The "All" About Contracting Thread

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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Knowing that some of you have questions about contracting, I thought I'd start this thread. I'll populate it as I feel like typing, and there's a lot to type.

For those of you who don't know, I've contracted for a total of 14 years, all of it in sandy places, 9 of those years were in Afghanistan. 4 companies, three rebid processes, and two different contracts. I am not the be-all and end-all, but I've been around. @Rabid Badger is a former overseas contractor. I'll tag others as I remember user names.
 
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AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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How do you get started?

Networking, resume', and some luck. A hard truth is you can be the bestest of the bestest and still not land a gig. Why? There are a ton of you out there for a pretty finite number of gigs (especially today) and companies are only paid for "butts in seats." Some may just take the first x number of qualified people for the slots they are trying to fill. It sucks, but money is the driving factor and if they need people now, a companny will take who it can get immediately.

Knowing someone who can put your CV in front of the hiring manager is probably the best way to get hired. Failing that you have to treat it like any other job search: keywords, certs, and education (the latter two are also keywords). Have your CV built for the job, tailor it as needed. Nail those keywords! That's how the HR rep will pluck your paper out of a pile. If you don't have an inside person, you need keywords. Also, don't have a CV that looks like crap. There are a ton of resources out there on how to write a resume', so I won't belabor that point/ process.

As for websites, the big ones out there like clearancejobs, Indeed, etc. will carry overseas job listings. I'm sure there are others out there, I'll let some of you fill in the gaps.

A word or 100 about certifications: some jobs require them. Make sure you have what you need when you apply, especially IT folks. A company may try to slide you in, but if the DoD finds out (the Contracting Officer Representative or COR), the COR can put you on a plane. Protect yourself, have valid certs for the job you want. And in case you want to forge that Security+ for a cush IT gig...I've had a guy fired over that. Don't be "that guy" who lands you and your company in hot water. Bonus tip: you can have your clearance flagged over shit like that, so don't be stupid. IT, HVAC, medic, whatever you're doing...have the paper.
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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The COR, Contracting Officer Representative. This is who represents the gov't. They eval you, grade you, and can make or break you and your company. With that said, you might land a gig where the COR is never seen, you might also land one where the COR is there every single day. The COR ensures you and your company are living up to the contract. The COR might hate you because the COR might hate contractors. I've been there and it sucks. I've also had CORs who were barely around. That can also suck.

TLDR: have a good professional relationship with the man/ woman who grades you.

At the end of the day, do your job, execute the contract, stay within your lane. Failing to do the last two points can see you sent home if the COR or your commander want to make that happen. Yes, you can be "fired", but I'll save that for another post.
 

AWP

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Getting fired: Can you? Yes. Can you lose your job without being fired? Also, yes.

"WTF did you just write, A-dub?"

Here's the thing, a company does not make money unless it has a body in a slot. Take your salary, double it AT A BARE MINIMUM, and that's what your company is billing the gov't for your services. Companies have a very vested interest in keeping people on contract. That means...you guessed it, you are like the Mob: blood in, blood out. Getting fired is uncommon, you typically won't have your contract renewed if you're a turd. With that said, I know or know of people who were fired for: porn on a gov't computer, forging certifications, stealing mail, stealing equipment, running a brothel at Bagram, battery, drug/ alcohol possession, and shockingly... general incompetence.

If you make it past your first 90 days (that's the usual period, but it varies) then you are practically golden for the rest of the year. That doesn't mean you should go out and be a turd, but some of your coworkers will stink it up. That is an unfortunate aspect of the business. But...there's another way to be sent home.

Your commander has the right to say, in effect, "I've lost confidence in this person's ability to do their job." They can then just refuse you admittence to their area. So...how can do your job if an O-5 or above doesn't want you in their office space?

Exactly. At that point your company can fire you or transfer you with the latter usually happening. I've seen that 4 or 5 times over the years. Making that sweet bank in Afghanistan, but piss off the wrong person? Now you're going to Qatar for half the money. Congrats!

Remember my earlier post about networking and getting hired? Yeah, don't be a shithead, you might actually need someone to give you an introduction. Consider every single day to be a job interview.
 

SOSTCRNA

SOF Medical
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Awesome thread. I have a very limited contractor knowledge but if any medical people on here with a clearance and interested in some pretty fun overseas work, hit me up. Need CRNA’s, Critical Care/ER RNs, surgical techs, EM docs, surgeons.
 

Dame

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I think @BloodStripe is a contracting officer, @Florida173 and @Dame are stateside contractors, and @DA SWO used to work in contracting before he retired and is now a contractor.

Apologies if I've misrepresented or forgotten anyone, I'm working from memory and know I'm forgetting a few.
Yes indeed. Stateside with TS required. Besides the obvious advantage of living here in the US, I am also somewhat protected from some AD guy not liking me. (They all love me anyway.) My office is in the contractor's building, not Unca Sugar's.
 

Board and Seize

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Holding a spot here to come back later and write up a bit on the maritime contracting.

notes/outline for myself (I gotta dig up pubs and such to flesh this out):

TWIC
MMC
STCW Ratings (BT/VSO)
Companies
Job Types
Locations
 
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Rabid Badger

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@AWP Please explain "at will".
You WILL have that in your contract, repeatedly, or maybe only once. It means you literally can be "let go" at anytime, for literally just about anything and the change in "daily pricing" for overseas contractors.

OR .....let a COR actually go in depth.

Thanks for the mention. I retired SMU SF in '04, carried that TS into staying around the SOF contracting community for the next 15yrs and loved/hated contracting the whole time. 3 war zones later I came out with 10 & 10 n a little more PTS than I had when I retired but still smiling.
 
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Dame

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Quick info on "at will":
You work at the will of your employer. You may be let go for anything or nothing. Some states are "at will" states. Nevada is one of them.

On clearances and lingo:
Deciphering the Lingo: 9 Security Clearance Terms to Know - ClearanceJobs

On clearances and "legal" marijuana :
It isn't. For a federal clearance, marijuana is still illegal. This includes owning stock in companies or funds that use MJ as an investment. Do they ask if you own stock? Not so far. Good thing. Some 401K funds contain MJ investments. Some that the contractor companies use even. They do not want to know. This is the current "don't ask, don't tell" issue. Keep informed in case things change.
 

BloodStripe

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SSMP
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Yes I'm a KO. Yes I control your destiny in my ball sack. Feel free to ask contacting questions and I'll answer where I can. Please note some questions may be more than I can answer given my current position.
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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@AWP Please explain "at will".
You WILL have that in your contract, repeatedly, or maybe only once. It means you literally can be "let go" at anytime, for literally just about anything and the change in "daily pricing" for overseas contractors.

OR .....let a COR actually go in depth.

This is 100% true, but the "vigor" with which it is pursued will vary from contract to contract. You can absolutely smoke a contractor on a whim, but I've never seen one fired. I've seen a few take a transfer to a different base in Afghanistan, but the only firings were for things like stealing mail, assault, etc.

Some companies are reluctant to exercise "at will" because of lawyers. A company can exercise "at will" and the departed will find a lawyer, drop a suit, and then hang on for an out-of-court settlement.I know of two cases where that happened. Total shit bag, made a little coin from from being one. I've had a site manager and PM also cite following HR guidelines for not readily canning someone.

With that said, not all companies are the same, not all contracts are created equal.
 

AWP

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How do you behave on contract?

I really shouldn't have to make this post, but some of it needs to be out there.

- Work within your contract. PWS, SOW, ULSS, and a host of other acronyms add up to one thing: work within your contract. I know, you want to help the guys and gals out and go the extra mile. Guess what can happen? You're outside of your contract, you've just created a potential legal situation for your company and yourself. You and the company are now liable for your actions. You'll have done a gazillion CBT's on this very topic during the hiring process so now you played yourself. It sucks to have to tell them no, but sometimes you have to.

- Speaking of, learn when you can and can't tell the customer no. Usually it revolves around your contract, but can around other topics. A s a cybersecurity guy I've had to tell squadron leadership "I'm not doing this until I can speak with the Unit Security Manager and the Information System Security Manager" which leads to some red faces, but I'm not jamming myself up. Know your contract, know the regs that apply to your contract, and act accordingly.

- Be available to the customer. Don't hide. Make sure they know your face. You don't have to be a "yes man" just show them that you are there to do your job and support them. The absolute worst thing you can do is be "that guy" who first comes to leadership's attention when he fucks up. Build a rapport, it could save you one day (and probably has saved me and my mouth).

- As mentioned earlier: every day is a job interview. The guys around you today could be the guys who can help you next month. Plus, you'll need references for your next job, security clearance, etc. Also, don't forget the concept of "reciprocity."

- This one's for the military members who come into contact with contractors: Don't shit on us during your deployment and then sniff around looking a job later. I've stopped 3 or 4 over the years and I'm not the only one on contract. Airmen we've hired A) were good folks to work around, B) Knew their jobs, and C) treated every day like a job interview. We had on egregious case in...2016 or 2017 where our manager called the PM and had the guy blacklisted with our company.

- Lastly, know your audience. Remember that job interview. Know what has jammed me up over the years? My mouth. You think you're alone in a room with some co-workers so you vent...and then discover some eager beaver Captain was working at a desk behind you? Yup. Say the wrong thing to the wrong person? Yep. Be aware of who you're talking to and where. Oh, didn't happen to me, but don't assume a bathroom is empty. "Stall hiders" are a thing.

What am I missing?
 

AWP

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I just spent 90 minutes working so far outside of my contract as to cause a lawyer to have an aneurysm.

"A-dub, haven't you strongly told us not to do this? You hypocrite."

Mea culpa but here's the learning point(s):

1. If your system has radios and some other stuff? You need to know that other stuff. If you have Cisco equipment you should know the log ins, IPs, basic commands, and how to do basic things. If you're a radio guy? Learn that shit. If you're a Cisco guy and you have radios? Learn that shit. Bottom Line: if you're responsible for that system, at least know a little about everything.
2. If you don't know a few basics, then you can't tell another what's wrong. If you're asking others for help but provide little more than grunts and shrugs, don't expect much from them.
3. At some point the kindness of others will end and you're on your own. Know that you have a finite amount of time before your potential savior tells you to fuck off and do your job.
4. Should you step out of your contract? No. If you do, make damn certain you know the players and situation. I've worked with these two guys for 5 years now. I know my squadron won't care as long as things start working. My pragmatic advice to you? Stick with the hard "no" until you can speak of, or even predict, the actions and mindset of others.

TLDR: Know your role, know the roles and mindset of others, and then...BIG BOY RULES. If you know your place or that of others, STFU and save yourself.
 

Marauder06

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Getting fired: Can you? Yes. Can you lose your job without being fired? Also, yes.

"WTF did you just write, A-dub?"

Here's the thing, a company does not make money unless it has a body in a slot. Take your salary, double it AT A BARE MINIMUM, and that's what your company is billing the gov't for your services. Companies have a very vested interest in keeping people on contract. That means...you guessed it, you are like the Mob: blood in, blood out. Getting fired is uncommon, you typically won't have your contract renewed if you're a turd. With that said, I know or know of people who were fired for: porn on a gov't computer, forging certifications, stealing mail, stealing equipment, running a brothel at Bagram, battery, drug/ alcohol possession, and shockingly... general incompetence.

If you make it past your first 90 days (that's the usual period, but it varies) then you are practically golden for the rest of the year. That doesn't mean you should go out and be a turd, but some of your coworkers will stink it up. That is an unfortunate aspect of the business. But...there's another way to be sent home.

Your commander has the right to say, in effect, "I've lost confidence in this person's ability to do their job." They can then just refuse you admittence to their area. So...how can do your job if an O-5 or above doesn't want you in their office space?

Exactly. At that point your company can fire you or transfer you with the latter usually happening. I've seen that 4 or 5 times over the years. Making that sweet bank in Afghanistan, but piss off the wrong person? Now you're going to Qatar for half the money. Congrats!

Remember my earlier post about networking and getting hired? Yeah, don't be a shithead, you might actually need someone to give you an introduction. Consider every single day to be a job interview.

To go along with what AWP said, and to echo something I've said many times on the site, I'm a big fan of contractors. Generally speaking, they're mature, professional, and highly skilled in what we need. And when I'm done with them, or when they piss me off, I fire them with no remorse. "Thank you for your service, best wishes for a happy life. NEXT!!"

I fired my share of contractors in Afghanistan, mostly interpreters, who either were doing sketchy stuff and/or were generally making more trouble for me than they were worth. Got rid of them, hit the company up for more. But most of the time, I didn't have any issues. The best interrogators I had, and one of the two best analysts, were contractors. They had 2-3 times the amount of experience that most of my uniformed subordinates had (and infinity-times more experience at some jobs than I personally had). The fact that they were contractors meant that all they had to focus on was themselves and their jobs. No leadership requirements, no "Army training, sir!", just the work. They did their parts, and we did ours. It worked well.

The "confidence" thing AWP mentioned is especially useful in the intel community, where national security is at stake.

I'm grateful for our contractors and happily serve alongside them.
 

ODgreen

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I've been doing some soul searching in looking for an alternate career path; professionally I am a chef, but that is looking less viable as the weeks go by. Israel is under lockdown after lockdown and America is looking super iffy to say the least.

Initially I joined the forum to see about enlisting into SF. Having spoken with others and looked at options, I am curious about contracting as well. Professionally speaking it makes more sense than enlisting. I'm single, have decent spending habits, don't drink that much, and have no children. All in all I'd say that getting paid to do 5 months of static guard duty in Kuwait and then fucking around in India for a month followed by another 5 months doesn't sound so bad to me.

I'm ex-Israeli military, though. I hit some brick walls because a lot of these American companies ask for these documents that I don't have. Most of my IDF comrades went onto work for Israeli companies (which pay utter shite), a few took positions on ships as anti-pirate shooty bois and my close Canadian friend guards some big-wig in Canada as a close protection specialist. So far none of their affiliations have been helpful to me, mainly because I don't want to work for peanuts and thus avoid Israeli PMC companies and my close buddy in Canada has no helpful leads since he's privately employed.

What should I do? I'm unemployed and need to do something.

edit: I'm not trying to work with ex-Polish Coast Guard protecting a diamond mine in Nigeria. I'm ready to start at the bottom, but at the bottom of a good company.
 
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