WIESBADEN, Germany — Standing in front of what will be a newly constructed kindergarten for more than 50 children and staff in the small village of Drugovac, Serbia, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Betsy Weintraub realized that her career had come full circle.
A Contracting Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Europe District, Weintraub grew up in an impoverished community in Cuba and attended a school located in similar conditions as that of the Serbian school she and the District will help renovate.
"It reminded me so much of Cuba, how everything was deteriorated and in a poor area," said Weintraub. "And then knowing the end result of what we will build...what a huge impact!"
USACE recognized Weintraub as its fiscal year 2020 Excellence in Contracting Awards Program - NCO of the Year during an online ceremony Dec. 9.
Contracting specialists bridge the gap between industry's skills, talents and abilities and the array of U.S. Army needs. These requirements are outlined in a contract that involves advertising, competing, negotiating and awarding, as well as monitoring performance before closing out the job. Depending on the scope of the work, this process can take weeks, months or even years to complete.
"Master Sgt. Weintraub demonstrates everything we look for in an NCO, and she is the epitome of an effective contracting professional," said Col. Patrick J. Dagon, USACE Europe District Commander. “USACE and our stakeholders around the world have benefitted tremendously from her talents and her passion to serve."
In fiscal year 2019, Weintraub personally conducted more than 70 contract actions valued at more than $75 million in support of Europe District missions across 45 locations throughout Europe and Africa. These projects ranged from large to austere and functional humanitarian-assistance ventures, including military housing, medical facilities, missile defense, a combatant command operations center, Department of Defense Schools, barracks, communications facilities, child development centers and theater security cooperation projects.
Slated to start a new assignment in December 2020, Weintraub regards her time serving with Europe District as one of the most rewarding and unique opportunities of her entire career because of the multiple architect and engineering, construction, and service contracts she had the opportunity to help craft.
"The opportunity to come to USACE is rare, and we [contract specialists] look at this as something that is extremely key in our development," she said.
USACE's diversity in contracting opportunities reflects its unique and wide range of support of global U.S. national defense, offering contract specialists a degree of training not found in other Army units.
“Once assigned to USACE, development is taken to a new level where they have the opportunity to master the proficiencies of Military Construction, Architect-Engineering and provide Contingency Contracting support,” said Col. Robert J. Miceli, USACE’s Deputy Chief of Contracting.
While Weintraub says this award humbles her, she's quick to point out it represents the culmination of a career only made possible by volunteering to serve in the U.S. Army, a decision she made after immigrating to the United States from Cuba in December 1997.
"Coming from Cuba at 19 [years old] to a new country with new language and culture...and leaving my family behind … it was one of the most difficult decisions in my life."
But within months of arriving in the United States, she was drawn to the U.S. Army by a commercial promising her the chance to "Be all you Can Be."
By June 1999, Weintraub had enlisted in the U.S. Army as an automated logistical specialist. Then in 2010, while serving in Bamberg, Germany, her Brigade Commander, Lt. Col. Clifford M. Serwe, approached her about becoming a "51-Charlie (51C)," which is a career code for a contracting specialist.
“She was the glue that held our command group together,” said Serwe, now a civilian and serving as Deputy Director of the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services North East in Richmond, Virginia. “She was incredibly hard-working, loyal and had impeccable integrity.”
Soon after that meeting with Serwe, she found herself in a contracting specialist course at what was then called Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, one of only two Army students in the class.
To be considered for this military occupational specialty, a U.S. Army Soldier must have attained the rank of Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, be competitively selected and attain a Bachelor's Degree. Weintraub met those requirements, graduated, and entered the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps.
Since becoming a contracting specialist NCO, her journey to Europe District took her to the 620th Contingency Contracting Team in Rock Island, Illinois; a deployment to Afghanistan with the 902nd Contracting Contingency Battalion; USACE's Huntsville Center in Alabama; and a broadening assignment as a contracting specialist career advisor at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
She also received a Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree within six years of transitioning to a contract specialist and was recently promoted to Master Sergeant.
Today, she is USACE's FY 2020 Excellence in Contracting Awards Program NCO of the Year.
“What set Master Sergeant Weintraub apart in her selection for this year's USACE 51C Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year was her unmatched ability in seeing the strategic picture, anticipating the challenge with second-and third-order of effects, and translating all of that into a seamless tactical execution for our stakeholders,” said Miceli.
"Winning something like this is really testament to the American dream. You can do anything you put your mind to in the U.S.," said Weintraub. "I owe a lot of my accomplishments to the unconditional support of my family and the great mentors and leaders I've had in my career."
As Weintraub reflects on the journey she's traveled, she also looks forward to her next assignment at the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Huntsville.
"Joining the Army was one of the best decisions I made in my career," said Weintraub.
"I love my job. I love contracting. I love changing people's lives."