FORWARD OPERATING BASE SWEENEY, Afghanistan – Located 6,343 feet above sea level, in the southern fringes of the Safed Koh Range, in southeast Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Sweeney is certainly one of the most remote coalition bases in Zabul province, if not the most remote. As a result, soldiers here lack some of the services often found at larger FOBs throughout the country, such as finance.
So what is a soldier assigned to a remote outpost, such as Sweeney, supposed to do if they, or their families, experience financial problems, or if they are simply in need of some cash? That is where the soldiers of the 389th Finance Detachment, Puerto Rico, come into play.
“Basically, we’re a [mobile] financial management support team” based out of FOB Lagman, explained Spc. Arnaldo Martinez, a financial specialist with the 389th Finance.
“What we do is we help out people in other FOBs that don’t have finance facilities,” he said. “We come out and make sure that they get their pay squared away; that we solve whatever pay issues they have. We also make sure they have … sufficient money to be able to carry on with their lives out here.”
The two-soldier finance team assists the men and women of Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment in a number of ways that range from cashing checks and conducting pay inquiries, to collecting deposits for the Savings Deposit Program or dispersing cash via a Soldier’s Eagle Cash Card or casual pay.
“We can - through our computer systems - load money from their banks onto their cash cards,” said Martinez. “We will also, more than gladly, either give them U.S. currency or Afghan currency, depending on their needs.”
While there is little to spend money on at FOB Sweeney, the availability of U.S. and Afghan currency allows the soldiers to pay for necessities like a haircut or purchase small items at the local bazaar.
The 389th mobile FMST’s assistance does not stop there. They are also able to help square away any pay issues soldiers from Battle Company, 5-20 Infantry might have by means of a mobile computer system that allows Martinez and Spc. Angel Ramirez - the other half of the mobile support team - to access the soldiers’ financial records, even out here in this remote mountain base.
“We basically carry a small office in our backpack and carry the office with us all the way here so we give the proper support to the soldiers,” said Martinez.
Such mobility allows the 389th mobile FMST to take a look in the system and see if a Soldier is receiving all their entitlements and address any financial problems they might be experiencing, explained Ramirez.
“In addition to providing cash, the finance team can assist soldiers with pay problems,” said Martinez.
“They can research why pay entitlements for housing, family separation, and additional combat pay entitlements are not showing up on a soldier's pay.”
Even in the absence of electronic communications the 389th mobile FMST is able to help soldiers in need.
“If we didn’t have internet, it’s okay because the program we use is basically a stand-alone system,” said Martinez.
They would then handle the transaction exactly like they would back in their main office.
“When we go back to our FOB … we’d plug it [the stand-alone system] in and we’ll send the information and reports to the higher-ups,” said Martinez.
The same could be said of any issues they may encounter while without communications.
“We will write down the soldiers’ issues and when we go back … we will spend the whole day going through [them] and we will go research their issues and we will try to find a solution for them,” said Martinez.
Upon discovering a solution, the 389th is quick to get back in touch with the soldier.
“If we find something wrong, we’ll make sure we square it away the same day,” said Martinez.
While financial issues do sometimes happen, with the 389th Finance Detachment being on point, Arrowhead families everywhere will not have to worry that their financial issues, or those of their soldiers, won’t be addressed in the timeliest manner possible.
“Our goal here is for 100% customer satisfaction,” said Martinez. With dedication like this, they just might get it.