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NEWS | April 16, 2020

Contracting from home

By Senior Airman Tristan Biese 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Many uniformed personnel and Department of Defense civilians are mandated to stay home to help combat the continuing spread of COVID-19; but with that being said, the mission must still go on.

For U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Megan Rowlett, 633rd Contracting Squadron contract specialist, her mission didn’t stop when she needed to sign her first ever contract as a warranted contracting officer from her own kitchen.

Coming from a military family, Rowlett knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps, so in January of 2018, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Rowlett chose to join the contracting career after taking several business courses throughout college.

“Every contracting officer can tell you where they were and what they purchased when they signed their very first contract,” said Master Sgt. Marlese Yelardy, 633 CONS flight chief. “However, Airman 1st Class Rowlett may be the first Airmen in enlisted contracting history whose first contractual obligation on behalf of the U.S. government was executed from home.”

As a contracting officer, her first contract was for the purchase of COVID-19 testing modules in support of the 633rd Medical Group Public Health pandemic response efforts to set up COVID-19 testing on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Prior to the contract, the Langley Hospital did not have the in-house capability to test for COVID-19 and had to send all tests to an outside source and wait 4-5 days for results. The purchase of the COVID-19 Testing Modules can enable results within 45 minutes.

“There’s a lot of pressure working from home since there is not as much supervision and peer review,” Rowlett said. “I read over the contract 10 times, so signing it was nerve-racking and exciting all at the same time.”

According to Yelardy, there are no minimum rank requirements to hold contracting officer warrants, however, on average, most Airmen become contracting officers after promoting to Staff Sergeant or Technical Sergeant with their authority typically limited to $250,000.

 “She worked independently on this requirement with very little oversight and was able to sign the contract in less than 72 hours after receipt of the requirement from the MDG,” Yelardy said. “A feat which typically has a turnaround time of four weeks.”

 Yelardy explained why contracting officer warrant authority is unique in its function since contracting officers receive their authority from Congress, the President, the Secretary of Defense with final approval from the Senior Contracting Officials. Due to this unique flow of authority, a contracting officer must be knowledgeable and ready to independently educate and advise commanders on contractual issues.

“We have to work around the clock to make sure that everyone is still getting what they need, but it’s a great feeling knowing that I’m not only accomplishing the mission, but also helping other people and other Airmen on base,” Rowlett said.

While she may not have envisioned her career to involve teleworking, Rowlett was still able to be a large contributor to the contracting mission, as well as enable JBLE’s medical professionals to continue to save lives.