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Air Force Contracting Officers Lead the Way, Pay the Way, & Pave the Way for New Horizons 2018

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018.

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018. New Horizons is an annual training exercise for U.S. military civil engineers and medical professionals that prepares participants to deploy, conduct joint operations with partner nations, and redeploy back to the United States. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018.

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018. New Horizons is an annual training exercise for U.S. military civil engineers and medical professionals that prepares participants to deploy, conduct joint operations with partner nations, and redeploy back to the United States. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018.

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018. New Horizons is an annual training exercise for U.S. military civil engineers and medical professionals that prepares participants to deploy, conduct joint operations with partner nations, and redeploy back to the United States. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018.

U.S. Air Force contractors have built relationships and negotiated contracts during Exercise New Horizons 2018 in Meteti, Panama, April 20, 2018. New Horizons is an annual training exercise for U.S. military civil engineers and medical professionals that prepares participants to deploy, conduct joint operations with partner nations, and redeploy back to the United States. (Courtesy Photo)

METETI, Panama -- At any given time, around 200 members of the U.S. military will be housed, fed, and shuttled to and from work sites and living quarters while performing their duties as part of Exercise New Horizons 2018. Negotiating, securing, and adjusting contracts for those services and many more falls on the shoulders of two Air Force non-commissioned officers conducting business in Panama City, Meteti, and several other towns and villages across the Central American country where construction projects and medical services are taking place.

Air National Guard Master Sgt. Forrest Lipe and active-duty Tech. Sgt. James Richard ‘JR’ Mullis have already logged more than 380 hours of phone calls, 4,000 miles travelling to sites, and 1,200 hours of office, lunch and dinner meetings, to ensure the 346th Air Expeditionary Group has what they need to conduct their joint deployed training exercise.

The planning process for all things NH18 began in 2017 with Air Forces Southern planning meetings and site survey trips to Panama for initial talks and requests for contract bids.

On February 1, Mullis arrived in country and hit the ground running and at the end of March, Lipe departed his case work supervisor position at the Logan Correctional Center, a female max prison in Lincoln, Ill., to join Mullis working 12- to 15-hour days in finalizing contracts and building the relationships needed to accomplish their mission in the deployed environment.

Building relationships and negotiating contracts in Panama versus in the United States has its differences.

“Here in Panama when it’s time to talk contracts, we don’t,” said Mullis, who explained, “there is a lot more to meeting and forging contracts here. You first have to earn a bond of friendship—talk about families, work, and everything in between—before actually getting down to business. When we’re discussing contracts in the States, it’s as simple as, ‘you have a business or a product, we need that business or product,’ we go back and forth on their quote versus what we can pay, come to a conclusion and that’s it.”

Conversely, according to Mullis, getting a contract signed in Panama requires multiple meetings at offices, over lunch, over dinner, and even then, multiple iterations of the contract back and forth so it can take weeks versus a few hours.

“We had to dig deep into the details for a lot of things that you would naturally assume you’d receive in the States,” said Lipe, “like soap for laundry service. We received the bid from one hotel in Meteti who said he could wash all the laundry for a very low price, so we asked if that included soap. He said no, that would have to cost extra. So, there are differences in the U.S. negotiations and Panamanian ones, but also between how things are done in the city versus rural areas, but they all want to see you in person to talk.”

On top of the time put in to work contracts, there is also the difficulty of having companies deliver their goods and services to Meteti, Panama, a roughly four-hour, 300-mile round trip from Panama City.

“The most difficult part of negotiations is just the geographic location of the exercise” said Mullis, a contracting officer with 12th Air Force at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz. “We can buy items needed in Panama City or have things shipped to the city, but then getting them shipped to Meteti is another story. For the items we can get shipped, the cost is astronomical, sometimes two- or three-times more when you factor in the shipping charges.”

Another issue the contracting officers face is that Panama City is a booming economical hub currently with high-rise building construction everywhere you look. That puts a strain on getting some necessary resources to the very rural town of Meteti, far from the investment dollars of the big city. For example, the concrete needed for the bases of all the building projects was too big of a job for the local companies, but too small for the booming concrete businesses in Panama City so the team had difficulty getting concrete.

That didn’t stop the dynamic duo, in a win for concrete they found an unusual way to get the concrete needed to the five construction sites around Meteti.

“We were working the hotel contracts with a prevalent businessman in Panama City who was also on a business council,” said Mullis. “When we wrapped up hotel negotiations, he asked if there was anything we needed or were having issues with. We told him there was difficulty with concrete. That gentleman happened to be good friends with a top concrete company owner. When the hotel contractor called the concrete contractor, he explained to them we needed help and were on a timeline.”

Lane said, “we received a call the next day from the concrete company representative asking what we needed … and that’s how things go here sometimes.”

Just one example of how the contracting officers remained flexible yet undeterred to get the job done so the deployment mission can be met. And their customers couldn’t be happier with the level of support they’ve received.

“There is no way I could do my job without the contracting guys,” said Tech. Sgt. Israel Revuelta, the lead services specialist for the deployment. “Just with them securing the basics like lodging, ice, water, and all the other things we need—they also have made receiving people to lodging easier, I can just check the people in and make sure they are taken care of, like government lodging. Had they not secured these hotels, there’s no way we could lodge this entire group here (in Meteti).”

Revuelta, who’s tasks span the entirety of the New Horizons mission, include running lodging, meals-to include restaurants as well as MREs (meal, ready-to-eat), MWR operations (morale, welfare, and recreation), water distribution, and a host of other duties he’d have a much larger team to help with.

“Honestly, everything I need here goes through them,” said Revuelta whose home-station duty is as the section lead for the eight-person services team supporting the 820th RED HORSE Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev.—the same squadron here working construction projects. “They’ve worked to also secure quality of life projects as well like the hotel day room for MWR to food, fitness, and all the lodging. They have done this and continue to work contracts for any necessary changes, because contract issues don’t stop once the initial one has been signed, there are constant alterations that take place.”

Another twist to the usual contracting way is the tracking system they use. New Horizons 2018 is the test bed for a new way for the Air Force to conduct contracting operations, an all-digital format not used before.

In previous years, contracting officers would deploy with multiple large hardened cases with a desk, computers, a book’s worth of purchasing order forms, and every bit of supplies they would need to conduct business. Now, they have one hardened case, roughly the size of two briefcases combined side-by-side that houses a tablet, printer, and some basic supplies as all the work is done digitally, even with contracts signed using their fingertip on the tablet.

“This lighter footprint has been amazing for us to be able to move quickly and get things done faster and easier,” said Lipe. “It’s been a big help in what we’ve done here but isn’t without drawbacks—being online can sometimes be an issue in the very remote areas and so can doing business with electronic fund transfers. Most of the remote towns and villages and even in Meteti, people don’t use electronic funds, they prefer hard currency. But, we can work with that too and revert to the old way of hard copies and cash.”

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Guyana is going to be hosting U.S. servicemembers for a New Horizons exercise in May. During this three month exercise, U.S. military civil engineers and medical proffesionals will work alongside the Guyanese people in joint humanitarian assistance exercises. Check out the link to read more. U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) U.S. Embassy Guyana https://gy.usembassy.gov/guyana-to-host-new-horizons/
Check out photos from a recent meeting between the Fuerza Aérea De Chile and 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio as they continued their work together as part of the State Partnership Program. Colonel Juan Jose Iglesis, Chilean Air Force Foreign Liaison Officer, joined with Colonel Adam Mercier, 12th Air Force Air National Guard Advisor to the Commander, to discuss the program with 149th Fighter Wing personnel last week.
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Today we raise our goblets to a true U.S. Air Force legend. Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, has passed away at the age of 103. As a Lieutenant, Cole was the Co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the infamous Doolittle Raid. In honor of him we remember how the Doolittle Raiders contributed to our proud heritage. Twelfth Air Force was created during the U.S. buildup of forces for World War II, by the Army Air Forces. The numbered air force activated on August 20, 1942. Brigadier General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, became its commander later that year. He was fresh off the historic Doolittle Raid, the surprise bombing of Tokyo, Japan, in April 1942. The recently promoted general officer worked to establish a fighting force capable of opening up another, this time, southern front in the European Theater.
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Guyana is going to be hosting U.S. servicemembers for a New Horizons exercise in May. During this three month exercise, U.S. military civil engineers and medical proffesionals will work alongside the Guyanese people in joint humanitarian assistance exercises. Check out the link to read more. U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) U.S. Embassy Guyana https://gy.usembassy.gov/guyana-to-host-new-horizons/
Check out photos from a recent meeting between the Fuerza Aérea De Chile and 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio as they continued their work together as part of the State Partnership Program. Colonel Juan Jose Iglesis, Chilean Air Force Foreign Liaison Officer, joined with Colonel Adam Mercier, 12th Air Force Air National Guard Advisor to the Commander, to discuss the program with 149th Fighter Wing personnel last week.
The AF Reserve Hurricane Hunters are in Curacao! The Air Force Reserve Command's WC-130J is on display and will offer an opportunity to learn how scientists collect hurricane information. The The NOAA WP-3D aircraft, used for both hurricane forecasting and research, will be on display as well!
Today we raise our goblets to a true U.S. Air Force legend. Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, has passed away at the age of 103. As a Lieutenant, Cole was the Co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the infamous Doolittle Raid. In honor of him we remember how the Doolittle Raiders contributed to our proud heritage. Twelfth Air Force was created during the U.S. buildup of forces for World War II, by the Army Air Forces. The numbered air force activated on August 20, 1942. Brigadier General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, became its commander later that year. He was fresh off the historic Doolittle Raid, the surprise bombing of Tokyo, Japan, in April 1942. The recently promoted general officer worked to establish a fighting force capable of opening up another, this time, southern front in the European Theater.
Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Commander Maj. Gen. Croft and Twelfth Air Force, Air Forces Southern, Command Chief Master Sergeant Chief Storms, recently met with United States Air Force Airmen that are supporting the Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.🤝
Here's a quick look into the Chilean Air Force's F-16 block 50!
Approximately 130 volunteers from Soto Cano Air Base participated in #ChapelHike78 during the weekend, carrying donations for a community of La Paz. The donations included 6,000 pounds of food to 200 families in Concepción de Soluteca!
The F-35A is the 🇺🇸 United States Air Force's latest fifth-generation fighter. With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A will provide next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the U.S. and allied nations.
🇺🇲United States Air Force Weather Airmen in🇭🇳 Honduras explain the how a weather balloon 🎈release works and how the information collected is shared with agencies across the🌎 world to include the NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center 🌀
Congratulations to the #RPA community on their 4 millions flight hours!🎉
🇭🇳🇺🇲 Firefighters 👨‍🚒 from Joint Task Force-Bravo aiding local Honduran firefighters to put out a wildfire🔥 last week #EnduringPromise
🇺🇸🇨🇴We are honored to have the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana Commander of the Colombian Air Force Maj. Gen. Ramsés Rueda Rueda visiting 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Headquarters.
Colombian Air Force supports US Navy Growlers for premier air-to-air combat training exercise ‘Red Flag’
Wow! The 🇨🇴Fuerza Aérea Colombiana Multi-Mission Transport Tanker Jupiter 767 conducts air-to-air refueling with a 🇺🇲U.S. Navy EA-18 #Growler Electronic Attack Squadron 134 Garudas during United States Air Force led #RedFlag 🚩19-2 at Nellis Air Force Base!
🇨🇴🇺🇸Fuerza Aérea Colombiana train with U.S. Navy ⚓️during 🚩#RedFlag 19-2! The Colombian Multi-Mission Transport Tanker Jupiter 767 ✈️ is conducting day☀️and night 🌖 refueling missions with EA-18 #Growlers from the Electronic Attack Squadron 134 Garudas! These missions are increase interoperability between the U.S. and Colombia. 🤝 #EnduringPromise #PromesaDuradera Embajada de los Estados Unidos Colombia U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)
#EnduringPromise 🇨🇴🇺🇸#SOUTHCOM Military Deputy Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Plehn traveled to #Colombia to meet with security leaders to strengthen the U.S.-Colombia bilateral security relationship and to deepen understanding of the rapidly changing security situation in Colombia. 🤝 Lt. Gen. Plehn met with Colombian Army Maj. Gen. Luis Navarro Jiménez, Commanding General of Colombian Military Forces, to discuss U.S.-Colombia defense cooperation.
🇨🇴🇺🇸The Colombian Air Force Fuerza Aérea Colombiana is training with U.S. joint forces and five Partner Nation Air Forces at Nellis Air Force Base for 🚩 #RedFlag 19-2! This is Colombia's third time participating in this exercise ✈️Training events like this build an enduring commitment between U.S. and Partner Nations Air Forces. 🤝🤝 U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Embajada de los Estados Unidos Colombia
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RT @jtfbravo: #612ABS personnel assisted the Honduran Fire Department in fighting a large wildlife in the Comayagua mountains earlier today…
🇺🇸🇨🇴We are honored to have Commander of the @FuerzaAereaCol Maj. Gen. Ramsés Rueda Rueda visiting 12th Air Force (… https://t.co/ixdpM9nwOX
RT @FuerzaAereaCol: Finalizó el ejercicio #RedFlag 19-2 en la @NellisAFB #EstadosUnidos donde la @FuerzaAereaCol participó junto a 21 escua…
🇨🇴🇺🇸Wow! The @FuerzaAereaCol Multi-Mission Transport Tanker Jupiter 767 conducts air-to-air refueling with a… https://t.co/sOV4qBSFp2
RT @Southcom: #SOUTHCOM Military Dep. Commander @USAirForce Lt. Gen. Michael Plehn met today w/ Colombian Army Maj. Gen. Luis Navarro Jimén…
RT @NellisAFB: Colombian Air Force taking to the sky to refuel Blue Force fighters for #RedFlag 19-2! #FightsOn #NellisAFB #AimHigh https:/…
🇨🇴The @FuerzaAereaCol is training with 🇺🇸U.S. joint forces and 5 Partner Nation Air Forces at @NellisAFB for🚩… https://t.co/jymiF93okY
RT @Southcom: The U.S. today is airlifting more humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, to help the people of #Venezuela. In cooperat…
RT @USAIDMarkGreen: WHEELS UP 🛫! The U.S. is airlifting more assistance to help the people of #Venezuela. Water treatment units & other sup…
RT @Southcom: Humanitarian Aid for #Venezuela: Additional @USAirForce C-17 flying #humanitarian aid from Miami to Cúcuta, Colombia today. @…
RT @theOFDA: LIVE NOW: Relief supplies from @USAID just landed in Cucuta, Colombia to help tens of thousands of people affected by the #Ven
RT @Southcom: 1st of 3 @USAirForce C-17s flying #humanitarian aid from Miami to Cúcuta, Colombia, takes off from @Homestead_ARB. @StateDept
Take a look at the first @usairforce C-17 heading to Colombia to bring aid. https://t.co/laR4brP2Wl
RT @Southcom: #SOUTHCOM Cdr Adm. Craig Faller in #Brazil to meet w/ defense leaders & discuss cooperation. Brazil & U.S. have a robust part…
RT @USAmbNicaragua: Muy orgulloso de poder recibir este camión de bomberos donado a #Nicaragua por el pueblo estadounidense y transportado…