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50th CONS unmasks swifter process to obtain PPE

Staff Sgt. Arron Riffle, 50th Contracting Squadron contracting officer, conducts an inspection at the Xpress gas station prior to reopening the pumps March 27, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The gas pumps have been closed for repairs since December 2019.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Amanda Lovelace)

Staff Sgt. Arron Riffle, 50th Contracting Squadron contracting officer, conducts an inspection at the Express gas station prior to reopening the pumps March 27, 2020 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. On April 7, 2020 Riffle joined the Rapid Acquisition and Procurement Innovation Directorate task force where he helped solve issues related to COVID-19. (Air Force photo by Airman Amanda Lovelace)

Tech. Sgt. Sean Holder, 50th Contracting Squadron contracting officer, removes part of a mask and a tension release band from a bag May 14, 2020 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Holder, along with Staff Sgt. Arron Riffle, 50th CONS contracting officer, purchased more than 1,400 masks and 10,000 tension release bands from vendors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Air Force photo by Marcus Hill)

Tech. Sgt. Sean Holder, 50th Contracting Squadron contracting officer, removes part of a mask and a tension release band from a bag May 14, 2020 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Holder, along with Staff Sgt. Arron Riffle, 50th CONS contracting officer, purchased more than 1,400 masks and 10,000 tension release bands from vendors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Air Force photo by Marcus Hill)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Quick thinking from a 50th Contracting Squadron Airman helped Schriever and Pentagon officials obtain personal protection equipment in swift fashion.

On April 1, Staff Sgt. Arron Riffle, 50th CONS contracting officer joined the Rapid Acquisition and Procurement Innovation Directorate, an Air Force-wide task force designed to address the supply issues from the COVID-19 crisis.

During their April 6 meeting, RAPiD x identified four vendors who could provide immediate masks. Initially, the task forced planned to write four contracts for companies to sign and process.

Riffle knew that process could take several weeks to complete. He also realized each contracts met the requirements to use the government purchase card – less than $20,000 in purchases – and pitched an alternate solution.

“The need to get personal protective equipment to people in need was the team’s highest priority at the time,” he said. “They were trying to figure out how to go about moving as fast as possible. I’ve never been deployed but I was trying to think, if this was a contingency overseas, how would we operate? The answer isn’t necessarily letter contracts, it’s the GPC.”

Tech. Sgt. Sean Holder, 50th CONS contracting officer and RAPiD x member, realized Riffle’s suggestion would allow the Airmen to distribute masks and other PPE Airmen and to the Pentagon quicker.

“We used [the government purchase card] to buy masks, test them and see how they worked,” Holder said. “If they were good, we could secure those for the base and Pentagon. If not, we could give critiques and help [the vendor] improve that product as they ramped up and gave them to more people.”

So far, Holder and Riffle have purchased more than 1,400 masks and 10,000 tension release bands from the identified vendors. 

“One of our duties is to make sure small businesses are being taken care of from a contracting perspective and an overarching perspective,” Riffle said. “Not only do PPE requirements funnel money into struggling businesses, but it provides PPE to [Airmen and members of the Pentagon] who didn’t have masks or people who needed more than traditional masks.”

For leaning forward, Riffle earned compliments via email from Brig. Gen. Alice Trevino, Air Force Installation Contracting Center commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Carr, Air Force Contracting career field manager and chief of enlisted policy. 

“[Riffle] is motivated and to see him be able to do something that has far-reaching impact is a testament to what he can bring to the Space Force,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Welch, 50th CONS superintendent. “When [the task force] came up, we knew [Riffle] was perfect for it. It shows what he’s capable of and the impact he and contracting can have in the bigger picture. He does great things for this base.”

Though Riffle appreciates the recognition, benefiting those who need it helped him through this process.  

“Throughout this contingency, there have been long days, nights and weekends and when you keep a pace like that, it drains you,” he said. “The thing that charges your battery and keeps you going is knowing that you’re helping somebody, whether that’s a small business that’s worried about how they’ll keep the lights on or somebody who is forced to be next to someone and is wondering, ‘Will they get sick?”

Riffle also acknowledged his work alone didn’t make this possible – it was a team effort to complete the mission.

“In contracting, you never want to make decisions in a silo,” Riffle said. “If you’re making decisions by yourself that leads to trouble. We look at individuals and good ideas but none of this happens without us moving in unison. Everything from the contracting leaders supporting the program and me, the team making sure the projects and vision gets accomplished to the people who set up the emails and solve IT problems. It’s not an individual success, it’s a group success.”

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