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NEWS | April 15, 2019

ARSC Soldiers host first-ever contract operational readiness exercise at JMBDL

By Lt. Col. Miriam Castro Defense Contract Management Agency – Army Reserve Element

Nearly 300 Army Reserve Sustainment Command Soldiers participated in the inaugural Contracting Operational Readiness Exercise-19 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, April 1-12, 2019. 

CORE-19 served as a validation exercise for Soldiers set to deploy within the coming months and next fiscal year. The training focused on acquisition support and prepared Soldiers to execute their skillsets in a contingency environment by accomplishing two parallel efforts that focused on the ARSC’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program and Contingency Contracting Battalions. The training event also incorporated weapons qualification, the Army Physical Fitness Test and other ancillary training. 

Exercise planners worked with the LOGCAP Policy and Training Program Office to provide a 32-hour academic block founded on doctrine in anticipation of executing exercise scenarios. Of the 80-plus Soldiers who participated in the exercise, 80 percent are considerably new to the acquisition field, said Lt. Col. Lenny Sloat, Logistics Support Brigade deputy commander.

“The objective of the exercise was first, to provide Soldiers a foundation on which to initiate a culture change that facilitated standardized operating procedures across deployed areas of responsibility. Second, it was to employ subject matter experts to provide participants feedback on presentations to senior leadership and constructive critiques on proposed solutions to exercise scenarios,” Sloat said.

With regard to training scenarios and reacting to training participants, Lt. Col. Rodney Smith, 1st LOGCAP Battalion Commander, agreed with Sloat’s perspective. 

“The art is to stay two minutes ahead of the training participants.”

Smith’s battalion is slated to deploy one headquarters element and three detachments. “Our focus is to provide efficient and effective surveillance, as well as integrated services and management of LOGCAP contracts overseas. This exercise is a step in the right direction for that specific training,” said Smith. 

One Soldier under his command, 1st Lt. Ryan Bowen, said the exercise was challenging and well-received. 

“The training and the academic block went in-depth as to what is expected of me as a LOGCAP professional. Further, it challenged me to recollect upon training I received to solve problems,” Bowen said.

The contracting aspect of the exercise focused on contingency contracting and utilized Defense Acquisition University’s Joint Contingency Contracting course as its foundation. 

While members of both the 915th and 917th Contingency Contracting Battalions have heavy deployment rotations, the battalions respectively continue to assess Soldiers new to the acquisition field who need training and awareness of early entry procedures into the theater of operations. The exercise served as a platform to conduct training, said Lt. Col. Patrick Weaver, commander of the 917th Contingency Contacting Battalion, who said CORE-19 was an optimal opportunity for targeted training. 

The role of a Contingency Contracting Officer is to procure services and supplies in theater that were not forecasted and are necessary to support contingency operations. According to Weaver, more than 30 percent of the battalion is deployed at any given time in support of operations in Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo.

Therefore, providing Soldiers tools for success in a contingency environment is imperative, said Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Mbelu. With more than four years’ experience in the acquisition career field, she said the exercise was a good refresher in preparation for her first deployment as a contingency contracting officer. 

“Upon becoming a contracting officer, we take the Joint Contingency Contracting course, but that was more than four years ago,” said Mbelu. 

As she is scheduled to deploy as a contracting officer next fiscal year, Mbelu said she appreciated the opportunity to conduct this refresher in close proximity to her deployment.

“As a contracting officer stateside, you don’t always get the opportunity to use the same tools as you would in a contingency environment. This training allowed me to become more familiar with tools that are appropriate for unique early entry operations and available to me as a contracting officer,” said Mbelu.