[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                    November 25, 2005

Improved finance training helps units

By Loni Witscheber, Triad Contributor

      Improved finance training at the U.S. Army Reserve Pay Center (UPC) at Fort McCoy helps to ensure Soldier integrity and high morale for the 300-plus Soldiers from approximately 10 different finance detachments taking the course in 2005.

Photo: Students from various Army finance detachments concentrate on course work during the required one-week Finance Training Course at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Loni Witscheber)
Students from various Army finance detachments concentrate on course work during the required one-week Finance Training Course at Fort McCoy . (Photo by Loni Witscheber)

      The training is required for all deploying Army Reserve and Army National Guard finance detachments. The finance training began in 1996, when Soldiers were being deployed to Bosnia.

      "There were no significant problems during the Bosnia rotations because only a few thousand Soldiers were mobilizing at a time," said Maj. Mario R. Beckles, deputy chief of the UPC.  "If we had a significant problem, we could very quickly, within a period of one to two days, solve the problem and it was done."

      This was true up until Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Beckles said.  The problems multiplied due to the large number of Reserve and Guard Soldiers being mobilized, so the finance training had to become much more formalized and standardized.

      UPC instructors teach classes on the Defense Military Pay Office -- Reserve-component software, Reserve pay entitlements, and the Defense Joint Military Pay System-Reserve Component.  A new Reserve-pay system, Forward Compatible Pay, is scheduled to be implemented next summer.

      Soldiers are given a 10-question midterm and a 15-question final practical exercise to gauge their knowledge.  They are allowed to use notes, training material, and the Internet -- just not their "buddies." Beckles said Soldiers are given the same tools and scenarios they'd get in theater and at the end of the class, they receive a graduation training certificate, which for some can mean promotion points.

      "It's very important. The certificate makes everyone pay attention more and reassures us that we have their full attention during the week," said Capt. Douglas R. Kissell, a Reserve Pay training manager.

      "It's neat to see that transformation in just a few days from when students started off knowing basically nothing to being ready to tackle finance scenarios by the end of the week," said Kissell. "It's very important what we do during that one week. Six to eight months from now, the units will be very thankful they went through this training."

      Last year, 429 Soldiers from 19 different finance detachments trained at Fort McCoy.

      "Last year, I had to adapt to the Soldiers schedule.  They're at war and getting ready to go to a war zone," said Beckles.  "Weekends and holidays went out the window as we adjusted our normal schedules to accommodate them." 

      Beckles said the training has matured since then.  The week-long finance training is now at the front-end of a Soldier's schedule before mobilization training to avoid classroom interruptions. In addition to training deploying Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, the UPC also trains active-duty Soldiers deploying to Iraq and civilians interested in Reserve pay.  Finance instructors from Fort McCoy have been sent to Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Shafter, Hawaii; various installations in Germany, etc., to provide finance training. 

      Beckles said it's more cost effective to send two to three instructors to an active- Army installation, instead of flying 28-30 Soldiers to Fort McCoy. Beckles said the 84th U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Command  provides valuable assistance to the UPC.

      "The 84th provides instructors for the first day of the course, who provide instruction on basic entitlements," said Beckles.  "Their extra help has really been appreciated."

      Beckles said this training also would not be possible without the UPC military pay technicians stepping forward and providing their time and expertise.

      The instructors and class are evaluated by student critiques and the U.S. Army Finance Command.  The information gathered is then used to make annual revisions to the course in early January.

(Witscheber  is a Public Affairs specialist for VT Griffin, contractor for Base Augmentation Support Services.)


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