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.

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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.”

OCSJX-16 trains for the fight against human trafficking

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

FORT BLISS, Texas- Would you recognize the signs of human trafficking if they were in front of you? Service members and civilians in the operational contract support field are on the front lines combating trafficking in persons every day and must be able to detect this sometimes subtle form of modern day slavery.

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. An estimated 20.9 million people are victimized worldwide, according to the Department of Defense’s Strategic Plan for Combating Trafficking in Persons.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, spoke about the DOD’s focus on fighting human trafficking in 2016’s annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

“The Department is totally committed to combating trafficking, and the place in which we encounter it most frequently is through overseas contracting,” Kendall said. “It’s often labor-related contracting, but many cases involve prostitution as well.”

Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016, OCSJX-16, provides a valuable training venue on combating trafficking in persons for those working with contractors.

Col. Joshua Burris, deputy chief of staff for Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Sam Houston, Texas, and the executive director for DOD’s OCSJX-16, spoke about why combating trafficking in persons, CTIP, is incorporated into the exercise.

“OCSJX and the DOD’s efforts to combat trafficking are very important,” Burris said. “We understand this tarnishes the image of America and it affects our relationships with other countries.”

While deployments have declined, it is even more important to keep OCS skillsets including identification and handling of CTIP violations sharp through the annual OCSJX.

“Providing CTIP training makes OCS professionals aware that CTIP violations do happen,” said Jillian Kennedy, a part of the exercise scenario development team and a 325th Contracting Squadron infrastructure team lead at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. “The training also shows how we recognize violations, how we address them and how we fix them.”

Linda Dixon, Defense Human Resource Activity CTIP program manager, discussed the current common types of CTIP violations that are seen in the area of operations with exercise participants. These violations include poor living conditions for workers and recruiters who charge exorbitant fees to place workers in jobs.

“The main thing is you need to know who you’re doing business with,” Dixon said. “Do they understand the labor laws in the area where you’re going to be performing? Do they understand what the policies are for the U.S. government? As far as our CTIP zero tolerance policy?”

In addition to the presentation by Dixon, the exercise participants received classroom instruction on CTIP. As part of the exercise scenario, participants were given simulated CTIP violations and had to properly respond to the situation in order to stop the human rights violations. The exercise’s white cell developed the simulations based on the team’s various experiences with the types of CTIP violations they have seen in the real world, Kennedy said.
OCSJX-16 is a three-week long exercise that brings together over 500 Service members and civilians across the Services 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.

The DOD announced there were 52 reported CTIP violations last year.

If you suspect an incident of human trafficking report it to the DOD Inspector General hotline at 1-800-424-9098 or http://www.dodig.mil/hotline. Or you may contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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-16 endurance and leadership reaction courses

Ethic foundational to OCS

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

FORT BLISS, Texas- “Actions speak more than words,” Brig. Gen. Michael Hoskin, commanding general of U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Commander, reminded the audience before an ethic training session for command teams at Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016.

To facilitate training on ethic this year, the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic’s senior enlisted advisor Sergeant Major David Stewart conducted seminars for both command teams and the general training audience at OCSJX.

“Though we may be different services we are all having the same conversations about how to do the same thing,” Stewart said.

Ethic and profession are complex and ambiguous topics that the seminars made understandable with exercises that tested social norms. While what is right and wrong may sometimes seem apparent it is important that all OCS professionals share the same values.

“Ethics is different for everyone,” said U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Renie Bright, commander of the 915th Contracting Support Battalion. “Everyone has their own social norms and values so we need to understand what is expected.”

With billions of dollars and the needs of the warfighter at stake, it is vital that Service members and civilians remain focused on being good stewards for the American public.

“We are the ones who spend taxpayer dollars and so it’s very important for us to be efficient and effective in our spending and to get the most for our dollar,” Bright said.

Training on ethic was one of the first academic elements presented to OCSJX participants, as it will help prepare them for the scenario execution they will be completing later in the exercise.

“I think it’s the foundation of everything we’re going to be doing here,” Bright said. “You cannot give someone a contract warrant if you’re questioning their ability to do the right thing.”

The ethic training seminar for the general participants focused on critical thinking. This training was also geared toward all OCSJX attendees instead of being career field specific.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re contracting, finance or another job, everybody here that’s participating they’re dealing with the public’s money so you have to be ethical as a person to make sure you’re [acting] in the best interests of the government,” said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Shaffer, Air Force Sustainment Center contracting officer. “It doesn’t matter what your profession is.”

Stewart remarked that the training session for command teams, the current and incoming commanders and senior enlisted of units, was important to teach how they can build the identity of their members. Also, ensuring the command teams received training demonstrated their buy-in for the priority on ethic in their organizations.

“It’s important for them to understand the concepts so they can create the right culture and climate that most people actually want to have in their organizations,” Stewart said.

Even small, incremental change can make a difference in a unit according to Stewart.

“What I hope comes from both sessions is that I have given people enough to think about that three to five people will go and make a positive change on their organization, and if I’ve done that then I’ve been successful,” Stewart said. “I think that over time if that happens then we’ll start to see change across the military.”

Stewart emphasized that anyone can and should start a conversation within their units on ethic.

“This is a leader responsibility,” Stewart said. “You can have these same conversations inside your organizations no matter how small it is or how big it is. It is all of our organizations’ responsibilities to share our values and beliefs and to help people inside our organization understand our values and beliefs the way they were intended to be done.”

OCSJX-16 is a three-week joint exercise funded by the Department of Defense and sponsored by the Director for Logistics, Joint Staff J4. The exercise focuses on supporting the warfighter and uses a U.S. Southern Command scenario of defending the Panama Canal and providing humanitarian assistance.

For more information on ethic and training resources visit CAPE’s website: http://cape.army.mil/.

OCSJX-16 medical training