Operating outside your comfort zone

By Cheryl Marino, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Public AffairsMay 30, 2023

Operating outside your comfort zone
Staff Sgt. Sara Craig, is the theater support cell NCO in charge for the 418th Contract Support Brigade at Fort Cavazos, Texas. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL


COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Mission and Installation Contracting Command, 418th Contract Support Brigade
TITLE: Theater Support Cell noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC)
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: DOD contracting professional
EDUCATION: MBA in business administration, Columbia Southern University; Bachelor of Professional Studies in business and management, Excelsior College
AWARDS: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal

Whether it’s on the job or in our personal lives, stepping outside your comfort zone and navigating something new or unfamiliar can seem intimidating, if not daunting. But for Staff Sgt. Sara Craig, who is with the 418th Contract Support Brigade, 51C, it’s more about the challenge. According to her, there’s no better way to realize your full potential unless you’re at least willing to explore new territory.

“I became part of the Army Acquisition Workforce because I wanted a more active role in supporting the warfighter. I have always loved serving in the United States Army, but it was hard for me to see the results of my work in a meaningful way in my previous [military occupational specialties],” she said.

She added, “As a 51C, I work directly with my Army requiring activity customers to facilitate the acquisition of goods and services [computers, computer hardware, latrine services, material handling equipment, chapel musicians, etc.] that are necessary for mission accomplishment and often improve the environment for fellow Soldiers. I am involved in this process from cradle to grave and can see the results of my labor.”

In addition to interfacing with customers, Craig is responsible for mentoring and training contracting professionals and tracking contracting metrics—something else she did not get to do in previous positions. She said this is vital for the Army because it ensures the acquisition of necessary items when they cannot be sourced through other channels.

“By using PALT [Procurement Acquisition Lead Time], we educate and assist our customers with their requirement through each stage of the acquisition process,” she said. The PALT system tracks the amount of time required to complete actions leading to a contract award and is used to effectively procure the service or supply the customer is requesting. “Effectively using this contracting acquisition process directly contributes to mission accomplishment across the force,” she said about the PALT system and contracting process overall. “It is satisfying to see the end result of my work and the [whole] acquisition process.”

Craig said her greatest satisfaction as part of the acquisition workforce is the opportunity to support Soldiers, but she noted the most important points in her career were the training and fellowship she gained over the years.

“Training is important because it has prepared me to be a contracting professional able to handle a varied range of contracting complexities and given me the ability to hone my business acumen in my everyday professional encounters,” she said. “As a more senior 51C, I can now pay that training forward. I have taken lead in developing training for six noncommissioned officers and four officers after identifying a deficiency in training opportunities that align with [Mission Essential Task Lists] tasks. My hope is that the program I am developing can aid the [Mission and Installation Contracting Command] as the master gunner program is fleshed out."

METL are the Headquarters, Department of the Army official listings of the fundamental tasks that units are designed to perform in any operational environment. And the MICC is responsible for contracting throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

“The fellowship I have gained is also an important point, because I have acquired lifelong mentors and comrades that have helped to build my network of contracting professionals that aid in both work assistance as well as workday morale,” she said. “Obtaining different perspectives on matters helps to find innovative solutions at times. Work is much more enjoyable when you enjoy working with your team members.”

Craig began her career in 92A as an automated logistics specialist, 89th Military Police Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, where she was a Unit Level Logistics System – Ground (ULLS-G) and Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced (SAMS-E) clerk for the motor pool responsible for ordering and tracking parts, dispatching and tracking services for wheeled ground vehicles. ULLS-G and SAMS-E are computerized Army automation systems for logistics-related forms and tasks. After that she was an operations noncommissioned officer for the 194th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion for Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Camp Humphreys, Korea, where she was responsible for an orderly room and daily operations. Just before 51C, she was an S-4 (logistics officer) clerk for the Army.

The most important lesson she said she’s learned through the course of her career is to step out of her comfort zone, research everything and take pride in becoming a technical expert.

“When I had a requirement for material handling equipment and transportation it had come from our local support operations transportation office. They could not source this particular last-minute request and had requested it be procured via contract. After researching and verifying with local brigades and offices, the MHE transportation was able to be sourced through the local installation transportation office, saving the customer valuable time, effort and funding,” she said. “It is important to be well informed. I research every aspect of my work to ensure I am operating on the most timely and relevant information.”

And researching does not stop outside of her normal workday. Craig has been married for 17 years and has two young children, so there are always things to look up, verify and compare to find better ways of doing things. She and her husband also provide respite care for foster parents—temporarily caring for another family’s foster children, to give the original foster family some restorative time.

“Respite care allows us to give back to the children in need in Texas, in a capacity that is more flexible with a military schedule, than full fostering,” she said. Aside from that, she said she mostly enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Craig said those who know her outside of work would say she is organized and reliable.

“These traits are common in my work as well, since they are required to be successful in the acquisition career field.”

Her best advice for junior acquisition personnel is to strive to learn as much as they possibly can through self-development and by seeking out mentorship opportunities.

“Don’t be afraid to take on challenges or to fail. Operating outside of your comfort zone will only make you a stronger acquisition professional.”

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 AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.