FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Found at one of the largest training installations in the Army responsible for training infantry and armor Soldiers, experts at the Installation Contracting Office-Fort Benning, Ga., remain focused despite having one of the busiest missions in the Mission and Installation Contracting Command."We never lose sight of our mission to provide the Soldier with what he or she needs to do their job," said Brenda Clark, deputy director.That attention is also reflected in the ICO's maxim: "Supporting Soldiers is what we do. We also write contracts."Made up of 40 civilian professionals and nine military members, Clark anticipates the ICO to keep pace with its emergent mission with the addition of a quality assurance specialist and six additional contingency contracting officers, or CCOs, from the 639th Senior Contingency Contracting Team at Fort Bragg, N.C.Its mission is as dynamic as its customer base. Contracting for the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command, Forces Command and Special Operations Command among many others, the number of people and customers supported is always a moving target. Fort Benning trains more than 108,000 Soldiers a year in 61 courses."Not only does Fort Benning provide a significant portion of training for the majority of the Army," said Clark of the 52 percent of all Soldiers who will train there, "but also it provides a platform for combat units to train and deploy."In addition to the student population, ICO-Fort Benning contract support extends to the garrison, installation directorates, two Army Ranger battalions, a continental United States replacement center, three FORSCOM units, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation responsible for training soldiers from Central and South America in infantry methods and tactics, as well as tenant units on the installation."In addition to training requirements, we also support combat forces for two operational units with different missions, both of which often require rapid response to requests," Clark said. "Contract support must be flexible and ready to meet the different challenges of a wide variety of customers."In fiscal 2011, members of ICO-Fort Benning processed 2,110 contract actions for a total obligation of more than $315 million, making it the top contracting office in obligated dollars for the MICC. That included contracts for logistics and base operations valued at $71 million, dining facilities valued at $38 million and more than $22 million in government purchase cards obligations."The (directorate of logistics) effort is the largest for Installation Management Command, and the dining facility contract is the largest food service budget in the Army, serving more than 10 million meals a year," she said.Helping offset the increased workload are the nine CCOs, of which three are deployed, who are fully incorporated into ICO-Fort Benning.
"This arrangement yields a multitude of benefits," Clark said. "First, it gives CCOs actual experience with real-time requirements from inception to close-out. Second, customers in uniform have responded better to dealing with other Soldiers, and the level of trust and cooperation has increased with some of our more challenging and high-maintenance customers."Soldiers trained in acquisition have contributed greatly to our customer education training by communicating and affirming with other Soldiers what is being taught since they have now seen 'both sides of the fence.'"Clark added the fresh viewpoint gained by developing a teaming relationship with Soldiers benefits not only the ICO-Fort Benning, but reaffirms its motto of supporting Soldiers.