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Acquisition officers with Marine Corps Systems Command or Program Executive Officer Land Systems discuss the benefits of working in the acquisition community. The Marine Corps will release a solicitation for the acquisition billets 8059/8061 military occupational specialty in August. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Tonya Smith)

Photo by MCSC OPAC

Behind the curtain: Marine officers discuss benefits of working in acquisition

5 Aug 2021 | Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

Lt. Col. Wynndee Young wanted to gain knowledge and bolster her skillset.

The former operational contract support and supply specialist decided to apply for an acquisition officer billet to continue growing and learning as a Marine. She joined the acquisition community as a contracting officer in 2009—when the job was in high demand to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“My mentors and advocates encouraged my decision to apply to become an acquisition officer,” said Young. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for a supply officer like myself to expand my expertise.”

Young eventually transitioned from a contracting officer to a ground acquisition officer. Today, she serves as a program analyst for the Wargaming Capability at Marine Corps Systems Command. In this role, Young analyzes the cost, schedule and performance associated with developing wargaming capabilities for the future Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center.

She says the career path has helped her grow as a Marine. It has enabled Young to support various teams during several deployments, gain a better understanding of the acquisition process and learn the myriad ways the acquisition community supports the warfighter.

“Throughout my journey, I’ve learned there are great opportunities within the acquisition community,” said Young. “Marine Corps Systems Command offers those opportunities for talented Marines.”

MCSC is the acquisition arm of the Marine Corps. The command is responsible for equipping and sustaining Marines with the most capable and cost-effective systems for expeditionary and crisis-response operations.

Each year, the command seeks skilled Marines to join the acquisition workforce. This month, the Marine Corps will release a solicitation for the 8059/8061 military occupational specialty. The 8059 occupational field comprises aviation officers, while the 8061 field involves ground acquisition Marines.

Marine acquisition officers take requirements from concept exploration to the deployment of a piece of equipment. Their responsibilities involve keeping a program within budget, on schedule, and ensuring a system is logistically supportable.

Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, MCSC’s commander, emphasized the importance of Marine acquisition officers in helping the command fulfill its mission. He said their composite of skills, knowledge, and experience make them an ideal fit as an acquisition officer.

“A Marine acquisition officer is a leader,” said Pasagian. “They are recognized by our Corps as essential to force development, representing the Marine Corps’ commitment to investment and the need to outpace and defeat adversaries in any clime and place.”

The job constantly keeps you engaged with Marines and allows you to work with engineers, logisticians and other talented individuals. Not a lot of Marines have that opportunity in their career.Lt. Col. Kyle Andrews, product manager for Assault Amphibious Vehicles at PEO Land Systems

A Broader Perspective

During his time in acquisition, Col. Tim Hough has built an illustrious career.

In 1998, the Stafford, Virginia, native completed Officer Candidates School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He completed stints as a platoon and company commander, project officer and branch head before graduating from The Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia.

Upon becoming an acquisition officer, he transferred to MCSC in 2012. He has served as a project officer, team lead and program manager, supervising teams of Marines and civilians working to achieve a common goal: equip the warfighter.

The amount of information attained over the past 13 years has provided Hough with a deeper understanding of the acquisition and sustainment of life-saving equipment, he said. It is an aspect of the Marine Corps he was unaware of before becoming an acquisition officer.

“Working in the acquisition field has given me a broader perspective of how the Marine Corps operates,” said Hough. “More importantly, it has shown me how the Marine Corps builds capability in defense of our national interests.”

In 2021, Hough was promoted to program manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. In this role, he is responsible for the development, fielding and sustainment of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle. He also oversees the sustainment of the legacy Assault Amphibian Vehicle.

Hough says working in acquisition is consistently challenging—another rewarding aspect of the field.

“A big challenge an acquisition officer experiences is speed,” said Hough. “We all want things done quickly and sometimes moving at the speed at relevance is not fast enough. But it takes time to ensure the equipment is both operational and can perform to its expectations.”

Lt. Col. Kyle Andrews, an acquisition officer serving as the product manager for Assault Amphibious Vehicles at PEO Land Systems, said keeping up with the evolution of technology is continuously challenging. He underscored the countless hours and tiresome workdays needed to research, assess and implement new and improving technology in an ever-evolving battlefield.

However, like Hough, Andrews relishes in these situations.

“Working in acquisition is a great opportunity because of those challenges,” said Andrews. “It allows us to grow as Marines.”

Like many Marines, Andrews has worn many hats during his career. He’s served as a company commander, battalion executive officer and a deputy chief of operations, among other roles. After graduating from Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, he decided to join the acquisition field.

“I was at a point in my career where I could either go the battalion command route or go the acquisition route,” explained Andrews. “I decided to go the acquisition route because I felt that it offered more opportunities to give back to the Marine Corps.”

As an acquisition officer, Andrews oversaw the acquisition of an unmanned naval defense system before transitioning into his current role. He now manages the divestment of the AAV as the Marine Corps procures its replacement in the Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

He consistently interacts with teams of talented Marines, civilians and contractors when acquiring, developing and fielding a product. These professionals offer expertise and advice that Andrews considers when making critical decisions that affect the warfighter.

“The job constantly keeps you engaged with Marines and allows you to work with engineers, logisticians and other talented individuals,” said Andrews. “Not a lot of Marines have that opportunity in their career.”

A ‘truly gratifying’ experience

Not every Marine qualifies to be an acquisition officer.

Marine officers interested in becoming an 8059 or 8061 must apply to the annual Acquisition Primary MOS 8059/8061 Selection Board. The solicitation to be released by the Marine Corps this month contains the minimum qualification requirements for applying.

Applicants must typically be a major or lieutenant colonel. They must also be eligible for a secret security clearance in a certified Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Level II in a primary acquisition career field and be an unrestricted officer.

Young encourages qualifying Marines to apply. She said the acquisition field offers the opportunity to learn strategic or enterprise support required to maintain the longevity and innovation the Marine Corps is currently experiencing.

“You learn what it takes to be a stronger force and everything that goes into achieving the commandant’s Force Design 2030 goals,” said Young. “It is also incredibly rewarding as a Marine acquisition officer to see the products we acquire being used by Marines and Sailors. That is truly gratifying.”

Hough emphasized the importance for Marines to understand the acquisition process—from how the Marine Corps awards contracts to the significance of sustaining equipment upon fielding. They can then use this knowledge to their advantage throughout their careers.

He said having a greater understanding of the acquisition process, including the intricacies of the “business side” of the Marine Corps, will be fundamentally important to Marines as they progress through their careers.

“If they stay in acquisition, great, but if they don’t, they now understand how gear is provided to them,” said Hough. “More importantly, they now have touch-points to whom they can reach back for answers to any questions about certain capabilities. Marine Corps Systems Command is the connecting file from the Fleet Marine Force to Headquarters Marine Corps as it relates to capability.”

As Young, Andrews and Hough explained, being an acquisition officer is a critical way to provide the warfighter with the capabilities needed to achieve Marine Corps goals, defeat adversaries and protect the United States. They help field technologies that will support Marines for years to come.

“Being an acquisition officer has given me a behind-the-curtain view that I did not have as a young officer and has been immensely rewarding when I consider the impact I have had on the Marine Corps,” said Hough. “It’s been quite a journey.”

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