By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeMay 23, 2019
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (May 23, 2019) -- As the thoughts of the thousands of visitors to Arlington National Cemetery and many more across the nation this Memorial Day weekend are honorably fixed on the nation's fallen veterans, a team of contracting professionals strive to preserve the peace and beauty of the final resting place for the more than 400,000 active duty servicemembers, veterans and their families.
The Mission and Installation Contracting Command contracting office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, last year executed and administered more than 100 contract actions valued at $15.6 million in support of Arlington National Cemetery and the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, and are on pace to meet that mark again this year.
"Arlington National Cemetery and its supporting organizations are our No. 1," said Lt. Col. Doug Ralph, commander of the MICC-Fort Belvoir contracting office. "We prioritize each action for when they are received, needed and their effect on mission, but we have never failed in getting Arlington its requirements on time and when needed."
Many of the requirements supporting that mission are for services, supplies and minor construction. Kenneth Mitchell is the chief of the MICC-Fort Belvoir Installation Support-North Division whose team provides the most of the contract support for the cemetery and ceremonial Army units.
"We always strive for maximum quality in everything that we do. I hold my team to very high standards in everything that we touch," he said.
Some services consist of all landscaping to include tree and shrub maintenance, turf maintenance, pest maintenance and flowers over an expansive 600-plus acres. More than 8,600 native and exotic trees and gardens dot the hallowed grounds, which was awarded a Level III arboretum accreditation in 2018 through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. Arlington is only one of three cemeteries on a list of 28 renowned institutions worldwide maintaining this accreditation.
Another unique contract requirement ensures that the marble headstones are aligned as if in perfect military formation. Contract requirements call for the alignment of 50 headstones along with large statues throughout the cemetery a day as well as cleaning with an ecofriendly solution to prevent damage. Grave liners, specialty tractors and other equipment are also among the acquisitions managed by MICC-Fort Belvoir in support of Arlington National Cemetery.
The contracting office is also responsible for purchasing all specialty uniforms, equipment and instruments in support of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Band Pershing's Own and Army Aviation Brigade, all aligned under the Joint Task Force-Headquarters Military District of Washington. Among the requirements are the ceremonial units' distinctive white wigs, flutes, boots, horses for the caisson, specialty jackets and shirts.
Arlington National Cemetery conducts up to 30 funeral services each week day and between six and eight on Saturdays. Ralph said all three ceremonial units may be required depending on the type of funeral service and level of honors rendered during a funeral, some with as little turnaround as 48 hours.
While many of the actions taken by the contracting office are often behind the scenes from what visitors and the bereaved may encounter, contracting professionals at MICC-Fort Belvoir hold dear the opportunity to support this special mission.
"Since my team has so many veterans and military spouses, we are supporting those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in most instances. Most others have given a portion of their lives to support this country and those who live here in this great land," said Mitchell, who served 20-plus years in the Army and is the son of a 22-year veteran. "I and my team of professional Army contracting officers and contract specialists are extremely proud to serve those who have served before us and those who will serve after us. Our customer at Arlington National Cemetery deserves our best each and every time we write a contract that supports all veterans of our military."
Ralph agreed adding that contract support for such a cherished site is an honor for the entire contracting team.
"We all know the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sacrifices made by veterans and their families to support this great nation," Ralph added. "I believe we all take great pride in supporting the mission of Arlington National Cemetery, the Military District of Washington, and the families, friends and relatives of our fallen veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice."
Editor's note: The annual 151st National Memorial Day Observance to honor America's fallen military service members takes place May 27 at the Arlington National Cemetery. The U.S. Army Military District of Washington will conduct a Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, followed by an observance program in Arlington's Memorial Amphitheater. Both the wreath-laying ceremony and observance program are free and open to the general public.
About the MICC:
Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.