FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- The Office of the Director of Acquisitions and Head of Contracting for the National Guard Bureau recently recognized contracting specialists for their achievements and contributions at the fourth annual Excellence in Contracting Awards Program ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Cynthia S. Tolle, the director of acquisitions and head of contracting activities for the NGB, served as a keynote speaker and presenter at the awards ceremony.

"It is my earnest desire to acknowledge the work you do every day and to publicly recognize the top performers who have singularly and collectively achieved some truly exceptional successes during the past fiscal year," she said. "If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have any progress, and progress moves us toward excellence."

The awards at the ceremony were grouped into 10 categories:

Leadership in Contracting: Rebecca Fowler, Contracting Officer, Virginia.

Innovation in Contracting: Erydin Bacon, Financial Services Technician, Colorado.

Mission Execution: Elaine Farabee, Deputy Supervisory Contract Specialist, Ohio.

Customer Service: Darrell Stokke, Contracting Officer, NGB-AQ-C.

Competition in Contracting, Most Improved State: Delaware.

Competition in Contracting, Highest Competition Achievement Rate: South Dakota.

Contracting Officer's Representative: Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Juro, Contracting Officer Representative, Connecticut.

Outstanding GPC Program: Matthew La Pointe, GPC A/OPC, New Hampshire.

Excellence in Cooperative and Support Agreements Grants Officer Representative: Victoria Seaholm, Grants Officer Representative, Florida.

Guardian of Contract Excellence: Michigan ANG Consolidated Contracting Office.

Regardless of the requirements to be considered for each category, Tolle said all nominees and winners exhibited strong work ethics, passion and confidence.

"Each nominee possesses these traits [and} when continuously applied, ensured success," she said.

Melissa Cossentino, the deputy director of acquisitions and principal assistant responsible for contracting, said the event highlighted how contracting professionals contribute to Guard missions.

"We provide the contracting tools and mechanisms that enable the Soldier and Airman to have the supplies and services necessary to support the warfight, partnership building and homeland security," Cossentino said.

As government representatives who are authorized to buy, negotiate, award and terminate contracts, she added that contracting specialists often work in challenging environments.

"We all have limited resources, [so] we have to optimize our operations to achieve efficiencies and still stay compliant with regulations -- mindful of taxpayer dollars," Cossentino said.

Tolle said working as a contracting specialist requires a perseverance that indicates the career field is composed of "creative problem solvers, critical thinkers and solution providers."

"None of us are born with these traits, [but] many of us develop them over time with experience after we persevered through failure, criticism, rejection and pressure," Tolle said.

For Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Juro, an engineering assistant and contracting officer representative with the Connecticut Air National Guard's 103rd Airlift Wing, being recognized would not have been possible without teamwork.

"It's a team effort," he said. "Nothing gets done by one person only."