NEWS | June 19, 2017

408th Contracting Support Brigade welcomes new commander

By Leticia Hopkins U.S. Army Central

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – The 408th Contracting Support Brigade welcomed a new commander after a change of command ceremony held at Shaw Air Force Base’s Carolina Skies Club Thursday.

Symbolically relinquishing her command, Col. Michelle Sanner, 408th CSB outgoing commander, passed the brigade’s colors to Brig. Gen. Paul Pardew, commanding general, U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command, who then passed it to Col. Kim Thomas, 408th CSB incoming commander.

Sanner gave Thomas some words of wisdom to keep in mind as she takes over as the new 408th CSB commander.

“Everybody is going say mission first; readiness is the key, but my focus has always been on the people,” said Sanner. “And if you take care of the people, they will take care of the mission.”

Thomas said she is looking forward to the new experience and seeing how things have changed. She is also ready to support the vision that Gen. Gustave F. Perna, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command, has for the contracting brigade.

“He’s changing how we look at readiness,” said Thomas. “Contracting had to take a new look at how we report things and how we look at things. We’re not necessarily changing how we write contracts, but we’re making [it] our mission [to] focus mainly on readiness in guidance with the AMC commander.”

Thomas graduated from Bethune-Cookman University and was commissioned after completing Reserve Officer Training Corps. The Jesup, Georgia, native has more than 16 years of experience in the acquisition field and is Level 3 certified in contracting and program management. She is married and has two children.

Although the 408th CSB is not part of USARCENT, the two share a working relationship in support of the overall mission. Incoming 408th CSB commanders serve one-year commitments, while mainly working in Kuwait.

Sanner said although the frequent leadership changeovers in both USARCENT and the 408th CSB can present challenges, she enjoyed her time here and the support she received from USARCENT’s leadership.

“From my experience, the senior leaders have been very supportive,” said Sanner. “They understand and they support [us] ...

“It’s very easy to blame contracting for something not happening … in the past year, I have not heard that very often at all. They will sit there and say: ‘Look; I’ve talked to contracting; here’s where it stands,’ and not blame us is the bottom line. So I’ve had a good experience with ARCENT and our relationship.”

The 408th CSB consists of three battalions and a headquarters element with an estimated 200 Soldiers who support CENTCOM’s operations in nine countries. The headquarters element is split between Shaw AFB and forward locations. However of those 200 Soldiers, less than 15 of them report to Patton Hall for duty. There are about 25 Soldiers and civilians who work in Patton Hall.
The brigade provides theater-level contracting responsibilities related to base life support for all of Central Command’s areas of responsibilities.

“Ten years ago, we had Soldiers do almost everything that we’re doing now,” said Sanner. “And now you go in and it’s more contracting centric. Because we don’t have the number of Soldiers we had back then, we’re writing more contracts … Everything we do comes back to contracting.”

According to Sanner, the 408th CSB oversees contracts valued at $251 million.

“We write any type of contract in theater,” said Sanner. For example, when the 29th [Infantry Division] came in, they had to have buildings to work in, eat in and live in. They came to us and we helped them build up the buildings that were currently there … We also write the contracts for new office space.”

In addition to its traditional responsibilities, the brigade has recently embraced an additional mission. It is now responsible for providing oversight on larger contracts written outside of the AOR by Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. Those contracts are written to support the warfighter’s mission moving forward.

Thomas said without the 408th CSB, USARCENT wouldn’t have the oversight for those contracts to ensure the government is getting the services it paid the contractors to do.

“We consider ourselves the eyes and ears for ARCENT,” added Thomas.

The 408th CSB provides education and training to officers and specialists and has put safeguard measures in place to ensure contractors adhere to all of the terms and conditions of their contracts. But even with proper training and education, and safeguard measures, unethical situations occasionally occur.

“They make sure we are trained in our field and know what we are doing,” said Sanner. “As a contracting officer [or] specialist, you have second [and] third sets of eyes. It goes up the battalion [or] brigade depending on the contract.

“You can’t change the ethics of a person. You can only educate them. They’re either going to be ethical or not.”