FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Twenty small business specialists from throughout the Mission and Installation Contracting Command gathered for an internal business meeting Sept. 17-20 in San Antonio to build greater awareness of policies and strengthen core skills.Conducted by the MICC Small Business Programs staff, the training offered small business specialists valuable guidance in performing their role and fills a void in training following the formal instruction they receive after appointment to their positions."This training provides local contracting office small business specialists the latest in MICC initiatives and recent legislation as well as an overview of recurring small business contract management review findings and solutions," said Sandy Spiess, the MICC Small Business Programs associate director. "It also provides small business specialists a great opportunity to interact and network with each other since working one-deep in has its challenges."Training included small business specialist responsibilities to include accountability, integration, outreach events, contractor meetings and monthly reporting. Small business specialists also examined relevant sections of the Federal Acquisitions Regulation to include the Government Purchase Card Program, competition, market research, acquisition strategies and plans, participation proposals and ordering. Members of the MICC headquarters staff also provided addition instruction on congressional affairs, professional development and the Acquisition Milestone Agreement program.Rosa Elmore is the MICC small business specialist at Fort Campbell, Ky. She said what she most gained from the meeting was greater insight on the importance of the small business specialist's role within the MICC organization as well as an ability to cross-feed issues with other MICC small business specialists."Meeting everyone for the first time at the training brings it all together -- office of small business programs and MICC small business specialists," Elmore said. "We are a team, although not in the same location, we all have the same mission."This was the first opportunity to meet face to face for many of the small business specialists, who primarily exchange information by phone or through computer chat sessions on a daily basis."It is very valuable. We discuss similar problems we might have within our different organizations and help each other with finding solutions to any issues we might have," Elmore said. "When we met at the training for the first time, we felt like we have known each other forever. We all seem to love what we do, helping others."That approach of helping others proved beneficial as the work was not done at the end of the business day. Because the meeting fell in the final two weeks of the government's fiscal year and the busiest time of year in federal acquisitions, small business specialists took only a brief break at the end of the day and then as a team went to the tedious task of catching up on reviews of justification and approvals, market research reports, acquisitions strategies, small business coordination records and other contracting documents."I was very impressed. After a long day of training, they delved right into their workload helping each other out. This was the first time in my experience that I've seen small business specialists working together as a group and sharing the workload to ensure all reviews were completed," Spiess said. "All of them were putting in 12-plus-hour days to ensure mission accomplishment, and I did not hear a single complaint."Assembled together in one room, the MICC staff and small business specialists teamed to tackle the combined workload."Everyone stayed until there were zero reviews left at the end of the night," Spiess said. "It was also great to hear them offer suggestions and advice to each other when a small business issue came up during the review. This was the utmost in networking."She hopes the opportunity to network reassures those in attendance that there is always a team of people willing to help."Although they are one-deep in the contracting offices serving as the advocate for small business, they are not alone," Spiess said.The MICC small business specialists returned to their respective duty stations Sept. 21 and to what is becoming a more visible program given today's economic challenges, according to the associate director."Small business specialists play an important and integral role in providing that maximum practicable opportunity for small businesses to compete for MICC awards," Spiess said. "By integrating themselves into office procedures for acquisition planning, they can advocate early in the game and help to identify capable small business vendors."She explained that historically, small business has helped strengthen economic growth and job creation. During a 15-year period, small businesses created more than 60 percent of all new jobs in the nation.The MICC is responsible for providing contracting support for the warfighter at Army commands, installations and activities located throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico. In fiscal 2012, the command executed more than 58,000 contract actions worth almost $6.3 billion across the Army, including $2.6 billion to small businesses.