Airmen procure mission success
by Senior Airman Clinton Atkins
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
12/5/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Members of the 379th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron here connect mission needs with the facilities, equipment and services that link military customers and the contractors who can meet those needs.
"Our mission is to make sure we provide each customer with what they need and get it to them as quickly as possible for the best value we can get for the taxpayer dollar," said Capt. Nicole Baert, the 379th ECONS Construction Flight chief.
"If we stopped working, the mission could fail," said the native of Cookeville, Tenn.
In the past year, the 379th ECONS staff processed more than 4,300 individual actions totaling more than $73 million, "and that's not including the large contracts we oversee for stateside organizations," she said.
"We support just about every unit on base," said Captain Baert, deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. "You name it and contracting probably touches it somehow. A few of the big contracts we have that influence the entire wing are the food, laundry and vehicle lease contracts.
"Our support allows (the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron) to provide quality food and services for everyone here," she said. "For (379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron), our support allows them to provide vehicles and heavy equipment. In fact, almost every vehicle you see around base was leased by us."
When a request for materials or labor comes to the unit, contracting officers review the requirement, ensure proper funding is available and ensure it is not too restrictive. The contracting squadron will then open the bidding to multiple contractors.
"If we get competition, it is easier to justify we are paying a fair and reasonable price," Captain Baert said.
Their job does not simply end with the completion of the paperwork.
"After the contract is awarded, we ensure the items are delivered to the base and get to the customer," she said. "This often includes processing waivers for clearing port or airport customs and passes for contractors to make deliveries to base. We also ensure the contractors are providing a timely and quality level of service. We're basically the liaison between the customers and contractor for anything and everything until the service is completed."
With the wing's vision of changing from an expeditionary to an enduring mindset, the contracting squadron is currently in the midst of changing the way they do business.
"It's an ongoing challenge," Captain Baert said. "It's all part of changing processes and how people do things. With enduring comes a change in mindset. With the expeditionary mindset, you're focused on an end item and not how much money you're spending. With an enduring mindset, you take time to evaluate the quality and capability of contractors as it relates to how expensive the items are. It takes a little more effort, but you get a better product in the end and the contract will work for our customers for a longer period of time."
Officials of the 379th ECONS have a few projects in place that will further base's advancement to an enduring presence.
"We are currently overseeing a contract for the renovation of the (379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron) base defense operations center," she said.
Captain Baert also mentioned the beginning of a project named the Coalition Compound Refresh.
"We're partnering with (379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron) to come up with a good concept on how this can be implemented," Captain Baert said. "We want to increase the quality of life for U.S. and coalition forces living here and also for transient forces coming through this base. We plan to replace all of the CC trailers and latrines, because right now they're not of the quality we would prefer to provide for our Airmen. We're gathering information, analyzing what the local market can provide and developing the best way to move forward with the project."
There's never a shortage of work in the 379th ECONS, said Captain Baert.
This 22-member squadron is a hive of activity supporting the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing as well as most coalition and joint units on base, but it is evident their determination and dedication to excellence allows them to excel in the high ops tempo environment.
"The thing about our job is that we never get to a finishing point," said Staff Sgt. Scott Deloera, a contracting officer. "There are not enough hours in a day to do what we need to do. We make ourselves leave every day. We'll go to the gym most days after work, but we end up coming back afterward.
"Right now I'm juggling more than 20 requirements," said the native of Alexandria, Va. "It all has to get done because these are things someone needs to do their job."
Another reason the contracting officers work extended hours is because of the time difference of vendors around the world.
"If we have to talk to a company on the West Coast and they don't open until 11 a.m., then we have to be in our office at 8 p.m.," said Sergeant Deloera, deployed from Andersen AFB, Guam. "We buy from many different vendors around the world so we have to be very flexible with our schedules."
To help them organize their work, the contracting officers prioritize requirements as either mission critical, mission essential or mission enhancement.
"A higher-value contract isn't always more important than one of lesser value," he said.
Though their job involves a lot of work from inside an office, the members of 379th ECONS can directly see the impact of their hard work.
"I love the fact that I can actually drive to the (Combined Air and Space Operations Center) and see the end result of my hard work," Sergeant Deloera said. "I've already bought so much for the CAOC I can physically see the impact of my job."
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