JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, TX -- Air National Guard contract specialists conducted government purchase card training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Dec. 8 to educate 149th Fighter Wing members on fiscal responsibility.
The reoccurring in-person training allows unit leaders to purchase government equipment using a GPC without having to make a formal request through the 149th Mission Support Group contracting office.
“Inherently, contracting members are the only individuals on an installation who can purchase any sort of commodity, service, or construction for the installation, “said Tech. Sgt. Joel Yerkey, 149th MSG contract specialist. “What the training allows each shop to do is to decentralize that authority to the people who are working on the ground floor.”
Yerkey said that GPCs exist to purchase items that are available to a regular consumer, taking less than 24 hours to accomplish. Other supplies and services may require a request through the contracting office, which can take up to 30 days.
Being a GPC holder is typically an additional duty for squadron, flight, and section leaders; the duty comes with a fiscal responsibility.
“If people are fiscally responsible with their funds, then not only can they meet their targets for supplies and equipment for their shops, but they can exceed that by possibly going and becoming innovative in having process improvements for whatever their particular mission is,” said Tech. Sgt. Mark Green, 149th MSG contract specialist and GPC program manager.
Green and Yerkey do a lot more than educate members of the 149th FW about how to use their GPC.
“You are going through the proper route of spending tax-payer dollars,” Green said, “so that it’s supporting their [unit’s] missions, but from a business advisory standpoint.”
“As a contract specialist, I am a business leader,” Yerkey said. “So, it’s just knowing all the rules and regulations on not only my own career field but everyone else’s Air Force specialty codes just enough to ask the right questions.”
Military contracts support the local economy.
"This is where the community involvement piece is – we award contracts to local small businesses, most of the time, if not all the time,” said Green, who has a public accounting background. “So, the economic impact of what we do is not only supporting the mission, but it’s involving the community. There is job creation out of this.”
One current contract directly helps the 149 FW flying mission.
“We actually have contractors that come out and wash the aircraft, and that frees up the crew chiefs to do other maintenance-related things,” Green said. “And again, providing jobs to small businesses in that manner. One of the contractors who washes our aircraft has been doing it for 20-plus years, if not 30.”
Another current contract supports the wing’s priorities of readiness and retention for the future.
“One contract we have is drill lodging,” Green said. “It allows people to come in and not have to pay for their own lodging to drill so that they can get trained up and be prepared so when their name gets called to deploy, they’re ready to go.”
Green said many Airmen are misinformed about what contracting specialists do, which can be cleared up with a brief conversation.
“It’s a myth that we are here to not get you what you need and that we get the lowest bidder,” Yerkey said. “That is not how it works.”
Contract specialists help maintain the daily functions of the Air National Guard.
“Anything that the light touches is what we can impact,” Yerkey said. “Every Airman is going to be a non-commissioned officer eventually, which is when we start working with those individuals – people who run shops, people who supervise sections – they need to know that we exist. We literally help every single office on this base.”