KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Fort Bliss soldiers from the 4th Financial Management Company officially began their deployment by uncasing their unit guidon and assuming responsibility of financial operations in Regional Command-South from the 126th FM Co. in a transfer of authority ceremony held at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 17.
The 4th FM Co. headquarters element will provide internal oversight, inspection and training to the three subordinate finance detachments in charge of vendor services, military pay, and assisting servicemembers with pay issues throughout RC-S.
In his speech, Lt. Col. Craig Simonsgaard, 43rd Special Troops Battalion commander and guest speaker, acknowledged the many accomplishments of the 126th FM Co. to include the expansion of finance office locations in the region from one to nine, the lowest number of account discrepancies in U.S. Central Command, and the accurate disbursement of more than $200 million dollars but also expressed his confidence that the 4th FM Company could step up to the challenge.
“I have great faith in the abilities of the 4th FM Company and their leadership, Maj. Le’iato and 1st Sgt. Acosta. The 126th set the conditions for a smooth transition, and I know the 4th FM Company has already picked up the ball and are heading toward the end zone,” said Simonsgaard.
Less than three years after establishing the 4th FM Company, the unit has already deployed one finance detachment, the headquarters element and will soon see another of its detachments arrive in theater.
“We are really prepared for this mission. We’ve been anxious to get here and take over,” said Maj. Robert Le’iato, 4th FM Company commander. He said his unit would work to sustain and improve the system inherited from the 126th. “The goal is to provide the best financial management support possible, and we’re not going to say no to any problem ---but come up with alternatives to ensure that happens.”
Le’iato explained that money is a combat multiplier and a counterinsurgency fight could not be executed smoothly without a financial management soldier effectively managing the funds.
The military is currently implementing technology to reduce the
amount of American currency circulating in theater.
“Our biggest policy, now, is to turn this into a cashless battlefield,” said Le’iato. “We want to make sure that U.S. currency does not end up in enemy hands. We have shifted to the use of electronic payments or Afghan currency.”
One example of how the military has reduced the use of cash has been the Eagle Cash Card Program, which allows servicemembers to load funds from their bank accounts onto a card that can be used at the local shops similarly to how a debit card would be used to purchase goods in the U.S.
With the mission focused largely on dispensing funds to paying agents and commercial contracts, finance Soldiers are gaining experience and expertise that isn’t possible back in garrison.
“We can train as much as we can back in the rear, but the real thing is when you get here because you’ve got the contacts, the network, and the facilities that are being paid,” said 1st Sgt. Francisco Acosta. “It’s a different scenario here because it’s real, and we’re handling millions of dollars daily.”
Acosta said that his soldiers have adjusted well and have benefitted not only from the work of the 126th FM Company soldiers who laid the groundwork but also from the experienced soldiers within their unit.
“I’ve got a good group of mature soldiers and also a few that have not deployed before, but the mature soldiers with experience are going to raise the other ones up, and we are going to have a successful deployment here,” said Acosta.
He said his biggest goal aside from bringing everyone home safe was growing new leaders out of this deployment to ensure the future of the Army Finance Corps.
“We the need the best, the most technical soldiers that we can have, and I think that’s what we are creating,” said Acosta.
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