The ‘Month of May’ brought experts from around the world to Indianapolis to become faster and more efficient than ever, and not just with Indy cars.
With a drive to take care of the Army’s Soldiers and families better than ever, U.S. Army Financial Management Command Army Military Pay Office leaders gathered together for the first AMPO leadership forum in four years at the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center in Indianapolis May 10-12.
“Not only were people were happy to see each other for the first time in many years, but also the amount of great ideas and feedback that was generated was just phenomenal,” said Susan Gillison, USAFMCOM Military Pay Operations director.
“It allowed us to come together and network face-to-face for the first time in a long time, and we were able to have those sidebars that help us solve the problems we’re facing,” added David Haggett, Fort Drum AMPO military pay supervisor, who has more than 32 years of military pay experience in and out of uniform.
Throughout the three-day forum, subject matter experts from USAFMCOM, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and other U.S. Army organizations covered a variety of topics including military pay operations, human resources, debt and claims, SmartVoucher for permanent change of station moves, fraud, ethics, and Army-specific functions.
USAFMOCM’s leadership started the forum by thanking the nearly 70 AMPO employees in attendance for their service to Soldiers and Army families while acknowledging many of the complex issues the employees face daily.
“When there’s a pay problem, everyone looks at you all,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth F. Law, USAFMCOM senior enlisted advisor. “When I’m out and about, I have fellow leaders come up to me when they have a pay issue and say, ‘hey, battle, someone forgot to click the pay button,’ but there are many, many buttons in that process.
“What that tells me is they think what you do is easy because they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes,” Law added. “When people say they have a pay issue, they are correct; but, the real question is, ‘where does the issue stem from, and how do we get out in front and educate the stakeholders on fixing the root cause of those issues?’”
The forum also allowed USAFMCOM’s senior leaders the chance to directly interact with and answer questions from the field.
“It’s important to realize what this was all about – collaboration,” said Barry W. Hoffman, USAFMCOM deputy to the commander. “Personnel issues, skill issues, issues at the garrison-level, communication issues – these all came up, and people were able to share how they are effectively managing and overcoming those obstacles.”
“The networking was important, but the information was so much more vital to me as I’ve been with the command about two years, and as a Marine Corps veteran, I’m still getting used to how the Army operates and does things,” said La'Darius Davis, Fort Rucker AMPO supervisor.
With two years under his belt as an Army employee, Davis isn’t far behind the rest of the AMPO employees, many of whom recently became Army employees themselves when USAFMCOM assumed the military pay operations mission from DFAS in 2020.
“This was so helpful to me. From learning about different ways of hiring and processing military separations, to understanding more about how our command functions and why we do what we do,” Davis continued. “We need to keep doing this so people can understand and be inspired by the why of what we do, which is helping Soldiers and their families, ensuring they are good to go, so they can protect us on the battlefield.”
USAFMCOM’s leadership team was also able to use the forum as a vehicle to discuss recent and ongoing changes to the AMPO structure, since the military pay mission was absorbed from DFAS two years ago.
“Our installations are organized functionally, according to training, readiness and sustainment, so it made sense for us to organize our AMPOs along those same lines,” said Col. Paige M. Jennings, USAFMCOM commander, explaining how the command recently realigned the five AMPO branches.
“Now, the AMPOs should be able to tackle problems with the help of the other AMPOs in their branch who are facing similar issues, and the regional centers in those branches should now be able to specialize to support those same types of issues,” Jennings explained. “If they are in that training niche, they should know what those training challenges are, and create a workforce there to address those specific needs.”
She also said the command continues to drive toward finding the right mix and grade-level of employees at each location in order to meet the needs of the Army and employees.
“You are all experts in your field, and we want you to know that we are here for you, and we are going to support you,” she concluded. “Continue to give us those great ideas, and we will do everything at our level to support the work you are doing for our Soldiers and their families.”
USAFMCOM conducts enterprise-level financial operations, provides technical coordination for finance and comptroller units and military pay support with commands across the Army, in order to ensure the effective implementation of policies and programs to support optimally resourcing the Army and supporting Soldiers.