By Master Sgt. Jonathan WileyMarch 27, 2019
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- If the statement rappers Sean Combs and Biggie Smalls made famous back in the late 1990s is true -- "Mo Money, Mo Problems" -- the Soldiers of the 18th Financial Management Support Center (FMSC) should be in a world of hurt right about now.
The 18th FMSC, which falls under the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), and provides theater-level financial management support for operations throughout the U.S. Army Central (USARCENT) area of responsibility (AOR), is scheduled to deploy to southwest Asia early summer 2019.
Once there, on any given day, the Soldiers will be responsible for disbursing and managing around $80 million dollars, said Col. Les Barnett, director of 18th FMSC.
That could be a lot of problems, but Barnett said he is confident his Soldiers will handle the mission with ease.
"We prepare for this every day," he said. "As the 1st TSC FMSC, we provide oversight for the FMSC that's in the (U.S. Central Command) theater who works for the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. That's who we will work for when we deploy."
Still, as all Soldiers know, the key to any success is rehearsal, so the 18th FMSC conducted a capstone training event March 17-22 at Hill Hall. Over the course of several days, Soldiers worked on simulated problems like those they will encounter downrange. Their performance was monitored and evaluated by personnel from the USARCENT, assistance chief of staff, G-8 section.
"The exercise was designed to test the Soldiers skills for all areas of financial support," Barnett said. "The biggest component of that is military pay support. We're the ones who make sure Soldiers get their combat zone tax exclusions, hardship duty pays, and other entitlements for deployed Soldiers. We also take care of any pay issues that may arise when Soldiers are deployed."
In addition to military pay support, the 18th FMSC will also be responsible for disbursing cash.
"We will make sure Soldiers' Eagle Cash cards work, and we'll also be responsible for making sure that those in austere locations can get a casual pay of $50 or $100 or whatever amount while they're deployed," Barnett said. Eagle Cash cards are alternatives to cash, debit cards, credit cards, and checks. Funds are loaded onto an Eagle Cash card, which is linked to the cardholder's personal banking account, he explained.
Finally, the 18th FMSC will also be responsible for paying for commercial vendor services in theater.
"We're not the ones who fund contracts -- that is the responsibility of resources managers. We're also not responsible for managing contracts, but we're the unit who will actually pay for goods delivered and services rendered," Barnett said.
To effectively execute this mission, Barnett said the unit has five different sections -- policy and plans, information, accounting, internal control, and banking.
Barnett said the 18th FMSC will be responsible for accounting for every dollar that passes through its Soldiers hands down to the penny.
"If we're missing one cent, that requires a memorandum for record for how we lost that cent," he said. "We train our Soldiers to treat cash like a property book officer would treat any piece of equipment and give it the same respect."
Barnett said he does not expect to have to sign many memorandums though. Over 80 percent of the 18th FMSC Soldiers have at least one deployment under their belts, and he is confident the team will perform well.
The unit will replace the U.S. Army Reserve 398th FMSC out of Fort Belvoir, Va., and is expected to be downrange for nine months.
While there, the 18th FMSC, along with the rest of the 1st TSC, will provide the warfighter what they need before they know they need it throughout the USARCENT AOR.