JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Approximately 40 members of the 410th Contracting Support Brigade put their contingency contracting skills to the test during a humanitarian assistance disaster relief exercise Feb. 7-9 at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis.
The exercise scenario was in response to a simulated U.S. Army South request for support from two contracting teams in response to an excessive number of migrants entering into Guantanamo Bay and overflowing into the Dominican Republic.
Maj. Randalle Carter, 410th CSB operations officer, planned and led the exercise.
“The purpose of this exercise is to make sure we are synchronized with updated guidance from the Army Contracting Command and Army when it comes to Objective T,” Carter said. “Focused on readiness, one of the portions of the objective is external evaluation to serve as observers and trainers to evaluate our teams on mission essential task list proficiency”
“Objective T” is the Army’s system designed to measure unit readiness by looking at its personnel, equipment and training.
Providing external evaluation were the Mission and Installation Contracting Command’s Sgt. 1st Class Bonifacio Magdaleno from the 418th Contracting Support Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, and Sgt. 1st Class Jack Howard from the 419th CSB at Fort Bragg, N.C. Magdaleno and Howard were each joined by a Texas Army National Guard member from the 1936th Contingency Contracting Battalion from Camp Mabry, near Austin, Texas, to form evaluation teams for each of the exercise cells.
“The value of each of those integrating with our unit for this exercise is that we train as we fight,” Carter said. “In times of an up tempo for contracting support, the Reserve or National Guard would and have deployed alongside us. We also know that at any point in time, any of our sister brigades could deploy downrange, and we could support the mission together.”
An exercise warning order Feb. 6 informed the brigade of the potential to respond to a request for support by ARSOUTH. This activated the brigade’s contracting teams to begin pre-deployment operations and troop leadership procedures.
An alert serving as official notice to simulate deploying to the Dominican Republic followed the next day prompting the team to convoy to a forward operation base located at JBSA-Camp Bullis in northwest San Antonio. Following an in-brief, the teams were provided resources to establish contracting offices consisting of tents in an austere environment with no computer network connectivity.
Carter explained that contracting methods differ for contracting teams operating in declared contingency environments to include dollar thresholds and rules. Although members of the 410th CSB are familiar with stateside contracting rules, policies and procedures, she said some individuals have never deployed to contingency environments.
One element of training on the initial day included the use of Standard Form 44, Purchase Order - Invoice – Voucher. The SF 44 is designed to serve multiple purposes for on-the-spot purchases of supplies and services. Intended to be more efficient and economical based on the situation, procedures for issuing an SF-44 are outlined in general instructions on the form that and absent of clauses.
“We support a lot of contingencies and exercises, but not a lot of humanitarian assistance disaster relief support, so being able to train on what right looks like since we don’t use it as often is value added to the team,” Carter said.
The team relocated Feb. 8 across JBSA-Camp Bullis to hardened shelters serving as contracting cells with computer connectivity to more effectively support ARSOUTH contract needs. Also embedded with the cells were role players who presented various situations from a master event scenario list, or MSEL, developed during exercise planning, which began in October.
Among the role players was Staff Sgt. Catherine Johnson, a contracting officer with the 410th CSB’s 713th Contracting Team at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. Posing as a local vendor in the Dominican Republic, she tested the team members’ ability to follow Federal Acquisition Regulation rules and integrity standards when it came to accepting gifts, money or other enticements to curry favor in the award of contracts.
“These types of exercise scenarios are very common. When it comes to contingency environments, contracting teams are usually one of the first groups on the ground to provide basic life support services the first 30 to 90 days,” Johnson said. “Even though we’re local vendors, the embassy on site should have done its own due diligence to make sure the contracting team coming in has enough information to support whatever it needs to do.”
The exercise concluded Feb. 9 as contracting teams conducted re-deployment operations from Camp Bullis to Fort Sam Houston, followed by an awards ceremony to recognize outstanding performers.
The 410th CSB is a subordinate unit of the Army Contracting Command. It provides expeditionary contingency contracting support to ARSOUTH in response to Army and joint operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations.