News: Money gurus provide financial expertise, assistance to expeditionary unit
Story by Cpl. John Robbart III
USS PELELIU - Being away on a ship isn’t the easiest thing for Marines and sailors to do. To alleviate the feeling of being homesick, vending machines and ship stores are available on each of the ships of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Disbursing Office helps Marines purchase these items.
The office assists Marines and sailors of the MEU by replacing cash with Marine Cash cards to make purchases while embarked in the Peleliu ARG. However, they do much more than that. Their mission is to provide deployed disbursing support to the troops to ensure they are properly paid and also resolve any pay and entitlement problems they may incur.
This support includes assisting the servicemembers with the setup of their cash cards and split pay, which is an option Marines have that directs a portion of their paychecks to their Marine Cash cards. Additionally, it doubles as a prepaid debit card.
“Split pay is a great program because it helps lessen a lot of potential financial headaches,” said Sgt. Lionel E. Smith, disbursing non-commissioned officer-in-charge, 15th MEU. “I used to be an infantryman, and I know how difficult situations can affect Marines when they need to be focused on the mission. As disbursers, we’re here to mitigate financial heartaches involving pay issues, allotments or setting up a savings deposit program,” added the 26-year-old native of Baltimore, who also assists by teaching classes on the services his team offers.
Since the MEU is spread out through the three ships of the ARG, the disbursing office also has one Marine on each of the smaller ships.
“Having a Marine on each ship puts our Marines where they could be needed,” said 1st Lt. Clayton L. Wiggins, disbursing officer, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “My goal for this deployment is to get my Marines off the ship to do their job in a field environment.”
If the unit were called to shore, the disbursing team is capable of providing payments for contracts, micro-purchases and casual pay, which is the ability to pay cash if a situation deems it necessary.
“The real impact is felt when Marines need something, and we’re able to deliver it quickly,” said Wiggins. “The faster we can resolve an issue helps our Marines and sailors focus on their mission,” added the 33-year-old native of Franklin, N.C.
Wiggins’ Marines are trained to be embedded with any unit in the event they need to pay for something in a forward environment. Disbursers give the commander in the field the capability to purchase something unforeseen during the planning process, which gives these Marines a whole new level of responsibility.
“The contracts involved in the field are complex and extremely detail-oriented,” said Wiggins. “Being efficient and accurate is the way to minimize mistakes, and I train my Marines with practical application exercises to better prepare them for when they are working independently from the office.”
The practical application exercises are not the only thing the lieutenant does to prepare his staff. He preaches customer service, preparation and the total Marine concept.
“We’ve got a weekly challenge in the office,” said Wiggins with a grin. “Five-hundred pushups, 500 sit-ups and 500 air-squats that start on a Monday and end on a Friday. Being physically fit is an important part of being a Marine.” He also mentioned the numbers would increase over the course of the deployment.
At the end of the day, whether their mission involves purchasing a last minute generator in the field or assisting Marines setting up the split pay option, the disbursing office just wants to take care of their fellow Leathernecks.
“Our main purpose is to take care of the Marines, in the field or on ship, by giving them the comforts of home by way of the Marine Cash program,” said Gunnery Sgt. Rodolfo Gonzalez, disbursing chief, 15th MEU, a 32-year-old native of East Chicago, Ind.
For more information about the Marine Cash program visit, www.navycash.com.