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News | Nov. 1, 2023

My DCMA: Aaron Quinn, quality assurance specialist, Keystone

By Jason Kaneshiro DCMA East Region Public Affairs

My DCMA showcases the Defense Contract Management Agency’s experienced and diverse workforce and highlights what being a part of the national defense team means to them. Today, Aaron Quinn shares his story.

My name is Aaron Quinn, and I’m a Keystone quality assurance specialist out of Atlanta.

My job duties include conducting surveillance on geographically dispersed contractors. These facilities make a variety of products — big and small — that are either sent directly to the customer for use, or onto a larger contractor's facility to be used in their production. I conduct contract receipt and review using Integrated Workplace Management Systems to identify key contract requirements. Based on those KCRs, I build a surveillance plan in Product Data Reporting and Evaluation Program. I then conduct the required surveillance, and inspection/acceptance to fulfill the customer's needs. As a quality assurance specialist, I’m also responsible for First Article Inspections, investigating non-conforming product, and issuing Corrective Action Reports.

I have been a part of the DCMA team for two years.

I like working at DCMA because it gives me a feeling of pride to support our warfighters, and to bring value to our taxpayers, customers, and contractors. I've seen so many local facilities that build amazing parts and continue to refine their processes to bring quality product to the warfighter. The local community that is built around some of these smaller contractor facilities can often be overlooked, but it's quite an experience to drive from town to town and see how just one facility can provide unique parts for our military and support so many local families.   

I chose this agency to work at because I have always been raised that you're supposed to do what's right no matter what the consequence. I believe that is why the quality assurance career field has been such a draw to me; it's our job function to make sure that things are done right. Helping to ensure that reliable products make it to the warfighter is our duty. As a quality assurance specialist in DCMA, I get to work with all branches of our military. I enjoy getting to see parts, processes and end items that require capabilities across land, sea, and air. By choosing to serve with DCMA, I have had the privilege to witness the testing and production of parts for jets, tanks, aircraft carriers, and missiles; there aren't many jobs where you get to say that!

I feel that DCMA is important to America's warfighters because we really are added value to all the contracts that go through DCMA. Whether we are trimming down excess, correcting deficiencies, ensuring on-time or accelerated deliveries, or holding contractors responsible for the services they provide, DCMA is bringing something to the table. The various needs that keep the mission running stretch so far and wide that we, as DCMA, break down this tremendous duty across multiple functions to make sure that the customers’ needs are met. Across all functions in DCMA you see the savings we bring to the taxpayer.  

To be honest, I would say my biggest drive is the fear of failure. I never want to be the guy on the team who dropped the ball, or who's dragging everyone down. Usually that’s the motivation that keeps me trying to stay a step ahead. I don't believe whether the task is easy or hard is a question at all, I will try to do what is needed to get the job done. I also know that I have a great support system with my lead quality assurance specialists, supervisor, and coworkers. The experience we have on our team is astounding, so it gives me the confidence to try and take on whatever task is given.

My future career goals include more and more education. I have had an amazing experience seeing facilities that have craftsmen with handheld tools perfecting their skills for 40-plus years and then turning around and seeing another facility with a robot that sprays polymer blends to an exact millimeter thickness. So, I would like to continue to explore and learn everything that I can. DCMA gives me the opportunity to learn through Defense Acquisition University courses, certifications, and mentorship, so I plan on taking advantage of learning as much as possible. The more information and resources you have, the easier life becomes.

You can take knowledge and experience from one setting and apply it to others. As I grow and gain more understanding and knowledge of DCMA policies, practices, and requirements, I would love to one day be able to pass that knowledge down to others. I believe that teaching helps you learn just as much as the student, so as I continue my career with DCMA, I will look for mentorship and leadership roles. 

Something unique about me is that I am 100% a dad. It doesn’t matter if they’re mine, yours, or someone else’s child, I enjoy every aspect of being a dad from helping my children strive to achieve their goals or catching them when they fall. Being a dad is more than being a father, it's about being a role model in all aspects of life. You are the example your children will either look to be, or look for in a partner, and you shouldn't take that responsibility lightly. I spend as much time as I can with my kids, because we are trying to teach them about life, and that’s happening all the time. I have two daughters (16- and 12-years-old) and a son (5-years-old), and they are all so wildly different. I ask them to join me on whatever I do. Whether it's work around the house, exercising, cooking, or playing, I just love having them around. So, I try to make sure that I'm the quality dad they deserve.

Some of the great things about working at my location includes the co-workers and the variety of facilities. I cannot say enough about my co-workers and my supervisor, Jack Laprad. Since I have joined DCMA, they have all been such a positive force. I've felt that within the team all issues and ideas are addressed, discussed, and then spread to the rest of the team for uniformity and knowledge. There is such a variety of experience in the team that I get to see different perspectives on how people conduct their duties.

A big shout-out to my Lead QAS Vernon Lewis, who is a living, breathing Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement/Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement manual. Since my start at DCMA, he has been pivotal in not just answering my questions, but explaining how it applies in real world situations. He is also sure to provide me the resources to reference whatever we may have discussed. You can be sure that by the time your conversation is over, either before you're off the phone or back to your desk, Vern will have an email with attachments waiting for you. I can't say enough how lucky I am for such a knowledgeable team.

Another great aspect of my location is that I get to utilize all the duties of my job function. At other locations, people may only be responsible for the same task(s) daily, but never get to see a contract, or witness a First Article Test. By getting to work at a contract management office where a QAS covers multiple facilities, it exposes us to all the quality assurance responsibilities from contract receipt and review through inspection and acceptance, and all the possibilities in between. I really value the experience that being at the Atlanta CMO brings.

I think the biggest assumption in the Quality field is that we just inspect final product. I think there’s a perception that we wait for someone to say, “Hey, come check if we did this right?” and then we go and look at the widget they produced. So, the question I guess I would like people to ask would be, “What do you do besides examine product?” Especially with the push for detection to prevention, I think it’s important that people know we want the processes tight, records kept, and data reviewed. By conducting process reviews, or analyzing root cause on non-conforming products, we help to mitigate future errors that can save time and money for the warfighter.