By Karin Mast, Triad Contributor
A Soldier's morale can be significantly affected by paycheck
errors. That's why Soldiers
and civilians are receiving pay training from the U.S. Army Reserve
Pay Center (UPC) at Fort McCoy: to ensure the correct amount appears
on the paycheck of each reserve-component Soldier at the right time.
Susan M. Bjorkman, a Military Pay
technician at the U.S. Army Reserve Pay Center, briefs a class
of Soldiers from the 3rd Detachment of the 374th Finance
Battalion. (Photo by
The UPC at Fort McCoy began providing reserve-component pay
training in 1996 in response to the mobilization of units for Bosnia
rotations. With the start
of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), UPC started providing increased
pre-deployment reserve-component pay training to select Active Army,
Army Reserve and Army National Guard units.
"The training was our way of providing a proactive versus
reactive approach to pay problems," said Maj. Mario Beckles,
deputy Reserve Ray officer at the UPC. "We visited and provided
training at the Defense Military Pay Offices on each installation and
have hit all 15 power-projection platforms since Sept. 11, 2001."
Pay issues during early OIF rotations prompted U.S. Army Forces
Command to require each mobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard
finance unit to receive reserve-component pay training from the UPC at
For OIF III, the
UPC will train approximately 20 finance units, totaling nearly 150
Army Reserve Soldiers and more than 250 Army National Guard Soldiers.
One such unit is the 3rd Detachment of the 374th Finance
Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based at Fort Lee, Va. The unit
arrived at Fort McCoy in early November for one week of pay training
with the UPC; two weeks of finance training from the Army Finance
School, Army Finance Command, and the Defense Finance and Accounting
Service (DFAS) on disbursing, vendor pay and additional finance
software; and several weeks of general training for mobilization in
support of OIF.
"This training is incredibly valuable - some answers
aren't available in a textbook," said 1st Lt. Patience Brown,
unit commander for the 3rd of the 374th.
"The trainers have been able to provide us information,
prepare us for common in-theater mistakes and how to fix them, and
answer our own questions. In
addition, we have a much better understanding of how an incorrect
paycheck can impact a Soldier's morale."
Chief among the causes for Reserve Pay issues is a computer
software system originally designed to pay Soldiers for weekend drills
and short periods of active duty. While good for paying weekend drills, it did not include
automated options for payments of low-density entitlements or new
entitlements authorized by Congress in recent years - all requiring
manual, time-consuming workarounds, said Eric Reid in a recent Army
News Service article. Reid
is the DFAS liaison and chief of Finance & Accounting Oversight
and Field Operations Division, Army Finance Command.
To combat the outdated pay system and ensure that each Soldier
receives the correct entitlements, UPC training at Fort McCoy includes
classes on the Defense Military Pay Office - Reserve Component
software, reserve-component pay entitlements, and soon will include
training on the new pay software, Forward Compatible Pay System, which
is scheduled to go online in March 2005.
"We're looking forward to training on the new pay system
because it will help us avoid a lot of our current pay issues,"
said Beckles. "The new system has a lot of promise."
In the meantime, Fort McCoy will continue to provide Reserve
pay training to finance units and other Defense Military Pay Offices.
Nearly 600 Soldiers and civilians received training from the UPC
during FY 04, a significant increase over previous years.
Citing competent staff and prompt initiative, Beckles believes
this increased role in training for units and offices nationwide is a
triumph for Fort McCoy. "We
are, after all, the experts when it comes to Reserve Pay."
(Mast is a Public Affairs specialist for VT
Griffin Services Inc., contractor for Base Augmentation Support