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June 22, 2012

Training

Finance exercise prepares troops for future missions, deployments

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Finance units participating in the Diamond Saber Exercise at Fort McCoy trained on the latest techniques and systems and with personnel they may work with during future deployments. The exercise was held June 3-16.

Gary Penn, the director of the Defense Military Pay Office at Fort Hood, Texas, said the exercise challenged active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Finance Soldiers through scenarios they likely would encounter in an overseas theater. Many of the financial personnel involved in the exercise are scheduled to deploy at a future date.
PHOTO: Soldiers perform a variety of roles and functions during Diamond Saber 2012. Photo by Maj. John Reynolds
Soldiers from active- and reserve-component units perform a variety of roles and functions during Diamond Saber 2012. The exercise was held from June 3-16 and included training on military pay, disbursing, and cashier operations, as well as mission-essential task list objectives, such as commercial vendor services and maintaining financial information systems. (Photo by Maj. John Reynolds)

“This is real-world training,” Penn said. “This helps them prepare for a deployment or helps get them ready to go.”

This year, exercise personnel arrived at Fort McCoy and immediately reported to their stations for training as they would do if they were deployed for a financial-support mission, he said. The training covered the financial systems they would use and how to input financial information and any support documentation to handle military pay needs during deployment.

Capt. Wandlyn Robinson, the commander of the 230th Finance Company, an active-duty unit from Fort Carson, Colo., said the training was good for her unit in a variety of ways. Unit members could train on all the processing and procedures required during deployments, which can be different than carrying out their mission in a garrison setting.

“Since we cover a lot of territory and the nearest finance unit is at Fort Hood, Texas, it was a good opportunity to meet other finance personnel from all components. It gave us a chance to talk to them and see how they conducted business,” Robinson said. “We could all be deployed together and working (on a mission) together. We need them just as much as they need us.”

The training also helped all active-duty and reserve-component finance personnel involved in the exercise understand each other’s skill set. Robinson said each unit identified its strengths and weaknesses and subject-matter experts. The units shared their expertise and used the opportunity to improve weak areas.

Another advantage of the training is units can face turnover, especially at this time of year when there are a lot of career-progression and permanent-change-of-station transactions, she said.

The training is helpful to the new people. Many of the reserve-component personnel are fresh out of advanced individual training so they have been taught the latest financial information and can share it.

By meeting their financial counterparts, they also get good contact information, she said. If they are going to work together with these units on future missions, they can build on the relationships they develop and also lay the groundwork for creating standing operating procedure manuals.

Capt. Charlton Matthews, executive officer, and Sgt. Maj. Beverly Arena, the sergeant major for financial operations for the 153rd Financial Management Company, an Army National Guard unit from Florida, said it was a good opportunity to train for deployment. A unit involved in the exercise is scheduled to replace one of the 153rd’s units in-theater.

“We were able to open up a line of communication so they know what is happening,” Matthews said.

Arena said the exercise allowed the unit to train as a whole. Sections of the unit have been deployed, and they can share that information with other unit members. Unit members also can ask questions about the mission, learn to do their assignments and work with Soldiers from the other components.

“When Soldiers are standing in line waiting for service, they don’t see differences (between active- and reserve-component Soldiers),” she said.” All they see is someone wearing the uniform, and they want to get service.”

The training also allows for cross-training of unit members to build depth so the unit can function if personnel are not available because of deployments, etc., Arena said.

Matthews and Arena said the exercise also brings the troops together to work on a continuous basis, unlike their drilling status, which might see them together infrequently for the weekend or two-week annual training sessions.

“We’re together 12 hours a day (during the exercise), and it allows us to see how we would work together on an extended basis,” Matthews said. “We can identify subject-matter experts, put everyone in the right roles and be ready to hit the ground running when we’re deployed.”

Two Army Reserve Active Guard/Reserve representatives, Sgt. Maritera Paz, who was attached to the 413th Financial Management Detachment, and Sgt. Jorge Hernandez of the 398th Financial Management Detachment, both of Puerto Rico, said everyone brought something to the exercise. Paz served as the military pay noncommissioned officer (NCO) for her unit, while Hernandez is the training NCO for his unit.

Personnel involved in the exercise performed tasks from the beginning to the end. The training scenarios were very complete and allowed them to react to different situations, Hernandez said. Informational management officer personnel also were present to help ensure the pay programs functioned properly, a key ingredient in providing pay service.

“We could have our subject-matter experts exchange information,” Hernandez said. “We also can take the information we have learned here back to the unit and act as train-the-trainers for other personnel.”

Paz added she will take the information she learned back to her home unit in Ohio and share updates about the systems with them.

“As a budget manager, I was exposed to other areas,” she said. “We now have contact points we can call if we need information.”

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