Va. Guard contracting Soldiers sharpen their skills during joint, multi-state exercise

Capt. William Perez of the Virginia National Guard’s 1945th Contingency Contracting Team gets assistance on the Joint Contingency Contracting System from a Defense Logistics Agency employee Nov. 14, 2013, at Camp Pendleton, Va., during Vital Pledge,  a six-day, joint, multi-state, contracting exercise. The exercise served to help prepare the four Soldiers from the 1945th CCT for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in early 2014 by improving their familiarity with contracting processes, legal requirement and systems. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Capt. William Perez of the Virginia National Guard’s 1945th Contingency Contracting Team gets assistance on the Joint Contingency Contracting System from a Defense Logistics Agency employee Nov. 14, 2013, at Camp Pendleton, Va., during Vital Pledge, a six-day, joint, multi-state, contracting exercise. The exercise served to help prepare the four Soldiers from the 1945th CCT for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in early 2014 by improving their familiarity with contracting processes, legal requirement and systems. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

CAMP PENDLETON, Va. — Virginia National Guard contracting Soldiers joined with Army and Air Guard personnel from three other states for a six-day, joint, multi-state, contracting exercise Nov. 13- 18. The Virginia Guard Soldiers, from the Virginia Beach-based 1940th and 1945th Contingency Contracting Teams, operated out of Camp Pendleton, Va., while Soldiers and Airmen from Maine, Minnesota, and South Dakota participated remotely.

The exercise, Vital Pledge, also included civilians from the Defense Logistics Agency.

Vital Pledge was unique because it was conducted with the goal of being a “no-travel/ no-cost” exercise, where all the participants operated from their home stations, according to Lt. Col. Brent Carey, senior team leader of the 1940th CCT.

The two Virginia contingency contracting teams, which fall under the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, sponsored the exercise. Carey led the planning and organization of this event and served as the exercise commander, while Capt. Herbert Hankins, commander of the 1945th CCT, served as the contracting office chief.

Capt. Herbert Hankins, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s 1945th Contingency Contracting Team, uses Defense Connect Online to chat with participants in Vital Pledge, a six-day, joint, multi-state, contracting exercise Nov. 15, 2013, at Camp Pendleton, Va. Soldiers and Airmen from Maine, Minnesota, and South Dakota also participated in the exercise, which was conducted with the goal of being a “no-travel/ no-cost” exercise, where all the participants operated from their home stations. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Capt. Herbert Hankins, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s 1945th Contingency Contracting Team, uses Defense Connect Online to chat with participants in Vital Pledge, a six-day, joint, multi-state, contracting exercise Nov. 15, 2013, at Camp Pendleton, Va. Soldiers and Airmen from Maine, Minnesota, and South Dakota also participated in the exercise, which was conducted with the goal of being a “no-travel/ no-cost” exercise, where all the participants operated from their home stations. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The exercise also served to help prepare the four Soldiers from the 1945th CCT for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in early 2014 by improving their familiarity with contracting processes, legal requirement and systems.

“We’re simulating some of the contract actions we will see in Afghanistan,” Hankins said. “We’re very familiar with contracting procedures stateside but we’re honing our techniques and learning the procedures we will see over there. This is allowing us a little more customer interaction and diving into some of the policies and procedures unique to Afghanistan.”

“For the 1945th, this exercise provides an opportunity to simulate a real contracting operation, just as they would encounter in Afghanistan, before they deploy,” Carey explained. “So many of the contracting actions are done remotely, you may or may not see your vendor. So having people spread out in different locations adds some realism.”

The two Virginia CCTs tested the concept in April 2013 with the 1940th operating as the unit being trained and the 1945th serving as the role players and observer controllers from a different location on Camp Pendleton. For Vital Pledge, the 1945th was the unit being trained, while the 1940th and the participants in other states supported as role players and observer controllers.

The participation by personnel from other states was invaluable, according to Hankins.

“They’re serving as role players and technical advisors to make sure we’re going down the right path to serve our customers,” he explained. “It’s prepping us here so we won’t be blindsided when we get overseas or to our mobilization site for our culmination event.”

The personnel from DLA were at Camp Pendleton to work with the Soldiers on the Joint Contingency Contracting System and the 3-in-1 hand held device. The JCCS is a web portal that can access various contracting requirements and is required to be used downrange.

The 3-in-1 is a new, hand-held system that “pulls together the finance piece, the contracting piece, the paperwork, captures signatures, and can track payments to the contractor on the spot,” according to Carey. The system is designed to not only save paperwork but make the whole contracting process faster and more efficient.

For Hankins and the other Soldiers of the 1945th, the biggest challenge is keeping up with the latest policies and guidance on awarding contracts.

“The biggest challenge for us is learning those procedures and templates being used in Afghanistan,” he explained. “That way when we get there we can jump right in and serve as a combat multiplier.”

One of the objectives of the exercise was to demonstrate that a contracting exercise could be done virtually, according to Carey.

“Everyone doesn’t have to be in the same location. National Guard contracting teams are really starved for quality weekend training,” he said. “Exercises like this, that go across state boundaries, basically on a no-cost basis, really have a place in the military. Our objective was to prove that it works and I think we’ve done that.”


Photos: Va. Guard contracting Soldiers sharpen their skills during joint, multi-state exercise

About Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne

Master Sgt. Coyne is the NCOIC for the Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office. He can be reached at andrew.j.coyne4.mil@mail.mil or by phone at 757-541-2010. You can follow the Virginia National Guard on Twitter @VaGuardPAO.