509th CONS Airmen participate in deployment exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 509th Contracting Squadron participated in a mock deployment exercise called Operation Pathfinder, Oct. 7 to 10, 2019, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

Operation Pathfinder simulated the mobilization of two teams of nine contracting Airmen to support a forward operating location for 700 joint service personnel in Mogadishu, Somalia.

This exercise provided the contingency contracting Airmen an opportunity to participate in 50 to 60 scenarios, which simulated the purchasing power of the contracting squadron. The mission of the CONS Airmen is to negotiate contracts to acquire various mission essentials the combatant commander needs to execute the mission.

Senior Airman Charles Taylor, a 509th CONS exercise lead and evaluator, highlighted the significance of contracting Airmen.

“We are a force multiplier. That means, in essence, that we multiply the assets of the force through procurement. If we didn’t make it, bring it, or ship it, chances are we bought it,” said Taylor.

Throughout the exercise, the teams competed against one another, testing their skills and building morale within the squadron. To accomplish this, they established mission priorities and built work centers. They also purchased essential items for the base, practiced self-aid buddy care and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive attack scenarios.

Taylor described one of the scenarios, where each team had to provide an in-brief for Col. Christopher Callis, the commander of the 509th Mission Support Group, who played the role of the combatant commander.

“In this scenario the teams needed to identify what contracting brings to the mission, along with a variety of topics depending on the combatant commander’s interest and mission priorities,” said Taylor.

Taylor added the teams prepared 15 to 30 minutes before briefing Callis while experiencing a variety of surprises and requests.

“It was a great learning experience for the two teams,” said Taylor. “It oriented them toward mission priorities and relationships with a commander.”

Airman Tye Mcelreath, a contracting administrator with the 509th CONS, worked on another scenario where he drafted a memorandum for record on the legal stipulations following an advance payment request of a base building. Because the contractor wanted the Air Force to pay in advance Mcelreath explained in the MFR that they would also have to be responsible for maintaining security during the construction.

Operation Pathfinder also involved the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 509th Force Support Squadron who supported the contracting Airmen with additional training opportunities. The squadrons provided a field kitchen, tents, a workspace, experts and the generators to give us an ideal field experience. FSS also provided meals and supported our CBRNE attacks with role-players. Some of the experts included explosive ordnance disposal and CBRNE Airmen.

Taylor showed his appreciation for the support from CES and FSS.

“It was evident we had the support and people who consistently went out of their way to ensure a successful exercise,” said Taylor.

Maj. Leigh Baumbaugh, the 509th CONS commander and exercise lead, spoke on the training’s significance.

“The classroom can develop your knowledge, but without application most will agree that retaining that knowledge is highly unlikely,” said Baumbaugh. “With a field exercise our members can apply the knowledge, learn through application and retain the experience.”

Baumbaugh commended the performance of the ‘DeceptiCONS’, the team who won the competition, for their teamwork, use of the chain of command, empowerment of Airmen and effective use of each member’s skills.

Taylor closed on the benefits this local exercise provides to the contraction squadron.

“This exercise is a prime example how units can execute a field training exercise without going on a temporary deployment or pulling resources from a dedicated functional team,” said Taylor. “With ingenuity, supportive mission partners, and proper planning, local exercises can prove very beneficial in promoting readiness and equipping our warfighters with valuable contingency training.”