Army acquisitions proving an optimal fit for MICC intern

By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeMarch 13, 2024

Army acquisitions proving an optimal fit for MICC intern
Amy Eilerts and Paul Frailey met with students at the Brigham Young University Career Fair in February to discuss career opportunities in Army contracting. Eilerts is a contract specialist with the Mission and Installation Contracting Command contracting office at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and Frailey is the office deputy director. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (March 13, 2024) -- After 18 months since guardedly choosing to leave the only profession in which she built a solid foundation, a Mission and Installation Contracting Command intern at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, has achieved her contracting certification and is thriving in the new career path.

Following thorough research on a new career after 17 years of teaching third- through sixth-grade students, Amy Eilerts found her calling in federal service and accepted a contract specialist position in September 2022 supporting the contract needs of Soldiers and their families.

“It was a great decision, and she is an incredible member of our team,” said Jim Keetch, director of the MICC-Dugway Proving Ground contracting office. “It is evident that her previous skills as an educator have greatly benefitted Amy in her new position and our organization as well.”

Upon onboarding, Eilerts promptly set out to accomplish professional training and certification by completing Defense Acquisition University courses that included contract foundational skills, contract pre-award, contract award and contract post-award, totaling almost 200 hours of virtual instructor-led and self-paced training between December 2022 and June 2023.

Her training path also included attendance at the two-week MICC intern training and acculturation, or MITA, course at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in January 2023 to learn not only fundamental procurement concepts but also how interns fit in supporting the Army’s acquisition needs.

“MITA was a great experience because it provided me with initial hands-on training, a quality introduction to contracting, an understanding of Army and MICC specific processes, and an opportunity to meet and network with 20-plus fellow interns,” Eilerts said.

Between DAU courses, she remained focused on tackling her everyday workload and tasks to include contract modifications, exercising options, supply purchases under the simplified acquisition threshold, and assisting with the administration of the propane delivery contract at Dugway Proving Ground. The contracting office is responsible for supporting the installation’s major range and test facility base that provides the Army essential chemical, biological and nuclear readiness capability testing of equipment, clothing, detection systems, vehicles and processes used by the warfighter.

Army acquisitions proving an optimal fit for MICC intern
As part of her training path, Amy Eilerts completed the two-week Mission and Installation Contracting Command training and acculturation course at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in January 2023 enhancing her knowledge of fundamental procurement concepts vital as a contract specialist at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Eilerts also remained engaged in various developmental training opportunities and found the MICC New Acquisition Professionals Training Program, or NAP-TP, highly beneficial. NAP-TP is a MICC internship program aimed at attracting, hiring, training and retaining top civilian talent in a deliberate approach to arm Army civilian professionals with the required competencies making them eligible for placement across enterprise.

She also dedicated time to observing and shadowing her contracting officer and experienced colleagues to gain valuable insights and increase her understanding of contracting processes as well as preparing documents for more complex requirements.

“Getting opportunities to try new types of acquisitions has helped me to keep growing and broaden my skillset,” Eilerts said. “Also, discussions with colleagues, especially my contracting officer, has given me a big confidence boost and deepened my understanding of contracting processes. Through these experiences, I’m always learning how to better navigate and utilize the various tools, platforms and systems.”

Related: Back to Basics - One Year Later

Following fiscal 2023 year-end contracting operations, she enrolled in CON 3910, the online contracting certification exam prep course, and began studying for the certification exam. CON 3990, Contracting Certification Exam, allows acquisition professionals to demonstrate a foundational understanding of common contracting technical competencies and recognition of Federal Acquisition Regulation and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement policies related to typical job tasks in the career field.

Eilerts concedes that initially tackling the requirements of the Back to Basics functional area training along with the daunting prospect of mastering contracting competencies on the NAP-TP training record and passing the 150-question, proctored CON 3990 exam felt very overwhelming.

“It was like trying to drink from a firehose with the huge volume of information to absorb. However, reflecting on the last year and a half, I can see that I've made significant strides in learning and growth. Applying the knowledge from training and courses, preparing for the exam, and managing my workload assignments have all been quality learning experiences,” she said.

She credits her successful transition into contracting on the supportive supervision by Keetch, deputy director Paul Frailey and colleagues who have invested in her professional growth and provided mentorship, along with the willingness to support, assist and answer questions – all alleviating any doubt about her career change.

“It's rewarding to see completed contracts and know I played a part in their success and am making an impact on the mission and supporting our customers. Though overwhelming at times, I'm adapting well, learning to pace myself and seek support when needed, and confronting imposter syndrome head on,” she said.

Passing her exam Feb. 14, she promptly applied for certification, cementing a rapid learning pace evidenced by the ability to absorb information swiftly and connecting dots almost effortlessly -- drawing the notice of her director. Keetch added that Eilerts demonstrates organizational skills, study habits as well as teaching and mentoring abilities on a near daily basis.

“Her organizational skills are demonstrated in her approach to each newly assigned procurement requirement, her research tactics, her file management, customer engagement, and contract award,” Keetch said. “Her study habits have served her well in the fact that she has completed all required DAU training over the past 17 months and successfully passed the certification examination in February to become the first MICC-Dugway Proving Ground member to obtain the Back to Basics contracting certification.”

Among the key acquisitions she’s supported during her year and a half with the contracting office are a server and test data storage system array upgrade in support of the Army Test Evaluation Command West Desert Test Center, and meteorological surface tower network and data collection platform support equipment, calibration and repair services for the installation’s meteorology branch.

Army acquisitions proving an optimal fit for MICC intern
Amy Eilerts assists in providing contract support for many of the mission partners on Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, that are responsible for major range and test facility operations. Eilerts is a contract specialist with the Mission and Installation Contracting Command contracting office at Dugway Proving Ground. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Eilerts also serves as the lead contract specialist for the administration of Dugway Proving Ground’s bulk propane delivery contract, which involves frequent issuance of incremental funding modifications and other contract administration tasks. Contracted propane delivery is critical in carrying out installation operations as the nearest natural gas lines are located 40 miles away, requiring Dugway to use propane in lieu of natural gas for post facilities.

“My experience learning contracting has at times felt like learning a new language. This journey has taught me the importance of being patient with myself, listening carefully, asking questions, playing close attention to detail, and learning from my mistakes,” Eilerts said. “Maintaining a positive attitude has also been crucial for me in facing challenges and staying open to new experiences.”

It's an experience likely shared by many of the approximately 160 interns who have completed the MITA course or onboarded with the MICC in the last 18 months. Of the 13 Army civilians making up the Dugway Proving Ground contracting office, Eilerts is one of six interns.

“I was the third intern brought on board, just a couple of months after the first two. Building camaraderie and forming relationships within the team has been really beneficial. We offer each other support, understanding and share resources, fostering collaboration and teamwork. It’s also been rewarding to be able to use my teacher skills to support the three newest interns,” Eilerts said. “Whether it’s offering advice, guidance or basic level training, I try to be available to assist with any questions or share experiences, hopefully contributing to their growth and smooth transition into the team.”

She also leverages the networking relationships established through her January 2023 MITA course to cultivate career growth as well as gain diverse perspectives, which facilitates her mentorship of fellow interns and fosters a knowledgeable source for others new to Army contracting.

“My advice is to stay organized and attempt problem solving or research independently before seeking assistance,” Eilerts said. “However, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Keep in mind that becoming comfortable in contracting can take years, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself, focus on continuous learning and development.”

A self-described lifelong learner, the contracting specialists was recently promoted to GS-11 and recognized as the MICC-Dugway Proving Ground employee of the quarter for the first quarter of fiscal 2024. She said she remains excited at the prospect of further learning the craft of Army contracting and taking on more complex acquisitions.

“This journey allows me to explore different aspects of the career field, helping me discover my areas of interest,” she said. “With each learning opportunity, I hope to boost my skills, increase confidence in tackling new challenges, and contribute to my team’s success.”

Recognizing her unique strengths, enthusiasm and potential contributions, Keetch agrees that Eilerts promises to cultivate a collaborative and dynamic workplace, propelling both her teammates and the organization forward.

“Amy’s teaching and mentoring skills are demonstrated in the natural way she deals with people, her willingness to share of her contracting experiences, and as she serves as a sounding board to the less experienced members of the team who take the opportunities to seek out her opinion and/or advice,” Keetch said. “She is quickly developing into a very proficient acquisition professional, and I am excited to see where her future in this career field may take her. Additionally, her leadership skills are clearly evident so the possibilities for her are near limitless.”

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.