By Angelika LantzDecember 9, 2009
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The 409th Contracting Support Brigade might as well spell training with a capital T because it is such an essential factor to their success. The 409th CSB serves as the executive agent for expeditionary contracting in the Balkans and its 903rd Contingency Contracting Battalion provides a continuous boots-on-the-ground presence at the Camp Bondsteel office. Additionally, the Army National Guard, which rotate contingency contracting teams through the Kosovo office, provides vital workload assistance.
Since the ARNG CCTs nine-months deployments do not afford the luxury of easing into the work, intensive contracting-specific training becomes imperative.
"Our part of the Kosovo peacekeeping mission is 24/7, 365 days a year, and we have the responsibility to ensure the office is manned with teams that can execute our missions from the get-go," said Lt. Col. David Hosna, the commander of the 903rd CCB.
The 1993rd Contingency Contracting Team, a four-person ARNG unit from Utah, recently completed their training with the 409th CSB's Regional Contracting Office, Bavaria and relieved the 1933rd Contingency Contracting Team from California at Camp Bondsteel.
"The Utah team was able to see joint multinational training operations as well as work in a contracting office with seasoned contract specialists who are proven practitioners at providing training and reach-back support to deployed contingency members," said JoAnna Lovett-Black, the chief of the 409th CSB's RCO Bavaria.
In addition to formal classroom instruction, the more than 120 training hours for the Utah team incorporated real-world, hands-on components in order to provide team members with the competencies required to execute commercial and construction contracts, she explained.
Hosna and Lovett-Black agreed that it is critical to assess the competencies and capabilities of the incoming team members immediately.
"Some of the team members come with prior experience from the business world or they currently work at a purchasing office ... we have the flexibility to adjust our training scenarios and assigned tasks to reinforce those areas and skills and focus our training where it is most needed," Lovett-Black said.
"It's a huge challenge. In addition to being technically proficient in expeditionary contracting, contracting professionals must be good stewards of taxpayer money and procure the services and supplies at the best value possible," Hosna said.
The Kosovo contracting office executed commercial contracts for services and supplies to support the Kosovo task force and humanitarian assistance projects within the European Command area of responsibility for more than $22 million during fiscal year 2009. The approximately 124 contracting actions ranged from resurfacing the helipad to janitorial services to procuring personal protection equipment, Hosna explained.
Nonetheless, the members of the 1993rd CCT are confident in their ability to execute their mission.
"Our training at RCO Bavaria has been on point in many significant ways. The coordination with the incumbent ARNG CCT was important, and RCO Bavaria arranged for two members (one from the California CCT and an active duty CCT member) to provide relevant training on current issues and expectations for the office in Kosovo. We leave feeling confident in our skills and knowing that an umbrella of long-term assistance is only a phone call away," said Maj. Chris Patterson, the commander of the 1993rd CCT.