Master gunner course redefines contracting tools

By Staff Sgt. William Sieck, 413th Contracting Support BrigadeOctober 11, 2022

Master gunner course redefines contracting tools
Staff Sgt. William Sieck receives his completion certificate for the second Mission and Installation Contracting Command Master Gunner course conducted recently from Brig. Gen. Doug Lowrey, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Gusman. He is a contracting Soldier from of the 413th Contracting Support Brigade. Lowrey is the commanding general of the MICC and Gusman is the MICC command sergeant major. (Photo Credit: Ryan L. Mattox) VIEW ORIGINAL

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (Oct. 11, 2022) -- If you ask an Infantryman what a “master gunner” is, they might tell you that it’s an expert in all things related to their weapon from direct fire and weapons training, ammunition and ballistics, gunnery training management, and developing a unit training plan. Those weapons include the M-240, the M-2, MK-19 and more.

For me, coming from the Military Police world in my previous military occupational specialty, it was a new term that I had only heard in passing and never really gave it any thought. I really didn’t know what to expect when I was told I was selected to go to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to participate in the Mission and Installation Contracting Command Master Gunner Course.

Raised in Houston, I know Texas well. Texas was my last duty station prior to permanent change of station to the 921st Contracting Battalion at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii. I was assigned to the 901st CBN at MICC-Fort Hood, so when I was told I was going back to Texas for two weeks, the thought of great barbecue and authentic Tex-Mex food was filling my head.

As I arrived at the Fort Sam Houston classroom for the training, I was shocked to see where we were going to be doing our training. To be honest, the building looked as old as some of the surrounding historic buildings on post. But once you step inside, it was a different story. Everything looked brand new. The small building was transformed to a state-of-the-art classroom with four giant monitors on the walls showing the presentations so no matter where you sat, you could see the screens. Every table had laptops for up to 42 people in the classroom. I was impressed.

But then the thought hit me, how would contracting incorporate a master gunner program? We don’t have any M-240s, M-249s or MK-19s. Sure we have a few M-4 rifles and M-17 handguns, but those are locked in an armory on Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and are only used when it’s time to go to the range for annual qualification. How was contracting going to incorporate a master gunner program? Well, that question was answered Day 1 of class within the first 10 minutes. Brig. Gen. Doug Lowrey walked into the classroom and spelled it out to the nine soldiers and one Department of the Army civilian that were selected for the second training course. Lowrey is the MICC commanding general and made it very clear that his No. 1 priority was the master gunner program.

The commanding general answered the questions we all had. How does the master gunner fit into contracting? Simple, our weapons are the contract writing tools we have. Tools like Paperless Contract File, Virtual Contracting Enterprise, Procurement Desktop-Defense, Vantage, Federal Procurement Data System, and procurement management review. Our ammunition is money.

The general is passionate when it comes to the master gunner program. It’s a program he started as a colonel and brigade commander at the 409th Contracting Brigade in Germany. It’s something he believes in, and when you hear him talk about it, it makes you believe too. I’ll give him credit. Out of the 10 days we were in class, he came into the classroom nine of those to observe and answer any questions students had. Sometimes multiple times per day. You can imagine how busy the commanding general’s schedule must be, but he believes in this program and made the time to show us that.

Once training began, it was like the old saying, “drinking from a firehose.” There was a lot of information in a short period of time. And instructors for the classes were just as passionate as Lowrey about the program. Classes given included contract administration services-administrative contracting officer and quality assurance, both taught by Stephanie Brown from Army Contracting Command, Rock Island, Illinois. The procurement management review classes were taught by Pamela Owens and Barbara Lee from the MICC Contracting Operations Directorate at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. Additional classes included legal training, simplified acquisition procedures overview, VCE, property, manual contracting as well as mission essential task assessment by Diego Forero, the MICC chief of training. Also Master Sgt. Erick Kirkpatrick from the office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement provided a brief on where the 51C career field was headed and how the master gunner program can help steer the future of 51C.

Probably one of the most important classes taught was the Objective-T assessment criteria. Objective-T is a way for master gunners to track the assessment and progression of Soldiers in the 51C career field. With training assessments, there is the familiar T for trained, P for needs practice, and U for untrained. Now there is a new category, E for experienced.

Depending on the criteria met by the 51C Soldier, certain training can be identified to help them progress to the next level. Individual ball-cards are kept for every Soldier, and those ball-cards feed into a spreadsheet for either a contracting detachment or headquarters detachment. The idea behind this Objective-T supports the reassignment process for 51Cs. The master gunner at the losing unit can send the master gunner at the gaining unit the ball-card for that Soldier so they can identify the level of assessment and any training that may be needed.

All of the training led to a culminating event at the end of the two-week course. Participants of the master gunner course were to analyze their own organization using the tools taught over the previous days, and use those results to build a unit training strategy to address weaknesses in their own organization in a PowerPoint presentation. Students then had to present that presentation to their respective command team on the last day of class. Eight of 10 command teams were present in San Antonio for the presentations. I along with a sergeant first class from the 409th CSB in Germany, the two participants from outside of the MICC, provided our presentation via Microsoft Teams. Lowrey’s goal is to have a master gunner in every contracting detachment, battalion and brigade.

The biggest benefit I took away from the program are the tools we learned to analyze our own organization. While the procurement management review is conducted by ACC every three years, there is nothing to say that an organization can’t do self-assessments on themselves prior to identify any weaknesses. Another takeaway from the master gunner course were the tools provided to help track those in the 51C and 1102 career series as they progress through the career field. The third, and probably most important, takeaway was the Objective-T training. This tracker will help unit commanders see a real-time representation as to where the unit is with regards to training.

This was only the second class of the master gunner program, and from what we were told in class, our class was drastically different from the first class based on feedback from the first class. I look forward to seeing what future classes have to offer based on our comments. All those who have graduated from the master gunner program are part of a Microsoft Teams group where ideas and information can be shared. If you ask anyone that has graduated from the program, master gunner in contracting is here to stay. This program will only help every organization that uses it to get better and more proficient. I plan on using the tools I learned to help the 921st CBN become the best it can be while I am here.

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.