A Deployable Contracting Officer’s Story

I am a ROCKSTAR … that’s the description I jokingly use for my job title, but it is quite accurate. 

 I’ve spent more than 12 months on temporary duty, or deployed in 16 different countries within the past two years in support of the largest Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mission in South East Asia — Pacific Partnership. 

Michaella Olson writes notes supporting Pacific Partnership 2012 at the main pier site at Vinh City.  (Photo by Kristopher Radder)

Michaella Olson writes notes supporting Pacific Partnership 2012 at the main pier site at Vinh City. (Photo by Kristopher Radder)

 I am a problem solver, travel agent, medic, honorary Seabee Engineer, group mother, animal enthusiast, event planner, role model for women, “Fun Boss,” representative of the U.S. Government, ambassador of good will, good steward of the U.S. taxpayers’ money, and a GS Civilian working for the Department of the Navy.  I am a Deployable Contracting Officer (DKO) from NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center, Yokosuka, Japan.

 As a DKO, I am responsible for conducting market research, developing acquisition strategies, issuing solicitations, and all pre and post award contracting functions independently, and while deployed.  DKOs play an integral role in cost savings for the overall mission.  Last year alone, I was able to save almost $2 million total through innovative contracting solutions while providing exceptional customer service. 

 I’m very enthusiastic about my job as a DKO; I love to be out conducting logistics site surveys with my customers, and I have integrated myself into their groups.  You can often find me travelling with the Seabees, helping measure buildings and drawing basic representations of renovation projects at schools and clinics while simultaneously helping them develop their life support needs for the mission to include food, water, vehicles, lodging, equipment, construction materials, etc.  Through building a solid working relationship with my customers, I am better equipped to understand their requirements.  Therefore, I’m able to provide the best solutions to meet their unique needs. 

 I’d love to tell you about what a typical “Day in the Life” of a DKO would be like; however, every day presents new adventures and challenges.  I travel to some of the most austere and sometimes dangerous places in Southeast Asia and South Pacific alongside active duty military in support of Pacific Partnership.  I’d like to highlight two occasions as a member of this team — in addition to my contracting responsibilities — that makes this mission such a life-changing professional and personal experience. 

 While conducting site surveys in rural Cambodia for Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12), the team of doctors I was accompanying witnessed a horrific bus and van accident.  Numerous locals were injured in the crash, and desperately needed immediate medical assistance.  Using my prior military training — I was an officer in the Air Force — I immediately began assisting the doctors in splinting broken bones, bandaging bleeding wounds, and provided assistance with crowd control.  Our team organized a group of locals to assist with finding a giant tree trunk to act as a “jaws of life” to pry open the van and rescue the driver.  The doctors were able to save the driver’s life as he was trapped by the steering column for more than 30 minutes with life threatening injuries.  The team quickly acted, rendering CPR as well as administering medication to start his heart. 

 Without the heroic actions of the medical team, the man would have not made it to the local hospital for treatment.  Upon arrival of their own ambulance and medics, we briefed the medics about each injury, and recommended which order they should proceed to the hospital, as there was only one ambulance.  Overall, our team received recognition by the local government, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, for our courageous life-saving efforts. 

 Last summer I deployed in support of the PP12 mission, alongside the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19), in Vietnam where I worked very closely with a staff member of a contractor for my local pharmaceutical contract.  With only a few days left of the mission, she called in sick, complaining of a sinus issue.  I required copies of invoices that day, and she managed to meet me that afternoon.  I was shocked that one side of her face was completely swollen; she was in excruciating pain and almost unrecognizable.   Our ship was based in Vinh City, which was hundreds of miles from her home and doctor in Ho Chi Minh City. 

 It would be more than a week before she could be examined by her doctor.  I immediately made arrangements for her to be seen by our U.S. doctors at one of our mobile clinic sites.  She was referred for surgery aboard Mercy, but was afraid to make the journey to the ship by herself (as I’m sure anyone would be nervous having surgery on a foreign military ship).  I met her in the early morning, offered her company on the 45-minute boat ride to Mercy, and helped her check in with the hospital staff, and left only when she went in for the surgery.  It was a flawless performance by the plastic surgeon, and a tiny bone was removed from her sinuses, which was causing an infection that crippled her almost monthly. 

 It’s important to have situational awareness and compassion for everyone including our hard working contractors, especially overseas.  I was very happy to have been there to assist; consequently, I made a friend in Vietnam for life.

 These personal and professional experiences — in support of expeditionary missions — have enhanced my life and career.  I would recommend to all civilians in the contracting career field capable of deploying to consider getting involved in any military mission or contingency abroad; you never know what kind of adventures await you as a DKO, or whose lives you can change, including your own.