It doesn't take smoke and mirrors for an exercise like the Joint Contracting Readiness Exercise 2013, sponsored by the Army Contracting Command, to occur.

According to exercise planners and those behind the scenes, it takes long hours and a lot of effort.

"A lot of behind-the-scenes man hours have gone into making this happen," said Maj. Michael Spahr, executive officer, 905th Contingency Contracting Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C., and JCRX-13 operations officer-in-charge.

"For the last year a majority of our days have been spent planning this because it is that important of an exercise," he said.

"Once the exercise commenced, it was simply a matter of pulling all the pieces together to make sure everything is in sync and transparent to the trainees. There will be issues but you work through them."

As one of the first ones in and the last ones out, Master Sgt. Della Martin, 648th Contingency Contracting Team, Fort Benning, Ga., and JCRX operations noncommissioned office-in-charge, ensured the day-to-day operations items such as training schedules, personnel accountability rosters and coordination between the various cells were monitored and tracked.

"It's a job and it's what I do. You have to love it," she said, moving quickly down the hallway to the next office. Even thought they don't provide training or support to the trainees, the JCRX Joint Visitors Bureau is a very important piece to the training mission.

"There are a lot of senior leaders Department of Defense-wide who are interested in this exercise and have shown an interest in coming to view it," said Lt. Col. Vernon Myers, JVB officer-in-charge and 916th CCBN commander.

Until recently, more than 80 senior level officials had shown interest in visiting this year's exercise. That number slipped a little due to Department of Defense budget cuts, but the JCRX Joint Visitor Bureau didn't slow down.

"Right now we are responsible for more than two dozen distinguished visitors coming to the exercise. It's been controlled chaos ensuring we connect the DVs with the appropriate personnel and are given the proper briefings. It's not easy but I have an excellent group of NCOs and officers who are tracking their every move."

During the exercise, the trainees had more than 50 scenario events from the mission scenario event list, all courtesy of the JCRX-13 Senior Contracting Officer Control Cell.

"We're simulating a slice of a joint theater support contracting command that simulates the higher headquarters of the exercise," said Lt. Col. Carol Tschida, Expeditionary Contracting Command's strategic plans officer and officer-in-charge of the JCRX Senior Contracting Officer Control Cell.

According to Tschida, a large document called the Master Scenario Event List wraps up everything that happens during the exercise, from contracts given to the trainees to the databases they use.
Often called a MSEL, it also outlines a variety of situations--some contract-related, some not--that are injected into the exercise. Members of the SCO Control Cell provided a task to the notional contracting centers then evaluated their action.

"We already know what the right answers are so we'll go over their actions and determine how well they handled the task," Tschida said.

Of everything that occurs during the course of the exercise, Spahr said the one thing they could count on was change.

"The hardest part is the 10-meter target -- the unexpected. Whether it's changes to arrival times, distinguished visitors and guests, switching rooms, or facility management issues to accommodate the changes, you just have to remain flexible to accommodate for the unknown and unaccounted for," Spahr said.

"Thank you to everybody who helped with this exercise," he continued. "An exercise like this does not revolve around one person; it takes many agencies to make it happen. It takes efforts from people at ACC and ECC headquarters all the way down to the various contingency contracting teams and everyone really did their best."