Contracting specialists keep mission going

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mitch Gettle
  • 320th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Does money make the world go around? Maybe the people who spend the money make the world go around. Some of those spenders buy everything the 320th Air Expeditionary Wing uses to carry out its mission.

"We provide purchasing support for the base, other locations in country and six locations further in the (area of responsibility)," said Capt. Richard Bailey, 320th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron commander, deployed to a forward-operating location from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "We purchase commodities, services and construction (to support) Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Southern Watch."

The contracting squadron is broken into two flights: a host-nation flight and a forward-operating location flight.

"We support all base functions and everything in-country," said Master Sgt. Mike Ventura, superintendent of the host-nation flight, deployed from Shaw AFB, S.C. "From every bottle of water to each trailer or tent in tent city, we provide the purchasing power for it through contracts."

That power stems from authority granted by Congress to these individuals who are trained and certified as contracting specialists.

"We're all trained and certified as contracting officers and we're the only ones here authorized to spend money," said Ventura. "An airman in my office has the authority to write a $200,000 contract, if it is needed. No one else on base has that authority except a contracting officer."

The purchase process is similar to one found at a home base except that units here go through contracting to make every purchase.

"Here, units do not have budgets, and we're the only authorized (Government Purchase Card) holders," Ventura said. "If the purchase price is (less than) $2,500 we do not have to get a competitive quote. If the customer and the contracting officer are satisfied that the price is fair and reasonable, we can buy it."

At this particular location, airmen from previous AEF rotations completed build-up of the base and now the base is in a sustainment phase, Ventura said.

Contracting officers are currently looking at improving the morale and welfare issues for the airmen, Ventura said.

They are also concentrating on transaction speed.

"In a contingency environment the focus is getting things quickly into the hands of the warfighter," Bailey said.

The contracting experts here serve a host of others in the aera of responsibility.

"We support six other locations, mostly the Air Force detachments or tenant units in the AOR," said Master Sgt. Ken Miller, of the forward-operating location flight deployed from Luke AFB, Ariz. "We provide a lot of the morale and welfare items to our locations downrange."

For contracting officers, like other jobs here, the work can come at any time.

"We're definitely 24-7," said Miller. "We have a total of 10 people assigned and they can be called at any time to fill a mission-critical need."

But contracting cannot complete its mission alone.

"We rely on finance and the civil engineers to get the job done," said Ventura. "Finance assures the money is there for the purchase and the engineers do the quality control for the construction."

Contracting also provides some quality-control measures.

"We make sure we're not paying $500 for a hammer," said Ventura. "We research and try to get the best price and yet keep the quality the customer needs."

Troops would not have their food, shelter or power without the contracting squadron doing its job and making the mission go around.