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A Financial Management Support Operations Team's Deployment to Kuwait

The 1st Sustainment Brigade (the "Durable Brigade") deployed to Kuwait in April 2010 to support the responsible drawdown of forces and equipment from Iraq and the transition to Operation New Dawn. This mission provided our unit, the brigade's financial management support operations (FM SPO) team, with many valuable experiences and lessons learned.

Our journey to Kuwait began at our home station, Fort Riley, Kansas, where the FM SPO concept of support for the upcoming mission was, at first, ambiguous. We had little to guide us in our preparations except doctrine. As we developed an initial picture of what our niche was going to be for the drawdown, we recognized that we would have to be both proactive and creative.

Directed Mission-Essential Task List

Before the predeployment site survey (PDSS) in January 2010, we sought lessons learned from previous FM SPOs' deployment experiences. But such information was scant. The lessons learned from one FM SPO's experience might not apply to our situation; however, these lessons, along with doctrine, did allow us to begin developing our FM SPO directed mission-essential task list (DMETL). The 1st Sustainment Brigade emphasized the development of the DMETL to prepare for the command post exercise–sustainment and subsequently for the deployment.

From an FM SPO point of view, the development and refinement of the DMETL was a value-added task. It helped us to anticipate what we thought we might be doing based on doctrine, the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the FM SPO already in Kuwait (part of the 593d Sustainment Brigade), our mission, our commander's intent, our FM SPO structure and skill sets, and our own creative input. The FM SPO DMETL was a living document, and we modified it throughout our deployment.

The development of the FM SPO DMETL, coupled with working and consulting with our 593d Sustainment Brigade counterparts, helped us to visualize the future.

Spartan Field Kitchen

Predeployment Site Survey

Our journey took us to Arifjan, Kuwait, in January 2010 to better grasp how our FM SPO team would function in terms of battle rhythm and future operations. This visit also provided us with a picture of the logistics footprint and capabilities in Kuwait.

We learned that finance operations in Kuwait were relatively static. However, the drawdown of personnel and equipment from Iraq would require proactive finance operations to anticipate future finance support requirements throughout Kuwait and Iraq. Increased oversight of finance operations and an effective internal control program would also be crucial to ensuring that funds and equipment were properly safeguarded.

The primary focus for the 1st Sustainment Brigade's commander during the drawdown would be the rapid withdrawal and distribution of equipment. FM operations, therefore, had to appear seamless to the commanders of the 1st Sustainment Brigade and the 1st Special Troops Battalion so that FM concerns did not detract attention from the main effort—the drawdown.

During the PDSS, we attended key FM meetings and events, including the technical update brief and the FM SPO and FM company synchronization meeting, and we also met with key FM stakeholders to establish initial relationships.

From an operational perspective, we learned several things. The future disposition of FM units in Kuwait, based on the drawdown of forces in Iraq, was crucial. To support future disposition of FM EagleCash card kiosks, an EagleCash card depot was being set up in Arifjan; this depot would be manned by two personnel from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, who would fix, refurbish, and relocate machines as necessary.

The recent turnover of FM units in Kuwait would make it necessary for the FM SPO to continue to work closely with the financial management center's (FMC's) internal control section and the FM company to ensure that policies, procedures, and processes were standardized across the finance detachments. Finally, the ongoing effort to reduce the use of cash, initiated by Third U.S. Army and U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) in a fragmentary order, had been successful.

We concluded that the brigade's FM SPO team would have to work closely with other 1st Sustainment Brigade elements to synchronize FM support in Kuwait. We would also have to develop a mutually supporting flow of information among the FM SPO team, the 326th FMC (the incoming FMC), and the 210th FM Company. Our priorities of effort would be maintaining optimal finance support for Soldiers in Kuwait, stringent accountability of FM resources, and overall support of the responsible drawdown as it related to FM operations in Kuwait.

FM SPO attendance at the PDSS was crucial in solidifying our role and helping us to establish priorities. It also helped us to refine our DMETL, our concept of support, and our quest for opportunities to improve operations. Most notably, it helped us to begin establishing a sound working relationship with the FM units in Kuwait, including the 326th FMC, the 210th FM Company, and the ARCENT resource managers.

FM SPO Concept of Support

With the PDSS behind us, our team began to develop our FM SPO concept of support. The final concept was the result of 4 months of predeployment preparation. Because the 1st Sustainment Brigade's commander included FM support as a key task for our upcoming mission, the concept of support laid the foundation for combining all of the knowledge we had gained and exploiting it to support our purpose and to allow us to take the initiative.

Our concept of support focused on establishing the needed flow of information between the 1st Sustainment Brigade and the FM community, ensuring that EagleCash card machines and FM units were correctly located to accommodate projected changes in Kuwait, and providing capabilities that met both FM and sustainment principles (most notably economy, responsiveness, integration, and anticipation).

We briefed our concept twice before our deployment. These briefings were designed to educate ourselves as well as the 1st Sustainment Brigade commander, the SPO, and the traditional "Napoleonic" staff (personnel, intelligence, and so forth). The development and communication of our FM concept of support helped us to establish credibility as valued members of the 1st Sustainment Brigade team, provided a picture of our role in the responsible drawdown and beyond, and energized us to begin thinking about how to tackle the first 60 days of our deployment.

Strategy for Success

When the brigade deployed to Kuwait in April 2010, we immediately developed a philosophy and vision to guide our actions. We established the mutually supporting flow of information we knew we needed. To educate the finance and sustainment communities, we also established a strategic communications plan to tell our story.

We learned that establishing an "FM SPO Philosophy and Vision" allowed us to anticipate events, maximize creativity, broaden our area of influence, and increase our relevance in the sustainment community.

Sustainment and FM principles are virtually the same. If integration is the most crucial principle in sustainment and coordination is the most crucial factor in achieving integration, then coordination is arguably the fundamental requirement for mission success for sustainment. Our focus on the commander's intent and coordination with the entire FM community, the 1st Sustainment Brigade staff, and force providers helped us to achieve our desired goals of maintaining combat readiness and providing proactive mission support.

Our vision and philosophy as a team also led us to create an FM SPO website to share knowledge with all FM SPOs in the Army and to develop an initiative to provide logistics case studies, based on real challenges during the responsible drawdown, to academic researchers like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Our initial strategy for success included meeting with all key stakeholders in the FM community and establishing mutually supporting relationships that would last throughout the deployment. This allowed the FM SPO team to assess the situation, establish a common operating picture, and visualize opportunities. The Fiscal Fitness Hotline, for example, was established to fill a visible gap in support that we had the capability to fill.

Fiscal Fitness Hotline

The Fiscal Fitness Hotline created by the FM SPO team was designed to keep the brigade and its subordinate battalions fiscally healthy and to support comprehensive Soldier financial fitness. The hotline provided battalion commanders with a way to receive feedback on fiscal law, resource management, and funding issues so they could make resource-informed decisions. If the fiscal triad (finance, resource management, and contracting) is a legally binding process governing the procurement process, then the hotline was a coordination process to ensure that commanders were making resource-informed decisions to, as the brigade commander put it, "support first, as long as [it is] not illegal, unethical, or immoral."

The hotline—

  • Provided combat readiness and mission direct support.
  • Enhanced our operational reach outside of our area of operations.
  • Fostered better integration of FM operations into sustainment operations.
  • Ensured that 1st Sustainment Brigade Soldiers received everything to which they were ethically and statutorily entitled.

The hotline allowed us to address questions or concerns on EagleCash cards, pay entitlements, and theater finance policies. This initiative permitted the 1st Sustainment Brigade to adopt a proactive stance in maintaining fiscal discipline while supporting the customer and readiness. It also demonstrated the implementation of sustainment and financial principles, specifically anticipation and stewardship, and helped the FM SPO team to stay relevant. It also allowed the FM SPO to act as a coordinating and analysis cell and permitted effective collaboration to overcome the FM SPO team's collective lack of resource management experience.

Through the hotline, we helped over 100 Soldiers and their families with various fiscal issues. The concept of this hotline has the potential to be used in other sustainment brigades.

Lines of Effort

The FM SPO strategic communications efforts synchronized all brigade efforts to achieve specific results in all tactical, operational, and strategic lines of operation. Of these lines of operation, the FM SPO developed specific lines of effort to reach intended audiences of the FM and sustainment communities.

Our strategic line of effort was the reduction of U.S. currency in use throughout the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. Our operational lines of effort included finance operations, resource management, planning and operations, funding the force, banking and disbursing operations, pay support, internal control, accounting support, and cost management. Our effects campaigns were designed to inspire, educate, and inform.

Our relief in place/transfer of authority with the 593d Sustainment Brigade's FM SPO team highlighted our challenges and opportunities. It demonstrated that FM SPOs were being used in many capacities. One was taking the lead in the contracting cell; another was splitting the team into core competencies, with one officer serving as the operational finance expert, another managing brigade contracts, and the last serving as the resource management expert.

In our case, our entire FM SPO team focused on operational finance and had no direct responsibility for contracting or resource management. The resource management function was managed by the brigade S–4, and the contracting function was managed by our host-nation cell.

The reality is that each FM SPO's experience will be unique based on the strategy, structure, skill sets, culture, and mission that each commander faces or establishes. It is feasible that the sustainment brigade replacing us will use their FM SPO team differently than our brigade did.

Strategic Communications Activities

The FM SPO team consistently had a proactive role in public affairs and strategic communications through the publication of articles. To date, our team has published five information papers, participated in four key leader engagements, and drafted articles for (the monthly newsletter of the Army Financial Management School), magazine, the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, the 1st Sustainment Brigade's , and Third Army's . Our intent was to add to the collective body of knowledge and experiences of an FM SPO and to contribute our talents to 1st Sustainment Brigade events.

One such event was the brigade 9/11 Remembrance Run. This event attracted over 1,600 participants, including champion ultrarunner Scott Jurek. Another event was a showing of the Army-Navy football game video, which played in front of 60,000 spectators in December 2010.

Our publications have reached the American people, the entire Finance Corps, 1st Sustainment Brigade Soldiers and their families, and the sustainment community. With the development of our FM SPO website, which has been networked to other FM SPOs, FMCs, and senior leaders, we provided an opportunity for those interested to access lessons learned and view a comprehensive picture of our deployment.

Managing EagleCash Card Kiosks

As the 1st Sustainment Brigade conducted its critical role in the responsible drawdown from Iraq and set the conditions for Operation New Dawn, the FM community was making its own crucial contribution through the refurbishment and redistribution of EagleCash card kiosks to support the fight in Afghanistan. In August 2010, the FM SPO team visited the Kuwaiti Equipment Depot to understand the process of retrograding EagleCash card kiosks.

In concert with the 326th FMC, the 138th FM Company, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and the Kuwaiti Equipment Depot, the FM SPO team supported CENTCOM's Near Cashless Campaign to decrease the amount of cash on the battlefield.

The process of refurbishing and redistributing EagleCash card kiosks during the responsible drawdown began when a base in Iraq closed, which triggered coordination with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The kiosks then were sent to the Joint Military Mail Terminal in Kuwait. The terminal called the Kuwaiti Equipment Depot at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, to coordinate the pickup of the kiosks. The depot recovered the files from the kiosks, and if they were functioning properly, the kiosks were refurbished as required for redistribution to various locations in the world. Kiosks that were not functioning properly were sent back to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston for further disposition. This process took about 2 weeks.

The FM SPO monitored trends in the use of Eagle Cash cards, educated Soldiers on the benefits of using EagleCash, and supported the 1st Sustainment Brigade in addressing any EagleCash card issues through the Fiscal Fitness Hotline. In Kuwait and Qatar alone, the use of EagleCash removed on average $1 million dollars of cash every month in transactions.

The design of the Durable Resiliency Center supported comprehensive Soldier fitness. Our team developed the idea of placing an EagleCash card kiosk in the chaplain's work area in the center to facilitate Soldiers' access to their funds and support e-commerce. It was also a great training opportunity for the Soldier who installed the kiosk.

As our FM SPO team ended its deployment, we planned for our transition and reintegration through two lines of effort: transition and FM operations. Our next step in our vision was to build an FM SPO concept of support for FM garrison support at Fort Riley in addition to the initial products we developed before deploying. Because the 1st Sustainment Brigade has established a sustainment operations center, we sought to integrate FM operations into the center's operations. (See an article on the sustainment operations center in the July–August 2011 of Army Sustainment.)

We also looked to establish working relationships and collaborate with the 1st Infantry Division resource managers and the Fort Riley resource management office. Our concept will provide the building blocks on which the next FM SPO at Fort Riley can capitalize.

Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence M. Seward is the financial management support operations officer for the 1st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas. He holds a B.S. degree in German from the United States Military Academy and an M.B.A. degree in management from TUI University. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, the Finance Captains Career Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Major Jonathan G. Westfield is the financial management plans officer for the 1st Sustainment Brigade. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, and the Finance Captains Career Course. He is leaving the Army to pursue an M.B.A. degree at Columbia Business School.

Master Sergeant James E. Combs is the financial management support operations noncommissioned officer for the 1st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas. He has served in many financial management positions throughout his career of over 20 years and recently received the Major General Nathan Towson Medallion for exceptional service in Army financial management.

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