News | Feb. 22, 2018

Tell us what you want; what you really, really want

By Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin 18th Wing Public Affairs

Every day people go to work, step through the door, grab their tools and start their daily mission. But one may wonder who purchased that vest, or that wrench, or even the pen and paper used to take notes in the weekly meetings? That’s where the 18th Contracting Squadron comes through.

“People think this stuff appears out of thin air,” laughed Senior Airman Jonathan Andrews, 18th CONS contract specialist. “You can’t point out anything that contracting doesn’t have a hand in getting for the mission.”

While the squadron may not have the glamorized job like that of a pilot, or a gritty, grimy ‘dirty job’ like maintainers, 18th CONS is crucial to every aspect of accomplishing the Air Force mission.

“We’re here to help you get what you need,” Andrews said. “We try and keep the mission going, get everyone what they need to be able to do their job properly in the most efficient manner possible.” 

Without the tools and people to complete the daily tasks, the mission would come to a halt. At a busy base such as Kadena, that’s not a viable option. By getting the items needed to prevent hiccups in the mission, 18th CONS show their importance to the fight by keeping everyone else running at full speed.

“30% of the force is contractors – imagine if every third person was missing. There’d be no way we could execute the mission.” said Jamaal Valentine, 18th CONS supervisory procurement analyst. “The contractors have become an integral part of what we do, and we need people with special skill sets to manage that and protect the United States and its contractual relationships.”

Like many other units here at Kadena, there is a contingent of local nationals working side-by-side their military counterparts and civilians from the United States. Due to the small size and isolated location of Okinawa, the connections made in the local community are essential to completing the mission.

“I have to coordinate with the local vendors who may not speak English,” said Om Hamamoto, 18th CONS contract specialist. “We have to be able to help the customer understand what we’re looking for, and when things don’t go well, you have to be able to negotiate and come to a solution.”

Every squadron has challenges, and 18th CONS is no different, but when an issue occurs for contracting, it has the potential to affect every other mission. 

When purchasing supplies to keep the mission running, the limitations of companies as an option becomes apparent.

“Okinawa is a small island with limited resources,” said Master Sgt. Jose A. Hernandez, 18th CONS section chief acquisition flight. “We only have a few big contracting companies that can provide us with everything we need on island – and companies from mainland Japan are unable to move a small section of their business here as an option.”

When every single thing has a tie-in to contracting, the result of their efforts is undeniable around Kadena. Everything from lawn care around the base, to construction of a new building and local nationals working at Risner Fitness Center, contracting truly is a base-wide – and in Kadena’s case – an island-wide force multiplier.

“Contracting is a team sport,” Hernandez said. “We can’t do it without the support of our customers, those in finance, our contract administrators and contract officers. When we have cooperation with those parts, things go a lot smoother and a lot quicker.”

When deciding to order that next chair for an office, or heavy machinery for a construction project, make sure to thank the local member of 18th CONS for helping complete the mission regardless of the career field.

The next time that crucial bolt arrives on time, or new computers come in for a technology refresh, remember who handled the logistics, red tape, and made sure it arrived on time.

“Bring us your problems, and we’ll find a solution,” Valentine said. “As the Seabees say, ‘The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.’”

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Kadena Air Base website.