By Maj. Lindsey ElderAugust 8, 2017
When people think about Talisman Saber, they envision amphibious assault vehicle landings, combined airborne operations and U.S Soldiers and Marines feeding koalas. Few think about the man hours required to manage what keeps combined training going besides manpower: resources. With an approximate $6.5 million budget and 30,000 participants, that's a lot of supplies and services to pay for. Providing professional financial management oversight of that mission takes a talented team.
Exercise Talisman Saber is the largest combined military exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and provides invaluable experience to ADF personnel to improve combat training, readiness and interoperability, exposing participants to a wide spectrum of military capabilities and training experiences. Such a requirement provides a tremendous opportunity for the financial managers of the 175th Financial Management Support Center (FMSC), 8th Theater Sustainment Command from Fort Shafter Hawaii, to show what they were capable of in support of the joint force.
"The Army is the executive agent this year; so U.S Army Pacific G8 is the main funding source for consolidating the funding, and then executing the payments through teams like ours," said 1st Lt. Luserito Quisido, Chief Accounting Officer for the 175th FSMC.
Quisido led a dispersing team of six financial management soldiers and airmen overseeing all Acquisition and Cross Service Agreements (ACSA) and contracted support throughout the exercise, and then some. Because when all the patches have been traded, the closing ceremony is complete, and the training audience heads home, the 175th FMSC mission continues on until every financial obligation of the US Government is met.
"While the G8 is budgeting for the Army overall, on the financial operation side we oversee the disbursing execution of funds onsite. We work with the contracting and logistics representatives in soliciting and working with the vendors to help get what our soldiers need while working with the hosting partner nation," Quisido said.
Quisido explained this year they are using General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS), a still relatively new financial management system. Talisman Saber is the first time GFEBS has been implemented in a large scale joint exercise. The system allows the team to do everything electronically, to include applying lines of accounting, allocating funds, processing the payment, almost all the way to the actual dispersement.
"From Australia, we create a 'ready to pay' file inside GFEBS and this is where the disbursing team in Hawaii will receive the files. Most of the contracts we do are funding for real life support; things like food, rental vehicles, porta potties. Anything that goes to support the Soldiers there. This exercise can have about 40 to 50 contracts with local vendors, and some are huge. Everything from vehicle contracts that spread around different regions in Australia to contracts with the Australian Government for food we're using in their dining facilities, to supporting training locations like Rockhampton where Soldiers are in tent cities on Australian Army Bases," Quisido said.
The 175th FMSC provides teams to support not only major exercises like Talisman Saber, but exercises and missions throughout the Pacific, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and throughout deployments with multiple parts, like Pacific Pathways. Daily, the 175th FMSC operates as the central Army banking liaison for the entire pacific area of operation, which includes 36 countries and U.S. engagement with seven of the world's largest armies. The unit is responsible for funding all exercise related contracts and supporting paying agents for various exercises and joint organizations such as the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). The 175th FMSC also provides IT oversight and helpdesk support for financial management systems, and conducts audits and internal control inspections/training to the pacific theater financial management support units.
The command supports all Pacific Pathways deployments, which can be overwhelming considering they're conducted across 16 time zones and the 9,000 mile wide Pacific region. Talisman Saber brought one of their biggest challenges to date.
"For Pacific Pathways normal routine business, a rough estimate for a fiscal year we could get about 200 payments that go through this office. Some are really tiny, some are more than $25,000. In this one exercise, what we do for Talisman Saber, is larger than what we do in an average fiscal year," Quisido said.
The U.S. - Australia relationship is a cornerstone of regional stability, and the readiness and training experience Talisman Saber offered invaluable. The experience was as an opportunity shared with Soldiers from 125th Financial Management Support Unit, 25th Infantry Division, and Airmen from Pacific Air Forces.
"We are incredibly proud of the joint disbursing team. They provided professional financial operations support to a dynamic and complex multi-national exercise. The experience gleaned a myriad lessons we will use to continue to build our readiness, said Col. Nicholas LaSala, Director of the 175th FMSC.