By Sgt. Brandon CoxMay 20, 2019
FORT DRUM, NY -- Soldiers from the 10th Headquarters and Special Troops Battalion, 33rd Financial Management Support Unit and the 510th Human Resources Company conducted a base-defense live-fire exercise here, May 13-17, 2019.
The 33rd FMSU and 510th HR Soldiers are responsible for providing financial and personnel support to the 10th Mountain Division, but while deployed they assume the responsibility for base defense which is stated in the unit's Mission Essential Task List, according to 1st. Sgt. Heili Wooldridge, a native of Mound City, Illinois and the First Sergeant for the 33rd FMSU.
"In order to be ready for full-scale combat operations, we have to be technically and tactically competent," said Maj. Patrick A. Touchard Jr., the commander of the 33rd FMSU.
"The Mountain Paymasters 33rd Finance does both. We're an over the horizon finance force taking care of contract payments in the Central Command area of responsibility, and more importantly, we have to be able to fight alongside our brigade and our division."
"I think a lot of times people outside look at finance Soldiers as just this technical group of individuals, which is a large part of what we do," said Touchard. "But our Soldiers joined the Army to be Soldiers, and that's not all we do."
The commander also spoke about the preparation required for the exercise.
"The Soldiers have done a lot of work over the past month full of firing and qualifying on all of our weapon systems, day and night, using night vision goggles and thermal weapon systems," added Touchard.
"We've really come together, and there is not another finance organization in the United States Army that is executing at the level of lethality that the 33rd FMSU brings to the fight."
Senior NCOs led the charge when it came to training.
We conducted a dry and live-fire coordination that involved sectors of fire, skill level 1 tasks and operating your weapon systems within a bunker to engage and destroy the enemy, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hedges, a senior NCO with the 33rd FMSU and former Infantry Soldier.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to get a Soldier behind their weapon system, they get more familiar and comfortable behind that weapon to become a more effective tool for the Army," said Hedges. "If they end up going on deployment, they may rely on a skill they learned out here."
Approximately 54 Soldiers were a part of the exercise. For some, this was a new experience.
Spc. Gurpreet Cheema, a Finance Management Technician with the 33rd FMSU and native of Waukegan, IL, started his journey into the Army just nine months ago and has enjoyed his experience in the unit.
"I love being with this unit, there is a lot of camaraderie, and our NCOs and senior leaders have that nature about them that you can reach out to them for anything," said Cheema. "I'm learning from the best."
Cheema explained his most important priority for the mission.
"Safety is a high priority," said Cheema. "That is why we had the dry runs so we could get it into muscle memory, so when we go live, there will be a low risk."
The First Sergeant of the 33rd FMSU has her take on how her Soldiers took to the mission.
"A lot of finance Soldiers have never done a DLFX," said Wooldridge. "Right now, I will say that these Soldiers have grown a lot and have definitely impressed us."
Touchard added, "Without a doubt, I believe this is the most premier finance unit in the United States Army. These men and women are very impressive, and I am honored to be a part of this organization."