Money Matter: 143d ESC, 336th FMSC, fight fast with financial management during Diamond Saber
FORT MCCOY, Wis. –
“Money is my military, each dollar a soldier. I never send my money into battle unprepared and undefended.”
~ Kevin O’Leary
Although O’Leary—a Canadian author, entrepreneur and television personality—was referring to his half billion dollar fortune, his words expose the Achilles Heel of nearly every individual and organization on the planet: money.
The U.S. Army, in particular, aligns with O’Leary’s analogy. With billions of dollars dedicated to training, equipping and caring for more than a million men and women in uniform, the Army seeks competent Soldiers who can conduct its countless and complex financial transactions. Those Soldiers are often assigned to sections and even platoon-sized elements dedicated to the understanding of all things pecuniary. Compartmentalizing financial intellect offers the Army the distinct advantage of enhancing readiness through realistic training in the art of money management.
Diamond Saber is an annual training exercise devoted to teaching, mentoring and certifying Soldiers operating within the Army’s intricate financial system. Conducted in Ft. McCoy, Wis., from Aug. 14-24, 2017, the exercise drew more than 650 Soldiers from the Army’s active, Reserve and National Guard components.
“Diamond Saber prepares units to deploy overseas by exposing Soldiers to financial activities found in theater,” said U.S. Army Col. Gregory T. Hinton, commander, 336th Financial Management Support Center. “The exercise combines classroom instruction with realistic training scenarios that cover a wide variety of tasks, missions and systems.”
These financial functions range from cashing checks and exchanging funds to resolving military pay issues and documenting captured currency. Based out of Lake Charles, La., the 336th FMSC demonstrated their expertise on these and other monetary subjects by developing policies, answering questions and providing technical support for Soldiers engaged in classrooms and simulations.
“We’re the financial advisors for this exercise,” said Hilton, a native of Fairmont, W. Va. “Our role here is very similar to what we do downrange.”
While the 336th FMSC supported the operational aspects of Diamond Saber, four Soldiers from the 143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), a 10,000 Soldier command headquartered in Orlando, Fla., immersed themselves in the exercise’s tactical side. Their participation marked a major milestone in the exercise’s 12-year history.
“This is the first time Diamond Saber has integrated Soldiers operating at the G8 (general officer, finance) level,” said U.S. Army Capt. Steven Andrews, comptroller, 143d ESC. “Prior to the exercise, our section attended several planning sessions to help ensure Diamond Saber’s curriculum was applicable to G8 level tasks.”
These planning sessions resulted in Andrews and his fellow 143d ESC Soldiers studying in a small classroom separated from the larger lecture halls housing hundreds of Soldiers at Ft. McCoy’s Financial Management Warrior Training Center.
“The specialized class size allowed our instructors to focus on G8 related functions such as vendor contracts, purchase orders and lines of accounting,” said Andrews, a Philadelphia, Pa., native. “The coursework also taught us how to provide better guidance and improved service to our downtrace units.”
The lectures and simulations also exposed Andrews and his team to the Army’s General Fund Enterprise Business System, a financial asset and financial accounting management web application.
“GFEBS is a powerful tool,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Victor T. Rosario, budget analyst, 143d ESC. “Its numerous features make it a bit overwhelming at first, but the daily practice, thorough instruction and graded tests should give us a firm foundation for our eventual mastery of this complex program.”
“Most Reserve Soldiers have little exposure to GFEBS prior to coming to Diamond Saber,” added Andrews. “As long as we continually take advantage of opportunities to maximize our exposure to GFEBS, then we will be successful in our mission.”
While most of the 143d ESC’s counterparts live and study in the relative comfort, the 143d ESC Soldiers must retain vast stockpiles of information while working in field conditions.
“Most of the 143d ESC is engaged in a CSTX (Combat Sustainment Support Exercise),” explained Rosario, a native of St. Cloud, Fla. “Since CSTX emulates a deployed environment, we must sleep in tents and walk through rugged terrain with our weapons and field gear during our daily commutes to and from the classroom.”
For Rosario, the long days are worth the effort as Diamond Saber also provides opportunities to complete online certifications.
“NCOs (Noncommissioned Officers) in my field must complete a series of online classes before we can attend our respective NCOES (Noncommissioned Officer Education System) courses,” said Rosario. “Completing these courses is essential to promotion and career progression. I am grateful Diamond Saber’s administrators afforded us the time to earn a few certifications.”
While Diamond Saber lacks the mass maneuvers and cinematic firefights found in front line field exercises, its presence signifies the Army’s understanding that ample funding and effective fighting are equally important in winning wars.
“Soldiers must be physically, mentally and financially ready to deploy,” said Hinton, who, when not wearing the uniform, serves as the command executive officer for the 79th Theater Support Command headquartered in Los Alamitos, Calif. “If the Army Reserve expects its Soldiers to deploy anywhere in the world in less than 30 days, then our financial units and sections must be masters of our craft. Diamond Saber helps ensure our Soldiers fight and win without the crippling effects of disputed contracts, misappropriated funds and unresolved pay issues.”
Story and Photos by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, 143d ESC