scenario execution. During the second phase the participants have an opportunity to test their new knowledge and apply the lessons-learned. The director for logistics, Joint Staff J4, is funding the exercise.

OCSJX-17 is based on a U.S. Pacific Command scenario with multinational, interagency and vendor participants. It provides an excellent level of instruction incorporating the most recent OCS doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures. OCSJX-17 provides OCS practical training to prepare the participants for planned or potential deployments.

"This exercise allows warfighters to work with their contactor support personnel," said Capt. John Purcell, OCSJX-17 Operations Cell Lead, who is here for his second OCSJX. A procurement analyst from Air Force Installation Contracting Agency at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Purcell believes participants are better prepared to help achieve a commander's objectives after working together in an exercise,

"More than ever, in current conflicts we rely heavily on contractors to do historically military positions," stated Purcell, "And we should never underestimate what could happen, because no matter what amount of planning is done, the inevitable will happen."

OCSJX-17 brings together service members and civilians from all branches of the DOD and across the total force spectrum, as well as coalition partner nations and agencies from outside the DOD. This year national forces from the United Kingdom will be participating in the exercise. To date, operational contract support joint exercises have trained more than 3,000 participants from the Office Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, services, support agencies, multi-national and interagency stakeholders.

According to Joint Publication 4-10, OCS is the process of planning for and obtaining supplies, services, and construction from commercial sources in support of joint operations. OCS is essential for maximizing the effects of the resources spent in support of operations.