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Air Force program grows experienced contracting officers

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Paving a road, cutting the grass, empting trash bins or merely having new carpet installed on base would not be possible if someone didn't coordinate a contract for those services.

The Air Force Civilian Service contract specialists are the ones that make it all happen and with the help of the COPPER CAP program, the Air Force is ensuring there is a continuous pool of experienced personnel to fill the positions in this extremely important function that maintains and secures operational capability.

"It is a wonderful opportunity because it is very difficult to find people that have the level of experience needed to put into many of these positions," said Karen Matkin, 21st Contracting Squadron director of business operations. "We grow them; mold them; train them in the specifics of what we do.

Matkin added that due to the proximity to Denver and all of the federal agencies located there, the need is high for this career field.

"It is very difficult to find people and this is an extremely competitive career field to get into; we have a lot of military installations in the region," she said.

The COPPER CAP program is designed to prepare college graduates for careers as AFCS contract specialists. Contract specialist trainees work with professional contracting officers and receive formal and on-the-job training in all aspects of contract management, including requirements, solicitation preparation, price justification, negotiation and award, and administration of contracts.

"This is a huge career field and it takes many years of experience to become a good contracting officer, this program is where they start," said Matkin. "They come in to the program as a GS-7 and after three year they will graduate as a GS-11, spending three years as a contract specialist. We treat COPPER CAPs differently; by the nature of the program they are designed to be future contracting officers, future managers and future leaders so they are rotated every six months throughout the squadron to help them learn and grow."

Contract specialists are at the heart of the complex process of satisfying Air Force requirements for everything from satellites, electronics and high-performance aircraft to supplies and services necessary for the day-to-day operation of military installations around the world.

So who makes a good candidate for the COPPER CAP program?

"All of your education is taken into consideration, but at a minimum your degree must have 24 hours of college-level business credits," said Matkin. "It is someone who relishes a problem, who likes to solve problems that can have multiple right answers."

COPPER CAP interns learn about the federal government and Air Force contracting processes, including acquisition of services, supplies and construction, and administration of contracts awarded, through hands-on experience. The intent of the program is to train future contracting officers who may eventually progress into managerial positions.

To be considered for this program send a resume to Matkin at For information she can be reached at 556-4835.

Detailed qualification and application information is available at

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui