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.

OCSJX-17 training scenarios focus on warfighter support

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

FORT BLISS, Texas – After four days of academics, approximately 230 members of the training audience at Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise-17 are now testing their skills and knowledge as they are bombarded with more than

270 scenarios over an eight-day period.

Twelve teams made up of contracting and finance personnel along with Joint Requirements Activity Cell members have entered the second phase of the two-week exercise. OCSJX-17 is the Department of Defense’s premier operational contract support exercise and is designed to train individuals from the logistics, personnel, finance, legal, and contracting career fields.

According to Lt. Col. Cal Hodgson, the director of Joint Exercise Control Group, the scenarios the trainees are working through are based on real-world experiences.

“The scenarios are straight from the theater or something we know we need to work on,” said Hodgson, deputy director of contracting at Air Force District of Washington Contracting Directorate, Andrews AFB, Maryland. “They are designed to make the training audience understand they are a strategic instrument and that their actions are ultimately on behalf of a Sailor, Airman, Solider or Marine in the field.”

“We want the trainees to link what they are doing to higher level strategic objectives. To know what they are doing and how it supports the warfighter,” stated Hodgson, who was one of those trainees just a couple years ago.

He explained that the JECG will look at how each cell reacts and responds to each inject and how they solve it as a team.

“Cell observers have what they feel is the expected action, and they watch to see if the team meets that expected action or not,” said Hodgson. “Sometimes a team won’t meet the expected action, but the answer is still right because they thought of something we didn’t think of and that is still a good answer, so as long as we can look at it and determine they are still providing the appropriate support to the warfighter.”

Hodgson said that some of the scenarios are used to have the trainees think about the impact on a local economy. The control group incorporates these because when thousands of forces arrive in an area of operations there is also an influx of money.  That money then creates potential competitions for resources.  Because as Hodgson explained, a warfighter is going to need some of these resources, say such as water, but if an organization doesn’t carefully manage where their getting the resource, it could have a negative impact on the local population.

In this, the eighth iteration of OCSJX, scenarios to support special operations forces have been added.

“Supporting our SOF is an identified real-world weakness,” claimed Hodgson. “A SOF unit does not always communicate where they are and where they are going by the nature of their business. They will show up at a supporting installation and say they need help and often these installation say ‘tough,’ and that’s the wrong answer.  So we have SOCOM planners here to specifically help us understand our role in supporting them.”

Adding a new element, like supporting SOF, is part of the ever evolving nature of the exercise. One of the changes over the years hasn’t been about adding new scenarios.

“The biggest change of the last few years is the complexity of the exercise,” said Master Sgt. Noah Branscom, the JECG Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. “This [OCSJX] evolved out of a contracting exercise and now they’ve brought in the joint staff, plus took the approach of joint operations and getting into the OCS environment versus just contracting,”

In his fourth year of participation, Branscom a contracting officer at Buckley AFB, Colorado, with the Colorado Air National Guard, stated that there isn’t an issue executing contracts, that instead it’s developing requirements and maintaining contracts that needs to be improve.

“There was deliberate effort to focus on cross communication and involve the different functions,” said Branscom. “Participants are no longer exercising in just their specific area of expertise, they are now involving finance and requirement folks.  This helps trainees to get more of a broader picture and work the whole process versus each function doing their specific job and not even consider what’s happening around them.”

Besides increasing the complexity of the exercise, Branscom stated there’s been a push to increase the credibility of the exercise as well.

“We make an effort to get the right people for the right position,” he explained. “We’ve learned that even the functions such as a role player need to have the knowledge and capability to understand the scenario or the entire inject loses its credibility.”

“The trainees can pick up on that very quickly and then there’s a loss of benefit,” continued Branscom. “So a year’s worth of preparation could go down the drain if you don’t have the right individual bringing the message to the training audience.”

The foot stomping message that both Hodgson and Branscom echoed was that this exercise and the scenarios within it are to get participants to look beyond their specific task and look at the strategic view.  They want a trainee to understand how their tactical role feeds into a bigger operation and what each participant is doing to support the warfighter.

As concluded by Hodgson, “It’s not about completing a transactional endeavor or signing the contract to buy ‘the thing,’ it’s about knowing they are supporting the warfighter.”