Expeditionary contracting officers wanted

By Dianne Ryder

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The Defense Logistics Agency relies heavily on those in the contracting series to provide acquisition services and contract support to assist the agency’s military and civilian partners around the world. To meet its goal of 40 qualified contracting officers, the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office is recruiting members for its Expeditionary Contracting Cadre.

Cadre members must be ready to deploy to establish logistics support in the initial stages of disaster relief and contingency operations as part of DLA’s Rapid Deployment Teams, the DLA Mission Support Team or U.S. Transportation Command’s newly established Joint Enabling Capabilities Command.

Charmaine Camper, director of expeditionary contracting for DLA Logistics Operations and JCASO, compares the cadre’s unique mission to that of first responders.

“You get to go out there and be part of the operation and support the warfighter side-by-side, but it’s short-term,” she said. “The range of support is one week to three weeks, and then you come home.”

Potential expeditionary contracting officers must have achieved a Level II in contracting education and have expertise performing simplified acquisitions and micro purchases. Another important attribute is an attitude of service versus self, Camper said.

“That’s the kind of thing we’re looking for in our informal interviews, to see if someone’s heart is in the right place. If it’s all about self, maybe this is not for you,” she said. 

Candidates receive pre-deployment training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, as well as online and annual training.

“What they’re gaining from the program is a skillset that they would not normally gain from behind a desk. This is working side-by-side with the warfighter,” Camper said.

Continuous training and reach-back support to the agency give expeditionary contracting officers access to information and other DLA resources. Once they return home, after action reports and lessons learned are incorporated into standard operating procedures. 

“That helps all of us be good at what we do and be able to answer questions,” Camper said. 

Being able to see the fruits of their labor due to fast-paced operations is an aspect of the job most expeditionary contracting officers appreciate, she added.

“When you purchase something, you actually see it and you see the customer using what you purchased,” she said. 

The cadre was previously limited to employees in grades GS-12 through 14, but recently opened up to GS-11s. Stephanie Lowe, a contracting officer with DLA Aviation was initially unable to participate because of her grade, but is now in her second year with the cadre.

“At the time, they were only accepting GS-12s and above. In 2017, I was finally able to join,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this ever since Charmaine came to DLA Aviation and gave a speech in 2015; I’ll never forget it. Her presentation was great.”

Lowe said she received a handout from that roadshow that she immediately hung up at her desk. It remains there today, and she calls her participation in real-world events like Hurricane Florence and Operation Border Support “exhilarating.” 

“We are embedded with the military… Whatever is needed at that moment, that’s what we do. It’s an ebb and flow,” she said. 

“It’s not your everyday job. Whatever comes, you have to be ready to step in and do what it takes,” she continued. “And because of all the training that we did, we are prepared to handle whatever situation is thrown at us.”

Cadre members must obtain supervisory approval before beginning the program. Lowe’s supervisor, team lead and division chief responded to her request to join by telling her they’d make sure her workload was covered when she deployed. 

“They have been so supportive and haven’t given me any pushback,” she said. “If you don’t have that support, it puts a lot of pressure on the ECO.”
Lowe recommends the cadre to anyone who’s eligible. 

“If you enjoy working for the warfighter, doing everything that you can, I would say that ECO is a position for you,” she said. “It’s 100% voluntary and 100% worth all of the effort.”

Camper affirms that broadening the pool of candidates has been very successful. 

“[Stephanie has] proven that if you’re an 1102, it doesn’t matter if you’re a GS-11 or 12, you can do the job,” she said. “If you’re interested, talk with your supervisor, send me a resume and then we’ll contact them. It’s as simple as that.”