Diamonds are refined and hardened by pressure, just as those who proudly wear the diamond emblem of the Army’s Finance Corps on their uniforms.
Seeking to refine and prepare those finance and comptroller Soldiers through a series of real-world pressures and scenarios, the evaluation phase of the Army’s Diamond Saber exercise kicked off at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14.
Diamond Saber is a U.S. Army Reserve-led exercise that incorporates participation from all components and joint services. It prepares finance and comptroller Soldiers on warfighting functions such as funding the force, payment support, disbursing operations, accounting, fiscal stewardship, auditability and data analytics.
“As I’ve talked to all the Diamond Saber alumni – the Diamond Saber veterans, if you will – they say it’s going really well,” said Col. John Trevino, 336th Financial Management Support Center director and Diamond Saber exercise director. “While our majority is from the reserve side, we have a lot of active duty and National Guard Soldiers here, and that rounds us out to that total force, one team-one fight concept.
“I’m really thankful for all the support we’ve received from [the U.S. Army Financial Management Command], and I’m really impressed they made this a priority to make sure we received the support we needed,” Trevino added, while also crediting the success thus far to a smaller instructor-to-participant ratio this year.
In total, Diamond Saber has just more than 480 Soldiers taking part in the exercise, one of whom is Army Reserve Sgt. Brett Herdman, a 395th Financial Management Support Unit disbursing manager.
“Starting off this morning, I’ve already seen all three types of transactions,” said Herdman about his first day. “We’ve gotten our exchange transactions, disbursing transactions and collections, and they’ve all been different.”
According to the exercise planners, introducing realism and pressure through unexpected exercise injects is the goal.
“They have a good five or six customers in line that are creating realistic pressure for those Soldiers,” said Capt. Timothy Bowler, 84th Training Command Diamond Saber exercise planner. “What we tend to do in our own units is give them a list of transactions to process, so it’s a completely different feel that we are able to achieve, and that’s always a great thing.”
“They haven’t had cookie-cutter scenarios like we’d have in a class,” explained Herdman. “They’ve been actually throwing some curveballs that have been really advantageous to my Soldiers – it’s been making them think.”
One of those scenarios, right from the start, was having a Soldier dropping off sealed captured currency to the finance offices set up around Fort McCoy with a memo instructing the package not be opened.
“We couldn’t find the proper [standard operating procedure], so we went back and went through the regulation to find out what we needed to do,” recalled Herdman, who was one of the first teams to deal with the scenario. “We were able to learn on the fly, and I wasn’t expecting things, especially on the first day, to be that interesting.”
To aid in creating a realistic atmosphere, the exercise planners worked to create realistic props including the aforementioned sealed cash, stacks of bound foreign and U.S. currency, treasury checks, gold and jewels, and even currency made to look like it’s been contaminated with mold.
“When you put that prop in someone’s hand, you can watch them think about how they’re going to handle it,” said Bowler, who said his kids enjoyed helping him create many of the props just prior to the exercise. “The most fun is when we see the Soldiers embrace the scenario and work as though ‘hey, I’m deployed here and running finance operations in a contingency environment.”
And, the exercise planners say there’s more of the unexpected to come.
“In the next couple days, we have some great injects going out that are going to make some folks scratch their heads,” explained Bowler. “It starts the critical thinking process, and those elements really exercise the mind beyond just ‘Control-F’ in a PDF. That’s what makes the exercise so valuable.”
Many of the finance and comptroller Soldiers will also take part in a financial management support team mission where they will need to move cash downrange in a convoy while providing security and perform their jobs in a contested battlespace.
“In the deployed environment, you never know what’s going to walk in your office,” said Bowler. “Most of these injects are the things we’ve seen down range, that we’ve experienced, and you’re going to get stumped unless you’ve already experienced it.”
Despite all of the hard work and critical thinking needed to be successful at Diamond Saber, Herdman said it’s worth it.
“This is my first Diamond Saber, and I’m actually learning so much more about the finance community than I have the entire six years I’ve been in the military,” said the sergeant. “Learning all these cashier functions, I honestly didn’t know these.