FORT JACKSON, SC -- More than 50,000 Soldiers receive training on Fort Jackson each year, but for only a small portion of them, the training consists of working alongside some of the post's DA civilians for one year.

Last year, the Directorate of Contracting took on the mission of preparing officers and noncommissioned officers to be deployed as contingency contracting officers. Currently, eight Soldiers are attached to the DoC.

"Basically, they learn installation contracting, customer service, they learn simplified acquisition, which is the primary objective of the training, they learn, really, all the ins and outs of the nuts-and-bolts contracting that we do at the installation level. (It) covers a wide variety of services and supplies and administration, which prepares them for what they will eventually encounter when they're overseas doing purchasing for the front line," said Colleen Arnold, Fort Jackson's deputy director of contracting.

The NCOs in the program have changed their military occupational specialties to become acquisition, logistics and technology contracting noncommissioned officers.

"I'm very grateful to be in this MOS," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Higgs, who has been with the Fort Jackson DoC since December. "I used to be in the infantry, and it's a different side of the spectrum. You go from being on the receiving end of everything (to being) in the position where you're the giver by procuring items for the warfighters."
Staff Sgt. Roberto Zepeda said the job comes with a lot of responsibility to make sure funds are spent wisely and the Army receives good products and services.

"You have to be a self starter to do your job," Zepeda said. "There's nobody babysitting you here."

Instead, civilian contract specialists train the Soldiers in accordance with the Soldiers Manual of Common Tasks. Training the Soldiers can be achieved in a number of ways, Arnold explained.

"A lot of things can satisfy their (training) objectives," she said. "For example, we can do formal training; we can do on-the-job training; we can have them shadow someone through the process. The best is to try to get them opportunities to actually do the work in all the objectives. Their actual experience in doing the work will depend on the needs of Fort Jackson."

Zepeda said that the real-life training experience is helping him prepare for what he will face in theater.

"By the end of the year, I'm supposed to be ready to deploy," Zepeda said. "The school can only teach you so much, but hands-on (training) takes that other step. You actually have the experience."

Arnold said the DoC civilians take pride in preparing the Soldiers for deployment.

"It's exciting to be close to the mission in that sense. It makes it a lot more real for us," Arnold said. "And we feel an urgency, too about getting (the Soldiers) trained. It's a big priority for our office. And all the civilians are very dedicated to that. They know that the

Soldier can be called up at any time and that their preparation is up to us to make sure they're ready."