MICC Soldiers participate in DOD’s premier OCS exercise at Ft Bliss

By Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Leonhard
OCSJX-17 Public Affairs Cell


FORT BLISS, Texas
– Nearly 450 Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and civilians are here for Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise-17 and a significant number of them are from the Army’s Mission and Installation Contracting Command.

Approximately 50 MICC personnel are participating in the exercise or providing support to ensure the exercise is successful. Most of the MICC participants will deploy within the next six months, including some who are only days away from heading downrange as contracting professionals for the first time. Other MICC Soldiers helped synchronize the assessment part of the exercise including the nearly 270 scenario injects that flowed into the week-long exercise portion of the joint exercise.

U.S. Army Capt. Richard Smith is the Trainer/Observer Integrator and he is a vital link between the assessment cell and what the participants are learning or discovering from each inject. This is his second OCSJX; in 2016 he was a trainee.

“I synchronize the information that each of the 15 TOs are witnessing in the training cells and make sure it’s ready for the assessment team to be able to see not only how well the training audience is responding to an scenario, but also where any short falls may be,” said Smith who is assigned to the 676th Contracting Team, 902nd Contracting Battalion, Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington. “Because we’re not only trying to help each of the individual trainees with their own personal experiences and growth, but we’re also looking across the Army and the Air Force to see where our gaps in capabilities are and how we can possibly tailor this to improve the trainees experience next year.”

Just across the hall from Smith was one of those trainees, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie Cortez, a member of this year’s Regional Contracting Element-Hotel. She was not only going through her initial OCS exercise, but she is just a few weeks from deploying as a contracting specialist for the first time. She stated, that like all Soldiers, she is adaptive and was ready to deploy and would have made it work, but now she is definitely set up for success.

“Learning the programs tools and getting hands on, really helps,” she explained. “I also have been looking over-the-shoulder of more experienced team members and watching how they do things and have asked questions. I’m very excited about using what I’ve learned.”

Cortez is stationed at the MICC-Fort Bliss contracting office and stated that on a previous deployment she performed convoy escort duties. During that deployment, she was moving a lot of the equipment and supplies to the units that needed them. On her return trip to Southwest Asia, she will be a contracting specialist who plans, procures and manages the acquisition of equipment and supplies.

“Now I really know that it’s more than just someone handing me a requirement saying we need this,” she said. “Now it’s understanding that there is a bigger picture to why the warfighter needs that request filled.”

Lt. Col. Jarrett Moffitt, the commander of the 919th Contracting Battalion, concurred with Cortez’s statement, saying that the opportunity for participants to learn more about the effects on the battle field is a big take away from the exercise.

“This is a great opportunity for our young Soldiers to learn about operationalizing contracting and getting into the nuts and bolts of contract writing to ensure we’re providing the effects the customer (warfighter) needs on the battlefield,” stated Moffitt who had the role of chief of the Regional Contracting Element-Alpha for OCSJX-17. “In our cell, we’re taking it a step further and we’ve talked about second and third order battlefield effects and what it actually means after we write the contract.”

Moffitt explained his cell then considered what additional requirements may come out of that core requirement or what additional requirements they may need to ensure contract success in the future.

He believes that because of the nature of their profession, there is a struggle and challenge among some contracting professionals to see the full effects of their work. Having been a Regional Contracting Center Chief in Iraq, he stated all the scenarios they’ve seen this week are very realistic.

“All these scenarios have been written by someone who has lived this pain before and has figured out how to do it or solved that particular problem,” he said.

All three of these MICC professionals support the warfighter by acquiring equipment, supplies and services vital to the Army mission and well-being of Soldiers. Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the MICC is a one-star command made up of more than 1,500 military and civilian members assigned to three contracting support brigades, one field directorate office and 31 contracting offices that provide contracting support across the Army.

Over the past two fiscal years the command has executed more than 68,000 contract actions valued at nearly $10 billion across the Army, which includes $4.35 billion to American small businesses. The command also managed nearly a million individual Government Purchase Card program transactions amounting to approximately $1.5 billion.

What is OCS?

By Staff Sgt. Michelle Patten
Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016 Public Affairs Cell

FORT BLISS, Texas- The language of the military includes acronyms that may seem like a soup of letters. Many acronyms are only understandable to Service members in specific career fields. For someone outside the military acquisition community operational contract support, OCS, may be such a term.

According to Joint Publication 4-10, OCS is “the process of planning for and obtaining supplies, services and construction from commercial sources in support of joint operations.”

U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicole Stevens is a contracting officer in a rapid acquisition cell, part of the Big Safari program, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and a participant in Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016. She provided her personal definition of OCS.

“I would explain OCS to someone outside the acquisition career field as a process of how we get the materials and supplies and services that we need to conduct our mission,” Stevens said.

Since the Revolutionary War, the United States has used contracted support in operations to some degree. With the introduction of more technologically advanced equipment, high operations tempos and manning reductions across the force, the use of contractors for contingency operations has only increased.

“Since we’ve dwindled our numbers [of Service members] on the ground the use of contracted support has increased,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Fortenberry, OCSJX-16 role player. “We still have to maintain the same mission, even with fewer [military] people.”

Fortenberry is a unit training manager and unit deployment manager with the 354th Contracting Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

With the increased prevalence of contractor operations in the military, effective OCS execution is essential to mission success.

“It’s critical to the military mission because it’s that full process from identifying the need all the way through how we fund it, then how we justify that requirement, to finding the right person to provide it to us, and putting it on contract and administering that contract,” Stevens said.

OCS is the work that goes on behind the scenes to support the warfighter.

“What we’re really trying to do is support that warfighter on the ground, whether it be beans, bullets or equipment to support that warfighting effort,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David DeMartelaere, 1st Armored Division air and missile defense chief.

The process of OCS has three functions: contract support integration, contracting support and contractor management. The process starts with contract support integration. This is the planning stage of OCS where requirements are determined.

“In contract support integration contracting will work with a functional area, who is the subject matter expert on what they need,” Fortenberry explained.

In this step, the requirements generated by the warfighters are coordinated and synchronized. Representatives from the Services, the allied nations involved and many different career fields review the requirements. From military civil affairs seeking to repair a dilapidated school to medical professionals needing lifesaving supplies, functional areas become involved in contract support integration to assist in requirements determination in order to get the supplies, services or construction they need.

“Making that contract happen doesn’t happen overnight so you have to have that planning ahead of time,” DeMartelaere said.

Next in the OCS process is contracting support. This portion is where the procurement piece occurs and contracts are written. This step is the traditional contracting activity that most often comes to mind, but even in this part of the process the contracting career field does not operate in isolation.

Fortenberry added that some of the other career fields that may be involved in contracting support include finance and legal to ensure that contracts meet all requirements in these areas.

Finally, contractor management provides the oversight, integration and support of contractors in an operational area. In this portion the contracting officer representative, COR, is responsible for monitoring contract performance. A COR can be any Service member or civilian appointed in writing and trained by a contracting officer.

“Contractor management is one of those things we have to have to execute properly to make sure there’s not fraud waste and abuse,” DeMartelaere said.

Whether the military is providing the initial response to a contingency like establishing air traffic control immediately after an earthquake or a long-term operation is in the sustainment phase, OCS is being carried out.

“The three functions are happening in all phases of military operations, though at different levels,” Fortenberry described.

While the OCS process may seem complicated at the most basic level, it is in effect to support everyone in an area of operation. OCSJX-16 allows participants to hone their OCS skills.

“I hope that they take away that every part of OCS is important,” Stevens said. “It’s not just a contracting exercise. This is an OCS exercise. It’s not just as easy as signing a contract, there are a lot of steps and processes and a lot of career fields that are involved in this. We have to work together and we have to follow the process to make sure everybody is on the same page to get what we need at the best value for the government.”

OCSJX-16 is a three-week long exercise that brings together Service members and civilians across the branches of service and other agencies that are involved in the OCS process. The exercise focuses on supporting the warfighter and uses a U.S. Southern Command scenario of defending the Panama Canal and providing humanitarian assistance.

OCSJX prepares participants for worldwide deployments

By Ben Gonzales
Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016 Public Affairs Cell

FORT BLISS, Texas– Gunfire and smoke are in the air. Blood oozes out of fresh wounds. Service members and civilians are tense and serious, but respond to the situations with calculated plans and purpose.

More than 225 participants of Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016 are learning combat and life-saving skills in realistic scenarios March 22 at Fort Bliss, Texas. This training is vital as the American military is called upon to deploy to austere and war-torn zones around the world.

The exercise trains contracting and OCS support professionals across the Department of Defense to succeed while deployed in support of any contingency operation or natural disaster. In addition to honing their contracting skills, participants learn CPR, how to move and care for casualties, proper tourniquet applications, how to provide medical care under fire, and other life-saving skills. Also, the participants learned how to move in a combat environment, how to recognize unexploded explosives, and how to exit an overturned vehicle.

“This exercise is truly targeted for skills that you need to know when you are deployed,” said Army Lt. Col. Toney Stephenson, a participant in the exercise and the 902nd Contracting Battalion commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. “The reason that it’s important is because our primary deployment job is contracting, but there are still incidents that happen and you should know how to react. This doesn’t make us infantrymen or medics, but it gives us targeted skills that we need in a deployed environment. This allows us to be part of a deployed team.”

OCSJX-16, sponsored by the Joint Staff J4, is a training venue that unites joint non-acquisition and acquisition professionals to plan for and execute realistic and effective OCS outcomes. Participants include Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and representatives from the United Kingdom, and other partner nations. The exercise uses a U.S. Southern Command scenario to defend the Panama Canal while providing humanitarian assistance.

“This training is more important to us because some of us are getting ready to deploy, but also in day-to-day life if someone has a heart attack in the office,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Kimala Cox, the 902nd CBN sergeant major and a participant in the exercise. “We are not certified medical people, but we now know what to do in case something serious happens. At the end of this exercise, I am certain that when they deploy they will be able to provide all the training that we learned here.”

Some of the training will be put to use in deployed environments very soon. Army Sgt. 1st Class Katrina Tolbert, an exercise participant and a contracting specialist with the 904th Contracting Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is scheduled to deploy this winter.

“All the training – combat skills, basic medical care, vehicle rollover training and [the] leadership course – will be very useful when I am deployed,” Tolbert said. “OCSJX also allows us to build relationships with contracting professionals from other services. Our goal is for us to have a better understanding of how contracting is integrated into all plans and operations, and this exercise prepares us to be able to respond to anything our nation may call us to do, anywhere.”

OCSJX-16 runs from March 21 to April 8.