Fort McCoy News September 13, 2013

Unit receives financial training during Diamond Saber

STORY & PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. JEFF HANSEN
366th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — As an Army Reserve unit with multiple deployments and an important mission, Soldiers with the 368th Financial Management Support Unit (FMSU) find annual training a vital time to hone their skills as a unit.

Finance-related training exercises are very limited. That's where Diamond Saber comes in, a large-scale financial exercise designed to bring the Active and Reserve/Guard finance community together to practice real-life scenarios.

Photo for Diamond Saber article
Soldiers from the 368th Financial Management Support Unit, 451st
Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based in Wichita, Kan., conduct
finance-related training during the Diamond Saber exercise at Fort McCoy.
The 368th was training for future deployments by practicing cash
disbursement, military pay services, trouble ticket research and commercial
vendor services.

The 368th, currently under the 451st Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), has taken part in Diamond Saber since 2003, and they have seen improvements during the last 10 years.

"It's gotten better every year," said Sgt. Johnathon Clark, a unit disbursing agent from Wichita, Kan.

Clark is part of the team that handles the physical money during deployments, one of the many aspects of an FMSU. The disbursing team handles cash handouts for casual pay, vault security and accountability and sustains distribution activities at the physical location in theater.

As Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Groth, internal controls noncommissioned officer in charge, explains Diamond Saber assists the 368th to simulate, to the best of its abilities, the unit's mission in any theater of operations.

Groth ensures the 368th's multiple detachments follow standing operating procedures, verify monetary amounts, and ensure unit operations run smoothly.

He said he was happy with the unit's performance during the exercise, adding that they were "taking care of business" with the various tasks assigned.

Taking care of business may be more important than first expected. The 368th is taking the exercise seriously, as a portion of the unit members is slated for a deployment in the near future. So validating the skills of the unit and individual Soldiers is more important than ever.

"This gives the commander an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of his unit," said Sgt. Maj. Frankie Murphy, senior financial management noncommissioned officer for the 368th. "It tells him what we need to work on when we get home."

Murphy added that 2013 was the first time three detachments of the 368th had been on the exercise at the same time, which greatly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the training.

With a total of five detachments serving nearly constant rotations for deployments, getting the entire unit together is a monumental task, she said.

On top of performing day-to-day financial operations in a simulated theater environment, Soldiers of the 368th also took the opportunity to improve individual job skills by taking classes on things like producing a DD Form 214 (certificate of release or discharge from active duty), Soldier education benefits, and how to distribute casual pay.

The Soldiers take pride in being able to teach themselves, as it then becomes a learning experience for all involved, including the instructors.

It also seems to improve overall job performance, according to Cpl. Alicia Crump, a financial management technician with the 368th.

"This (exercise) has been more productive than I expected," she said. "We've gotten a lot done so far, which is nice."

Spc. Maurissa Shaffer, a financial management technician who taught a class on Soldiers' education benefits, said it was a nice change for her to see everyone filling multiple roles during the training.

"Everyone has their role," she said. "And we've been able to get a lot done in a short period of time."

Murphy said she and her staff are proud of their Soldiers, and that they are performing as well as the command expected. After attending this exercise for several years, she knows that an annual training can be draining on Soldiers, but she is happy with how things have been going.

"They've done excellent here," Murphy said. "Morale is high, and the Soldiers are excited about their training."