By Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 05, 2014
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Right now there are Airmen deployed on 365-day Afghanistan taskings, many are putting their lives on the line inside and outside the wire every day.
Imagine doing that without pay.
Hip-hop rapper D.J. Quik once said, "If it don't make dollars, man, it just don't make sense."
That's not to say Airmen do what they do for money, but many have families to feed and all have bills to pay.
Twice a month deposits are made into bank accounts and for most, that continues month after month, every year, and little thought is ever put into the teams making that happen.
Comptrollers manage your pay, but they do much more.
Commanded by Lt. Col. David Stephens, the 366th Comptroller Squadron is a motivated team of 29 award-winning officers, enlisted Airmen and civilians.
They're a team Airmen can 'Bank' on.
"Money really makes the world go round, yet when it's not properly managed, is typically the epicenter of historic and corporate downfalls," said Stephens. "After 9-11, the intelligence community quickly realized by following the money trail, they could find the terrorists. That's an extreme example but really shows the importance of finances in any organization's mission. Managing a Wing's budget is an enormous undertaking, but one of vital importance."
Walking into Finance on Friday, one may quickly notice all Comptrollers wearing their newly authorized green morale shirts. They may also see a customer service representative like Airman 1st Class Zackary McGrew, ready to provide world-class financial service, just like he did 870 other times between September and December 2013.
"For me, the most satisfying situation is when I can do my part in ensuring Gunfighters are taken care of while here and deployed," said McGrew. "This is not only one of the Wing priorities, but I believe taking care of each other is something every Wingman should want to do."
McGrew recalled instances where Airmen were deployed and their spouses came in with financial problems and he and other Comptrollers were able to fix the problem, which not only alleviated the stress of the family, but also of the deployed servicemember.
"Our Airmen have enough to think about while downrange, I'd lose sleep knowing I could have done something to help them and their family, but failed," said McGrew. "Being a Comptroller is a huge responsibility because we really are behind the curtain in nearly every conceivable situation."
When it comes to customer service, the 366th CPTS doesn't differentiate between ranks or status.
"There are no VIPs here, every customer is important," said Staff Sgt. Anastacia Jenkins, financial management NCO-in-charge. "We treat every customer equally and strive to make sure all their needs are met."
Jenkins leads a team of seven that manage finances, travel vouchers and disbursements, allotments, pay changes and other financial needs for about 4,800 military and civilian employees of the 366th Fighter Wing, and roughly 5,200 family members.
These Comptrollers seemingly excel in everything they do, said 2nd Lt. Michael Brown, 366th CPTS financial services officer and budget deputy officer.
Among a long list of accolades this year alone, one Comptroller was selected and is currently attending the U.S. Air Force Academy Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program; three are competing for annual awards at the Wing level; 15 won quarterly awards; and the unit first sergeant, Master Sgt. Walter Booker, is competing for the annual Wing-level First Sergeant of the Year Award.
"These things don't happen by accident and success isn't generated in a vacuum," said Brown, a prior-enlisted Airman who himself commissioned through the USAFA's LEAD program. "We have a talented group of Comptrollers. Leadership sets the bar high and our Airmen always rise to the challenge."
Being a budget officer during sequestration proved hard work for Brown, who was responsible for a financial plan exceeding $65 million. Still, Brown and his team balanced that sum with 100 percent accuracy.
"We have a fantastic civilian workforce here, who greatly adds to the capability of our budget officers and Airmen," said Senior Master Sgt. Kristina Ritz, 366th CPTS superintendent. One such civilian is Carolyn Wright, budget analyst, who was recently named Fighter Wing Staff's outstanding civilian of the year.
"Wright prides herself on being a keen steward of taxpayer's money," said Ritz. "She's very methodical and scrutinized (temporary duty assignments), reduced them by about 25 percent, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars."
When Comptrollers aren't sustaining the mission with dollars, they're often seen running full speed ahead during their noteworthy physical training sessions.
"There are very few organizations in America that will pay employees to achieve and maintain fitness on company time," said Senior Airman William Tibbetts, 366th CPTS financial analyst for the 366th Operations Group, FWS, 366th Communications Squadron and all tenant units.
Having deployed and gone on outside-the-wire missions, Tibbetts knows firsthand how important fitness is to being a ready Airman, so he balances it with other aspects of readiness and encourages others to do the same.
Sometimes Tibbetts' encouragement comes in the form of aching muscles, sweat and exhaustion - and most consider that a good thing.
"Tibbetts managed two group's budgets during sequestration while leading Operational Readiness Exercises and PT for about 50 Airmen," said Ritz. "He's as good as they come."
Like Tibbetts, the whole CPTS team embraces readiness and proficiency in their jobs, that's why they're such a monumental asset at Mountain Home Air Force Base.
"We're very lucky to have such a great team of Airmen here," said Ritz. "There's no doubt in my mind that we've got the best team of Comptrollers in the Air Force, and that's something all Gunfighters can 'bank' on."