News: Finance support teams head outside the wire
To the uninitiated, being deployed with a finance unit may sound like a break. The Soldiers of Detachment A, 8th Finance Battalion, who have been going outside the wire regularly for six months, beg to differ.
When they are not helping Soldiers on the west side of Logistical Support Area Anaconda with pay concerns, they are braving the crater-pocked roads outside Balad to provide needed finance services for troops stationed at surrounding installations.
Only six months through their deployment, about half of the Soldiers have put in paperwork for Combat Action Badges resulting from incidents en route.
"I've been hit by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) twice," recalled Sgt. Nethaniel Bull, a motor sergeant and team leader for off-post missions. "We've had mortars [fired] at our convoys, small-arms fire at our convoys; we've pretty much seen anything anybody else has seen out here."
Though the missions have not always gone smoothly, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Marable, Detachment A NCOIC, said that the support his Soldiers provide for troops outside of LSA Anaconda is important.
"If we're not supporting them and ensuring that their pay is correct and they are getting paid correctly, they are not going to be happy," Marable said, "and they are not going to get their mission done properly because their mind is not into it."
The detachment is broken down into several FSTs, or financial support teams, that rotate going off post.
Each FST includes a cashier, a driver who doubles as an assistant to the cashier and a team leader responsible for communicating with the Soldiers on LSA Anaconda and making sure the finance troops have a place to stay in the event of an overnight mission.
These missions can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how many troops are at their destination.
In early March, three Soldiers departed on a mission to Forward Operating Base Poliwoda, escorted by troops from 1-8th Infantry. Within minutes of their arrival, the FST attracted a line of several dozen Soldiers. Some needed to submit pay inquiries to have financial concerns resolved, but most came to withdraw up to $350 via casual pay.
"It's important because we don't have ATMs out here," said Pfc. Alexander Allen, a forward observer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-8th Infantry, about the casual pay option.
Allen said that he intends to use the money to pay for haircuts, hygiene items and new DVDs.
Most of the Soldiers say they have lost track of the number of missions they have gone on since their arrival in theater, but Marable puts the number of missions between 25 and 30.
He said knowing his troops are in harm's way has not gotten easier.
"Every time they leave, I worry about them," said Marable, who sees himself as the detachment's "father figure." "You never know what's going to happen out there."
Despite his concerns, Marable said he knows his Soldiers can deal with the stress.
"I can say I have been in one of the convoys when an IED had blown up right in front of our vehicle and the Soldiers were a little nervous, as any Soldier would be in that situation, but they handled themselves really well." Marable said.
"They had the shakes a little bit, but we consoled each other â?¦ and they were OK."