Faces of the Force: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast

By Cheryl Marino, U.S. Army Acquisition Support CenterJanuary 10, 2023

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast
Meagan Clavel is a contract specialist with the Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky
TITLE: Contract specialist
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Anticipated certification as contracting professional by end of fiscal year 2023
EDUCATION: MEd in guidance and counseling, curriculum and instruction, University of West Florida; B.A. in psychology from The Baptist College of Florida

Meagan Clavel isn’t afraid to try new things. Whether it’s at home or at work, she will never hesitate to roll up her sleeves and do what must be done or take on something new or extra whenever necessary.

While her husband Joseph, a Kentucky National Guardsmen, was deployed to Africa, she’s had to hold down the fort in his absence as a “pioneer woman” — maintaining their log cabin home and the land it sits on — while working full time and caring for their 4-year-old daughter. That may sound simple enough when all is running smooth, but in the fall of 2022, she was faced with some unexpected challenges. A lack of rainfall caused enduring drought conditions across Kentucky, and the Clavels’ well was reduced to dangerously low levels.

With Joseph away, Clavel was tasked with replenishing the cabin’s water supply, and fast, before they were left without running water at their home.

“It’s a 7-mile drive to (neighboring) Kentucky Junction to get enough water to fill the cistern,” she explained of the water hauling process with which many in urban areas may not be familiar. A cistern, or holding tank in the ground, is connected to a house like regular plumbing, but the water isn’t replenished from city pipes.

“(When the water level is low) We have to bring water to the cistern when our well does not supply enough.”

It’s not the most convenient process but had to be done.

“I hope this great effort on my ‘frontier’ reflects in my work to illustrate my diligence to pursue until completion and attention to detail,” she said.

Because when faced with dire circumstances or big decisions, according to Clavel, the action taken shouldn’t be rushed just to get it done faster; impulsive decisions will only slow things down. So, for her, a more focused, systematic approach hastens the process of keeping things running smoothly. And she said she handles chores at home in the same way she would tackle projects at work.

Clavel joined the Army Acquisition Workforce one year ago as a contract specialist at the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Knox, Kentucky, where in a short period of time she has learned quite a bit about the contracting process from pre-award to post-award.

“I assist the requiring activity with the process of attaining supplies and services. I also draft, evaluate and monitor documents in accordance with procurement laws and regulations,” she said.

In addition to negotiating, procuring and processing the administrative actions necessary to acquire contracted resources, Clavel has developed a clear understanding of pricing techniques, market trends and supply sources of goods and services the military needs to operate.

To gain an even greater understanding of her position and responsibilities, she is currently enrolled in Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act CON 1300V Contract Award training, where she is on track to be certified in contracting by end of fiscal 2023.

Though the acquisition process can be tedious, she said her greatest satisfaction is being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce since it “offers the gift of continued learning” with every new challenge. “Each day there is a new task with a new ‘puzzle’ to solve,” something she said she is all too familiar with as a former elementary school teacher, where over the years she taught all subjects to third, fourth and fifth graders.

Clavel said she enjoyed teaching, but after seven years, she felt it was time for a change.

“I began searching for an opportunity that would challenge me, while also providing great benefits and a chance to continue using the knowledge and skills I gained while in the classroom," she said.

It wasn’t long before she found her current job as a contract specialist purely “by accident” while searching USAJOBS for a position that seemed applicable to her skillset.

“I’m so grateful the MICC saw the potential in me, too,” she said. “I have been with MICC-Fort Knox for just over one year and enjoy being proactive, assertive and detail-oriented.”

Attributes she’s practiced during her teaching career as well as on the home front. “Our family is very patriotic, and any opportunity I am allowed to help the U.S. Army continue to run efficiently is a great blessing to me!” she added.

Much like teaching or learning new hobbies outside of the workplace such as gardening, hand embroidery or cooking from scratch, Clavel said at this point in her career, she is just trying to absorb as much information as possible.

“Having come from a different career field, everything in contracting is new and exciting. I have an amazing team that actively mentors me so that I will be able to perform my duties to the best of my ability,” Clavel said.

She added her team is very inclusive and always encourages her to participate in career-broadening experiences and opportunities.

“They have all been in the field for many years and have such a wealth of knowledge," she said. "I appreciate their willingness to share that knowledge and desire to be helpful.”

Through the encouragement of her team support system, Clavel said she plans to pursue the next step in her career as a warranted contracting officer once she has a more firm understanding of the acquisition field. “Passing the Back-to-Basics contracting courses and exam are required for me to continue in this job,” she said. Continuing with her training would bring her closer to attaining certification as a warranted contracting officer.

Though she hasn’t been in her position very long, she said she has had the opportunity to offer some small advice to junior acquisition personnel.

“Mostly, I remind them that this field constantly changes, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but one of my (Defense Acquisition University) professors said, ‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,’ and that has stuck with me. It reminds me that it is better to complete each step correctly the first time than to have to come back later and fix a mistake due to rushing,” Clavel said.

Perhaps the most important lesson Clavel has learned from her own experience is to “go the distance.” And, she added, be kind and be diligent. “Be kind because you never know the struggle someone may be carrying with them. It never fails to amaze me how far a little kindness can go to brighten someone’s day or to progress the contract along that much smoother. Be diligent and take every opportunity to invest in your education. No knowledge is ever wasted. If you’re not sure of something, look it up, ask questions — seek the answer, seek the knowledge — go the extra mile to get it right.”

Editor's note: “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 acquisition, logistics and technology disciplines. For more information or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.