Leader perspective: Acquisition workforce directly impacts readiness

By Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Gusman, MICC command sergeant majorSeptember 12, 2022

Leader perspective: Acquisition workforce directly impacts readiness
Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Gusman, fourth from right, met with recent graduates from Army Senior Leader Course 51C 22-003 at Fort Lee, Virginia. The MICC command sergeant major also took the opportunity to conduct an NCO professional development event, recognize the achievements of 51 Charlie contracting Soldiers, hold a sensing session to help develop new retention strategies for Soldiers as well as share command initiatives with the future leaders. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 12, 2022) -- Since assuming responsibility of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command in early June, I’ve had the chance to visit a handful of our contracting battalions and offices, witnessing firsthand the impressive Soldiers and civilians making up one of the Army’s premier commands.

Although our workforce hasn’t yet fully returned to the office, I believe in seeing where our people work and met everyone who was physically present. This allows me to get an idea of how they support our mission and put faces to names. No matter where I visit across the MICC, there’s always a friendly, smiling, face on the other end.

It’s important that we recognize the outstanding contributions to the mission. I’ve had the opportunity to recognize our Soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and Fort Campbell and Fort Knox in Kentucky, for their outstanding contributions to the mission. At Fort Lee, Virginia, I had the chance to join our teammates and meet with a food service contractor where they identified deficiencies for corrective action. It was awesome to see firsthand the passion our director and our team at Fort Lee have when it comes to taking care of our Soldiers.

As a career logistician and Government Purchase Card holder, I’ve worked hand in hand with contracting officers, contract specialists and contracting officer representatives whether it was in garrison or in a combat area. I believe in customer service, which is what I provided as a logistician. The same is true for personnel making up the MICC as we provide supported units with the supplies and services required to sustain the mission.

I firmly believe the strategic impact this organization and our acquisition professionals deliver go infinitely beyond the contracts executed in support of requirements upon which our Army relies to ready our fighting force.

The population of NCOs we recruit are E-5 promotables, so their maturity already exists. Our NCOs demonstrate this during my visits to their units as well as during the recent Army Senior Leader Course graduation. This was especially evident when talking with and listening to the Soldiers and civilian during the last MICC Master Gunner Course. I saw how they tied in the commanding general’s lines of effort with mission-essential tasks to get after training to make sure our 51C are prepared when they deploy downrange or respond to a crisis. It’s great to see that our young NCOs are already thinking at the strategic level.

One of the things that has been brought to my attention and I’ve discussed with leadership is additional training opportunities. If our Soldiers are aligned with divisions, such as the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, why not give them the chance to go to Air Assault School? The same goes for the Airborne environment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In addition to becoming airborne or air assault qualified, they can develop a better understanding of operations and the resources required when they deploy with their respective division. It also serves to build morale.

Recruiting and retention is an Army priority. It's essential that we do what we can to retain Soldiers in the Army acquisition career path, both while in uniform and after they’ve completed their commitment to our nation. It’s just as critical when it comes to our professional acquisition workforce.

During my visit to Fort Hood, I joined Command Sgt. Maj. Joshua Thompson of the 418th Contracting Support Brigade in a visit to the recruiting station there to see how we could be better at recruiting 51C. We discussed a number of options and potential tools to attract qualified Soldiers and raise interest in an acquisition career field as well as lay out the steps involved in the process. The process itself must be simple so that we don’t risk the loss of interest from potential candidates by having to navigate multiple websites and sources, some of which lead to broken links. We don’t want to discourage anyone from joining one of the most rewarding career fields offering incredible upward mobility in which they can directly contribute to Soldier readiness.

Contracting Soldiers make up one of the most educated military occupational specialties in the Army. Young men and women often enlist in the Army for educational benefits, often obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree. Many of those Soldiers who aren’t familiar with the 51C career field but possess a degree may be interested in the reclassification of their military occupational specialty and continuing their active or federal service as a contract specialist or contracting officer in a career field dedicated to their professional development. Do I need 24 hours of business or a bachelor’s degree to apply for the MOS? No, you do not. However, you will need to complete both your bachelor’s degree and business hours within 24 months of becoming a 51C. It is for this reason your civilian education is a selection consideration. This information can be found on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center website. A lot of people don’t know this, and that’s why it’s important that we start getting the word out as often as possible.

I have to say again how impressed I’ve been while engaging individuals at our MICC locations, whether it was one on one or in a group. An engaged workforce is essential to coming together as a team. During my first visit to MICC-Fort Hood, I asked everyone in the room to tell me a little about themselves as a basic introduction. People just don’t know what people do around them until you hear from them, particularly given the isolation and telework environment we’ve had over the last two-plus years because of COVID. Now that we’re beginning to return to the office and starting to re-engage each other, learn about what drives others around you. You don’t know these things until you ask, and it’s remarkable to hear what motivates our workforce. The talent that’s out there is amazing.

About the MICC

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-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. As part of its mission, 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.