By Kari HawkinsSeptember 15, 2017
At the Army Contracting Command-Redstone -- where contracts for multi-billion-dollar acquisition programs are managed alongside every day purchases for the installation's facilities -- the variety of contracts and contracting procedures can make the learning curve seem daunting for new employees.
Enter the Green Platoon, a training concept being piloted by ACC-Redstone to provide new contracting professionals with the right amount of training to build a background of knowledge and experience that benefits the employee, ACC-Redstone and the Army.
Officially known as the Green Platoon Integrated Training and On-The-Job Training Program, the new training concept launched in June and will continue for six months. The program involves 32 Department of the Army contracting interns and ACC-Redstone developmental contract specialists.
"As a part of Operationalizing Contracting, the Green Platoon is an expeditious way for ACC-Redstone to speed experience to new employees for the future of government contracting," said ACC-Redstone executive director Rebecca Weirick.
"The Green Platoon allows us to provide our contracting specialists with the best and most consistent training and on-the-job experience possible, in the fastest way possible."
On average, it takes seven to 10 years to develop a contracting officer, Weirick said. It is hoped the Green Platoon will not only provide better training and foundational knowledge, but also accelerate the development of contracting specialists into contracting officers.
"We want our employees to succeed and excel in the Green Platoon," Weirick said. "My vision is to develop our new employees faster; instill confidence and competence; and enable them to become contracting officers in three or four years. This developmental training program is a dramatic change from what we've done in the past. I'm excited about providing our employees with the tools they need to keep providing equipment and services to the Soldier on time every time."
The concept for ACC-Redstone's Green Platoon was developed based on the standards of the Green Platoon training unit of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Contracting officer Doug Greene first presented the idea to Weirick in early 2016 following the influx of about 80 new ACC-Redstone developmental contracting specialists into the 900-employee organization during the previous year.
"These new hires received all their formal training, but their on-the-job training was the luck of the draw, Greene said.
The different approaches to assimilating new employees into ACC-Redstone caused a difference in training levels and experiences.
"We wanted a better system. We wanted to bring new employees together and provide them with on-the-job opportunities that will grow their understanding of the basics of contracting and give them exposure to a variety of contracting packages. We wanted to make sure they had leaders who would mentor and teach them through contracting procedures," said Greene, who is now the Green Platoon program chief. "What came out of that is the Green Platoon, a deliberate, systematic and consistent training process."
Each new contracting employee has a series of training requirements both online and through the Defense Acquisition University that they must complete during their first two years of employment to obtain their Level 2 certification and become a contracting specialist. As part of the Green Platoon, these employees are grouped together in their own office area as they complete their formal training while also working on contracting actions under the close supervision of a subject matter expert, who serves as a teacher and mentor. The Green Platoon SMEs are Sarah Shaffer from the Aviation and Missile Command and Deanna Kokocha from the Space and Missile Defense Command Contracting and Acquisition Management Office.
"The interns work with the SMDC and AMCOM subject matter experts on smaller contracting packages, taking them from cradle to grave," Greene said.
"The fundamentals of contracting are all the same. In a cradle-to-grave acquisition, the beginning and end are always the same but there are different steps along the way. The acquisition process is the same, but there are different checks and balances based on the amount of the contract. Once they understand the fundamentals of contracting, they can take on more complex contracting packages."
The SMEs along with Greene and technical advisor Pat Rhode also introduce the interns to the culture of ACC-Redstone, the military structure and other aspects of working on contracts in support of AMCOM, SMDC and Redstone Garrison.
"We focus on training first and guiding them through the training. We want to keep them on target so they don't fall behind," SME Kokocha said. "We don't want them to fail. We want to use this program to set the standard for them and see them benefit from the training they receive."
"We have a roadmap for training, but there is enough flexibility so that we can meet the requirements needed with each employee," SME Shaffer added.
Both know that the right amount of formal and online training as well as on-the-job training will provide the kind of employee that ACC-Redstone needs to move Army contracting forward.
"What is good for new personnel is good for the center overall," Shaffer said. "These employees are the future of contracting. One day they will be the leaders here."
The Green Platoon is designed to set new employees on the right path to succeeding in the world of government contracting, and in a contracting organization that is diverse in the types of contracts in manages.
"The Green Platoon is an investment by ACC-Redstone leadership to ensure these employees get the right kind of training and experience to be productive contracting specialists," Rhode said.
"If they don't get the right care and nurturing up front, if they aren't taught the basics and if they don't feel capable, then they can become overwhelmed by a contracting assignment. These employees are well qualified, and they want to learn and do contracting. They want to be engaged and know they are contributing."
ACC-Redstone contracts can involve anything from installation construction, research and development, and large weapon systems to grounds keeping, helicopters and space systems.
"The Green Platoon gives employees a broad training application. It helps them figure out what type of contracting they are the best at. It allows us to evaluate their aptitude for certain areas of contracting," Rhode said.
It is hoped that the Green Platoon will lead to greater retention of ACC-Redstone's contracting workforce.
"Ensuring that these employees have the right training to be happy and productive at ACC-Redstone is important to us," Rhode said. "We have to work to grow and retain these employees because there is a lot of competition locally for experienced contracting officers from different federal agencies and private industry."