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News | Sept. 20, 2017

DCMA Downrange: contracting professional returns to Afghanistan

By Elizabeth Szoke DCMA Public Affairs

The dusty bustle of downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, was an area of the world John Griffiths did not expect to see outside of his military service.

Griffiths started working with the Defense Contract Management Agency as an administrative contracting officer in 2012 following his last deployment with the Army Reserves. When he learned about the Combat Support Center and the Contingency Response Force deployments program, he was given an opportunity to go back to Afghanistan as a DCMA employee. It was a prospect which presented advantages that were difficult to turn down.

“My motivations for joining the program and deploying to Afghanistan were three fold,” Griffiths admitted. “First, I wanted to expand my skillset as an administrative contracting officer. Second, the program offered monetary benefits that could help my family since I’m a father of four teenagers who are nearing college. And third, I missed the adventure and wanted to see what the country was like since I left.”

Despite the perks, he wondered whether or not he was ready to bring value to the mission.

“That environment is like being an actor on the world stage — your work efforts have a direct impact globally,” Griffiths said and added that he was concerned about the time away from his family.

His worries dissolved when his adventures downrange began. With support from his wife, his military experience and the additional training he received from DCMA’s CSC staff, his skills were quickly put to work.

The CRF program offers training specifically designed toward each area of work responsibility.

“We ensure our deployees go through pre-mobilization training,” said Diann Hawkes, chief of the CRF. “Our staff maintains contact with all of our deployees prior to mobilization, during deployment and even when they return home.”

Even Griffiths’ concerns regarding communicating back home were relieved. The in-theater facilities had solid connections, which made the distance less overbearing.

“Hearing my wife's voice and talking about the happenings at home lessened my fears of being away for so long, so I was able to focus on my new work challenges during the deployment.”

Griffiths became more involved with the overall efforts that go into contracting, rather than his usual stateside responsibilities of post-award issues on contracts. “As it turned out, I became involved in many facets that not only included pre-award work, but also anti-counter-corruption efforts in contracting,” he said. “This resulted in some great opportunities to meet with high-level personnel with the United States government, NATO and the Afghan government.”

In acknowledgement of his effort, he was personally recognized by Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan.

Ghani thanked Griffiths for his service in Afghanistan and presented a signed copy of his book during their last meeting together. He also presented Griffiths with a miniature statue of the Minaret of Jam, the oldest shrine in Afghanistan.

“The experience was very humbling,” Griffiths reflected. “I guess the impact of my work was truly that significant.”

His time in Afghanistan was so memorable and influenced his professional vision in such a way that he plans on volunteering for another assignment downrange in the near future.

“Why not?” Griffiths challenges others to think about the benefits. The CRF program allows contracting professionals the opportunity to improve their skillsets and contribute to the nation’s overseas mission on a global scale. “Plus you get paid more for doing it. It’s a net-gain on any balance sheet.”

For those interested in more information about how to become involved with the CRF can email John Wrend, the CRF program manager, at