By Susan L. Follett, USAASCFebruary 28, 2019

Avoiding the Perils of a Poorly Written Contract
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Staff Sgt. Adriane Dunklin

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: 626th Contracting Team, 902nd Contracting Battalion, Mission and Installation Contracting Command -- Joint Base Lewis-McChord

TITLE: Contract specialist



DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in contracting

EDUCATION: M.S. in management and Bachelor of Professional Studies in business and management, Excelsior College; certifications in workplace mediation, and arbitration and mediation, Mediators without Borders Institute

AWARDS: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Action Badge

Based on what Staff Sgt. Adriane Dunklin has learned about contracting, the animated character Gumby would make a great addition to the acquisition workforce. "The most important thing is to be resilient and flexible," she said. "The acquisition field is constantly changing. You have to be able to conform to the changes and continue to support the mission."

Dunklin is a contract specialist for the 626th Contracting Team. Her organization is aligned with I Corps to support the Pacific Pathways missions, and she is the central point for getting requirements into a contract and delivered throughout all phases of the mission. The 626th is part of the 902nd Contracting Battalion within the Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, which provides support to Army and Air Force customers on the joint base as well as Army requirements at Yakima Training Center, Washington. "I could be supporting one mission today and it will completely change in a week or so," she said. "As an acquisition professional, you have to be able to deal with the everyday changes without any impact to the warfighter. You never know what is going to happen from one day to the next."

A big part of Dunklin's work is teaching her mission partners about how the acquisition process works and what documents they need to get their requirements submitted on time. She relies in part on certifications in arbitration and mediation to help address that challenge. "Those certifications help me recognize and resolve conflict, and taught me a lot about different personality and leadership types and how to deal with all kinds of people," she said. "All of those skills help me develop relationships, which are an important part of the work I do."

Dunklin has been in acquisition for almost seven years. "Before coming to this field, I was a truck driver. I knew that I did not want to drive 18-wheeler trucks when I got out of the military, so I made the decision to transition to the acquisition career field." For her, the transition was an easy one. "The hardest part was getting the right person to actually write my recommendation letters," she said, adding that Soldiers who are interested in acquisition should research the field first. "Get as much information as possible. It is a very appealing field, and there is great potential for success on active duty and after you've left the service." But, she added, be prepared to work for it. "This field is not your ordinary MOS [military occupation specialty], and getting through the school will not be a cakewalk. There is way more to the acquisition workforce than what is presented online, and talking to someone that is already in the field will be very beneficial to you."

Dunklin knows about that firsthand. "During my first year, I had the chance to get trained by civilian personnel who have been in the acquisition workforce for 15 years or more. Working alongside them and learning the contracting craft was one of the best perks of the job for me," she explained. "I was able to get the one-on-one training that every acquisition professional needs, and I was able to really pick their brains and get way more knowledge than I would get at the schoolhouse."

Her first acquisition assignment was at the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) -- Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and it provided a front-row seat to learning how the contracting process worked when it came to acquiring products for the Army as a whole versus just buying for individual units. "I was able to see the complete acquisition process from the beginning to the end," Dunklin said. "Seeing the start of the development of new equipment for the warfighter was a great experience. As contracting professionals, we are always told how our work directly impacts the warfighter; being able to see it from the planning to testing phases is amazing."

She held several roles at ACC -- Redstone, including contract specialist and quality assurance specialist. "Those positions taught me so much about how contracting and quality assurance work together to get the best service and products to the warfighter," she said. It also made her a better contract specialist. "As a quality assurance specialist, you are dealing with the contract after it is written and the work is being performed. I learned to really pay attention to how the statement of work or the performance work statement is written, and to make sure that the contractor is performing to the standard of the contract," she explained. "A poorly written contract does more than just waste the government's money--it will directly impact the warfighter. I learned to make sure that everything with the contract and the accompanying documents are exactly what the customer and warfighter need so that there is no delay on the battlefield."

She also learned the importance of asking questions and seeking out help from others, including her mentor, Latanya Jackson, contracting officer at ACC -- Redstone. "Always be the person who's not afraid to ask questions," she advised. "If you don't know something or if something is a little confusing to you, ask for more clarification. The best thing that you can do is seek knowledge and lean on your civilian counterparts. They have a wealth of knowledge that is available to you--all you have to do is ask."

"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 703-664-5635.

This article is published in the April-June 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

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