YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Lt. Col. Wayne Patterson said learning his 374th Contracting Squadron won the 2004 Air Force Outstanding Contracting Unit award was his “military moment.”

“It was a huge, huge thrill,” Patterson said. “I’m still losing sleep, I’m so happy.”

It’s the first time Yokota has won the award. It means his 90-person staff — comprising airmen, soldiers and Japanese and American civilians — bested 66 other contracting squadrons for the title.

The squadron supports operational, specialized and research and development contracting to the 374th Airlift Wing, 5th Air Force, U.S. Forces Japan, the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development and 40 other agencies, from the Marine Corps’ III Marine Expeditionary Force to the Army’s 9th Theater Support Command, according to a squadron fact sheet.

The squadron enjoyed two major success stories in 2004, Patterson said: Earning an “outstanding” rating during the Pacific Air Forces Inspector General’s Unit Compliance Inspection and having its Government Purchase Card Team win the Department of Defense David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award — the first time a wing-level organization has taken the title in the award’s eight-year history.

Contracting was one of just two Yokota squadrons to earn the “outstanding” rating in the weeklong UCI inspection held every four years, said Dona Alexander, director of squadron business operations and deputy commander.

“The 374th Contracting Squadron was virtually flawless,” stated a fact sheet on its UCI performance. The Government Purchase Card program was called a “best practice” — no deficiencies were found in more than 900 accounts. The Quality Assurance Program was called “best seen to date,” with 100 percent compliance in its initiatives. The Contract Review Programs, labeled “best seen to date,” were praised for providing “invaluable training for squadron personnel.”

Yokota’s five-person GPC team runs the Pacific’s largest program, with 923 cardholders. Patterson said the team began a “paperless” spreadsheet and e-mail system that reduced final-report turnaround time by three weeks. The team also achieved a 93.3 percent GPC usage rate, above the Air Force goal of 90 percent, and reduced a $1 million backlog of 217 purchase orders to “practically zero.”

Patterson said the success is even more noteworthy because his military members’ deployments tripled during the year. Even Patterson deployed for three months in the global war on terrorism. He credits the civilian workers — including Alexander — for leading the unit during the fiscal year close-out.

“The Japanese … are the majority in the squadron and provide the continuity and stability we need to support our customers,” Patterson wrote Stripes. “Customer service did not suffer” during deployments “because the Japanese nationals graciously stepped up and accomplished the mission.”

Patterson said his staff focuses on two things: the “brilliant at the basics” training program and customer support.

He said his squadron’s final 2004 award had nothing to do with work performance. The unit’s work with the Keimi-Gakuen Orphanage in Ome earned it a Zenkokai Good Deeds Award from the “Good Conduct Association of Japan.” Each year, the nonprofit group, controlled by the Japanese prime minister’s office, awards people and organizations that have done good deeds for the community.

“I am equally proud of the volunteerism and community involvement of the squadron members,” Patterson wrote.

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