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Feature Stories

NEWS | March 6, 2019

Deployment Is Contract Specialist’s Path to Gatekeeping

By Randy Martin Area Support Group - Qatar

A Department of the Army civilian with the 408th Contracting Support Brigade, U.S. Army Contracting Command at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. deployed to Erbil, Iraq in 2017 so that she could train and mentor soldiers to be better contract specialists. For her that experience has opened an opportunity to serve in Qatar as a “Gatekeeper.”

“You’ve just got to live it,” said Charlene Wilson, lead contract specialist for the 408th Regional Contracting Center-Qatar’s quality management team at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.

The RCC provides contracting support to military forces under U.S. Army Central throughout Southwest Asia. Last year, they initiated more than $90 million worth of contracts to procure products, services and construction in four Southwest Asia countries as well as contract administration on over $150 million in external support contracts.

“It’s better to be out there seeing it than sitting in an office reviewing contracts at Shaw AFB,” said Wilson.

Her civilian contracting career started with a deployment to Kuwait 24 years ago as a U.S. Army Central employee. At the time she had recently separated from the Air Force and she was a new mother. By 2017 Wilson’s daughter and husband had careers of their own and she was looking forward to training and mentoring soldiers.

In Iraq conditions were harsh at first.

“When I got to Erbil we were all living in tents. They had an empty building that was supposed to be a dormitory for the soldiers and people coming in and it wasn’t finished. So I asked the colonel what we were going to do about the building. He said that if I could get the contractor to finish it then I could stay in it,” said Wilson.

Wilson worked with the contractor and he made the dormitory ready to occupy within 30 days. She went on to coordinate construction of the Erbil Airport and other office buildings and procure other essential material and services with her team.

“I was the go-to person. I felt like I was doing something memorable. I know they needed me and they hated to see me go,” said Wilson.

After six months in Iraq her deployment was complete and she headed back to Shaw AFB. Then she heard about a new opportunity to work with 408th CSB but not in South Carolina.

“I was getting ready to go home and I was in Kuwait when the 408th CSB Commander asked me if I wanted to go to Qatar,” said Wilson.

Wilson agreed to the offer with the condition that her husband could accompany her for the two-year permanent change of station move. She arrived at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar on July 3rd, 2018.

Her new team was shorthanded and very busy supporting soldiers in Afghanistan.

“The warfighter looks to us to award contracts in a timely manner,” said Maj. Christopher Williams, the 408th RCC’s procurement division chief.

They were also trying to meet a fiscal deadline and settle all their contracts by Oct. 1st. With Wilson leading the team they managed to complete seventy contracts in 30 days and beat the fiscal year deadline by one day despite the shortage of personnel.

“I got into the fight and it felt really good and I enjoyed it,” Wilson said.

In December the RCC established a “Gatekeeper Team” to correct contract quality and improve efficiency. Wilson was selected to lead it.

Williams said that Wilson and the Gatekeeper team had cut thirty days off the time spent reviewing contracts. He nominated her to be the “Hero of the Week” for U.S. Army Central and on Feb. 12th, 2019 she was personally thanked by US Army Central’s commanding general during a video teleconference.

“Ms. Wilson is our equivalent of the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player,” said Williams.