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Contracting everything but COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Suzie Plotnikov
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

“Sometimes contracting can get a bad rap because we stand back so people can figure out what they need and then they can come talk to us,” said Jeni Hornbeck, 81st Contracting Squadron base operating support contract specialist. “But we did not take that approach this time. We really tried to partner with our contractors, civil engineers and the Emergency Operations Center to make sure we were getting everything done.”

The contracting squadron touches a lot of parts on Keesler whether it’s custodial, base maintenance, recycling, fitness centers, government purchase card purchases and more.

When the pandemic first arrived, Keesler had to undergo a lot of changes to minimize the threat of base personnel and families contracting COVID-19. The squadron stepped up to meet the demands for the safety of the base and the continuation of the training pipeline.

“We were working with very short time lines and not very well defined requirements so it was a moving target,” said Hornbeck. “It took a lot of coordination to work with our contractor and with the folks that were trying to get things going and done in a really quick timeframe.”

Some of the major items the squadron worked contracts for were Comfort Cove, basic military training at Keesler, handwashing stations, self-help store and altering the dining facility contracts.

“For Comfort Cove our civil engineering members had to go in and complete work orders to have it ready,” said Hornbeck. “It had a very quick turnaround to get things fixed so people can stay in the building. We also had to set up the BMT area and complete a lot of work orders for the dormitories they stayed in as well. There were specific requirements that had to be met in a short amount of time.”

Not only were they working with short timelines, but the squadron had to overcome the challenges of teleworking.

“Sometimes the computer wouldn’t work right, we would have connectivity trouble, getting the routine down and staying engaged,” said Logan Deluke, 81st CONS contract specialist.

The squadron remained flexible to overcome all the difficulties that was thrown at them.

“We were doing a lot of coordination,” said Hornbeck. “When we were teleworking we forwarded the phones to our cellphones, had our laptops at home, worked a lot of odd hours and communicated with each other a lot.”

The team utilized teleconference calls, worked weekends and remained proactive to keep the Keesler mission going.

“It’s great to see when something comes together like the BMT graduations, supporting Comfort Cove and being able to support what they needed to do and see the numbers go down,” said Hornbeck. “It feels good to see the team accomplish what needed to be done.”

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