CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- For the more than 200 participants attending the Steppe Eagle 2011 exercise, the first day rigors of deployment were significantly reduced.

Upon arrival, service members from all over in-processed into the barracks and were able to eat a hot meal at the dining facility. Later that night, they were able to shower and crawl into a bed complete with blankets and linen placed neatly on top.

Weeks before the training began, a contracting team made sure all the necessary requirements were in place for a successful mission.

"A great deal of planning goes into a successful exercise; contract awards and administration are no exception," said Maj. Stephen Tautkus, Lugoff, S.C. resident and plans, operations and contracting officer, 408th Contracting Support Brigade.

Knowing Kazakh business would not operate the same as they do in the U.S., it was important for contracting personnel to go visit the training site.

"Business practices can be quite different than what is expected in the U.S," Tautkus said. "The one common theme with most missions is the people speak minimal English."

Contracts were needed for a multitude of services, including life support, transportation services and food services. At the same time, someone was needed on site with the ability to make micro-purchases, Tautkus stated.

"This exercise could not have had the right requirements if a contracting team hadn't pushed forward and conducted a thorough predeployment site survey," Tautkus said. "During the survey, the contracting team performed market research to find and establish a vendor based in the vicinity of the Iliskiy Training Center, where the exercise was held."

Simply finding businesses to provide food was the first step, but not the only one to take.

"Veterinarian medicine and food inspectors were also a critical part of the process," Tautkus said. "Their purpose was to validate food vendors for sanitation and ensure the vendors could support the additional capacity."

Once arriving back here, the contracting team worked to set requirements and solicitations were made and sent to potential vendors. Since nothing is free, work then began on acquiring funds, Tautkus said.

"The team worked with the requiring activity to get the funded purchase request and commitments for the requirements," stated Tautkus. "No contract can be awarded without funds approval. Additionally, the longer it takes to award a contract, the more expensive it will become."

Soon after contracts were awarded, the contracting team left for Kazakhstan. While on the ground, it gave both sides the chance to go over last minute details and achieve clarity.

"A meeting was set up with each vendor prior to the period of performance start date," Tautkus said. "The contracting team was able to review the terms and conditions. Also, the vendor gets the chance to ask questions and clarify contract content."

Time for the exercise to begin was quickly approaching. All the hard work would soon pay off as soldiers began arriving.

"Arrival of the team occurred several days before the start of the contract's POP, which allowed conditions to be set for the advance party personnel and the main body to arrive," Tautkus said.

Contracting officer representatives and a contracting officer were in charge of supervising the vendors. Daily tasks included having dumpsters in the proper place, having a laundry turn-in site, and making sure the food service workers understood the daily routine, Tautkus stated.

Before the contracting team said its final goodbyes, one last piece of business was in order.

"Prior to the team's departure, they had a final vendor conference to discuss invoicing and payment procedures," Tautkus said. "The more informed the vendor is on proper invoicing procedures, the more promptly they can expect payment."

Steppe Eagle this year served to enhance interoperability and mutual understanding between the U.S. and Kazakhstan on a larger scale than ever before. SE helps keep Third Army ready tonight for battle, while shaping the future by building relationships with partner countries.

"This exercise will increase cooperation with our regional partners," said Maj. Martin Crouse, contracting specialist, Army Contracting Command " Kuwait and Alexandria, Va., native.

Writing contracts and dealing with large sums of money can be difficult no matter what; in a different country, the chances of problems are tenfold. Yet, the contracting team from 408th CSB overcame obstacles and set the path for a successful joint-training exercise.

"Operational contract support can be complex when executed in a foreign land," Tautkus said. "There are obstacles such as language, customs and receiving prompt service. Getting into the planning process as early as possible can help mitigate future problems. Having a partnership with Kazakhstan is worthwhile for current and future operations by the U.S."