Air Force contracting officer talks about leadership, overseas experiences

Kate Thackrey

Rows of UT ROTC cadets watched a contracting officer for the Air Force talked about his experiences in the service, especially Iraq and Afghanistan on Thursday.

Lieutenant Colonel Ronnie Doud works in aircraft maintenance at the 89th airlift wing, which provides flights for the president, vice president and heads of state. He is also a contracting officer, the one who decides which companies can best provide needed goods and services and making contracts to buy them.  

“I have 20 aircraft, four different types, and we support the vice president on down to some of the combatant-commanders,” Doud said. “I’m a contracting guy launching the president … What a freaking awesome job.”

Doud said his first contract was for $5 million, which increased to spending $14 million a week for the Air Force when he was serving in Iraq. Costs were higher for things like transportation due to the risk involved, but Doud learned to haggle to find more reasonable prices.

“Car dealers hate me,” Doud said.

His job requires sifting through many different government regulations, Doud said.

“The book I use to buy stuff … is about 1,500 pages. The Department of Defense Supplement is another thousand pages. The Air Force supplement, thank God, is about 80 pages. That’s what it takes to buy something from the Air Force,” Doud said.

Doud said he had to immerse himself in the customs and culture while working in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to successfully make deals.

“I got personal contact with the contractors, you get to know their culture, get outside the wire,” Doud said.

When it comes to training, Doud emphasized the importance of leadership.

“It’s important to have excellent officers when you’ve got a thousand 18-year-olds armed to the teeth,” Doud said.

Doud used his experiences to encourage cadets in attendance to become leaders and keep learning to develop their careers.

“There’s nothing special about me,” Doud said. “You could be here one day.”

Sociology sophomore Michelle French said she joined ROTC because she is from a military family, and Doud’s talk helped her see the advantages of her career choice.

“I wanted to go to college before I enlisted,” French said.

Petroleum engineering freshman Joseph Vo said he learned a lot from the talk and thought more about the military as a future job option afterwards.
“I was always interested [in the military] but never really thought of it as a career,” Vo said.