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Contracting makes it happen

by Capt. Aaron Burgstein
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/14/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN)  -- From beans to bullets, cradle to grave, one agency at a forward-deployed location makes it all happen. Whether it is bottled water to get Airmen through the heat of summer or vital supplies to keep the aircraft flying, the 386th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron is there to make sure the mission gets done.

"If it comes on base through nonsupply channels, we've got a hand in getting it," said Capt. Loreen Lisle, 386th ECONS commander. "We ensure civil engineering can build, maintenance can get office furniture and services can buy food."

At the beginning of their deployment, the Airmen of the contracting squadron found themselves in a unique situation -- base supply was just about out of everything.

"We arrived during a buildup, so supply had issued nearly everything they had," Captain Lisle said. "That meant we had to purchase a lot of items while supply restocked."

Arriving during a buildup is just one of the challenges an expeditionary contracting squadron faces. Another big issue is the very nature of air and space expeditionary force rotations, which basically bring completely new crews in every four months.

"One of the hardest things here is that we didn't have that corporate knowledge," Captain Lisle said. "A big concern was to prevent any abuse of the system, so we worked really hard to make sure we weren't buying things we already had or that weren't needed."

To do that, contracting officials meet with the different unit commanders to find out their needs and to better understand each organization's mission.

In addition, because of the small number of Airmen in a deployed contracting office, they rely on subject-matter experts across the wing to help determine how to best meet wing needs.

"Normally, a contracting squadron has entire flights devoted to certain areas, such as civil engineering," Captain Lisle said. "Here, we're about the size of a flight, so we have to handle everything."

Despite their small numbers, the workload is anything but tiny. They have handled nearly 700 contracts worth $50 million -- nearly four times the amount of the previous rotation.

"Our goal is to get what the customer needs," Captain Lisle said. "It may not always be exactly what they want in terms of brand name, but it does meet their requirements."

To do that, Captain Lisle relies on her staff. "Without their hard work and dedication, we wouldn't have been able to accomplish everything we did," she said

Because of the nature of a forward-deployed location, time is also of the essence. Captain Lisle said that what may be a long, drawn out process stateside is often done much more quickly.

"At home you might award a contract in 45 days; here we do it in 10 to 15 days. In a deployed location, time is of the essence," she said.

However, through it all, the contracting Airmen remain focused on the mission.

"Everyone's requirement is mission-essential," Captain Lisle said. "We make sure the job gets done legally, without waste and as quickly as possible."

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