AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar—
The 379th Expeditionary Comptroller Squadron’s responsibilities in financing the fight here are varied and vast. It is nearly impossible to use numbers to represent the impact of their work in the daily lives of each and every person, but it is easy to see that finance is involved in every detail of the fight. Tasked with the oversight of administering operational finances and providing financial assistance for airmen, the members of the 379th ECPTS make it happen every day.
The 379th ECPTS is staffed by fourteen airmen and is divided into two flights, the Financial Management Analysis Flight (FMA) and the Financial Services Flight (FMF).
“We have a small footprint as far as personnel are concerned but a huge impact, not just here at Al Udeid, but across the AOR as well” said Major Raymond Tansil commander, 379th ECPTS. Once you begin to understand what the 379th ECPTS does and how it affects virtually every aspect of deployed life it becomes clear just how much of an understatement the word “huge” is when it comes to describing the squadron’s contribution to life here at Al Udeid.
Tansil points out that the FMA takes care of budget requirements for all squadrons and groups under the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing as well as some of its tenant units. He goes on to explain that while the FMA is busy administering and tracking finances on a base-wide level, the FMF focuses on the nearly 9,000 individual men and women deployed here by addressing military pay, entitlements and customer service.
Simply put, “We pay the bills for the base” said Major Christopher Wilkes, budget officer of the FMA. “We manage all the funds that come down from Air Force Central Command. They send the funding authority and we have the overall purview to distribute out to the groups and then the squadrons to manage.”
The FMA is responsible for making sure all vendors providing services to the base are paid accurately and on time. They are also tasked to distribute budgeted funds and consider funding additional requests from those things that just happen to come up.
“Things don’t always go as planned,” Wilkes said. It is FMA’s responsibility to approve funding for those unforeseen situations that may occur and when necessary he noted, “We may need to request more funding from AFCENT.” The 379th ECPTS is the largest recipient of AFCENT funds in the AOR.
In addition to paying the bills and funding the requests essential to keeping things rolling, FMA can help ensure contracts from vendors are acceptable and clear. Wilkes noted, “We train resource advisers, we work with contracting to make sure they have all the documentation, not just the funding, but the performance work statement which lays out the scope of work.”
“Our mission is to support the financial needs of members deployed to Al Udeid,” said Master Sergeant Roberto Pagan, chief of the Financial Services Flight. As described by Pagan, the FMF has three main programs of responsibility; managing travel pay, managing military pay and dispensing funds.
If you visit the finance office you will find two self-help computers available for use and if you can’t seem to make sense of your travel voucher or charges on your government travel card, someone from FMF will be happy to help. FMF is also staffed with the in-theater experts on permanent party military pay.
The office is open Monday through Friday 0700 – 1800 and Saturday and Sunday from 0900 – 1700. According to Pagan, if you want to avoid the busy times, plan around the Tuesday and Thursday morning rush that occurs after Right Start briefings and the Friday and Saturday morning rush as people use their Eagle Cash Card to convert U.S. Dollars to Qatari riyal for their trip off base.
“It’s an enduring program, it’s here to stay,” said Pagan in reference to the Eagle Cash Card, which is the primary way of conducting financial transactions here at Al Udeid Air Base and the other bases across the AOR. According to Pagan, the card is designed to help reduce fraud and forgery by reducing the amount of U.S. dollars in circulation. “It’s a closed, very safe system” Pagan adds, noting that the eagle cash card has been in use by the military since the early 2000s.
By distributing funds for the construction and maintenance of the buildings and the operations that occur within them; by paying the bills and ensuring the lights and air conditioning units are turned on; by funding the airmen deployed here at Al Udeid so they can perform their duties; and through countless other ways, the Comptroller Squadron is truly financing the fight.