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Air Guard finance team uses dollars and ‘sense’ to prepare for deployment

The 131st Comptroller Flight operated from tents in a simulated deployment situation during annual training at Whiteman Air Force Base, June 2015.  Finance team members completed several training scenarios in order to stay ready to meet state and federal mission requirements.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison)

The 131st Comptroller Flight operated from tents in a simulated deployment situation during annual training at Whiteman Air Force Base, June 2015. Finance team members completed several training scenarios in order to stay ready to meet state and federal mission requirements. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- It's not often, if ever, that members of the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Comptroller Flight have to give statements to security officials regarding a robbery, take cover from an incoming attack or play with Monopoly money all in the same day. But that was the case during the annual training week here.

Finance team members went through several training scenarios during the annual week that 131st Bomb Wing leadership uses to ensure its Citizen-Airmen are always ready for federal or state mission requirements, said Senior Master Sgt. Margie Rhives, financial management superintendent for the comptroller flight.

"We did everything from scratch," Rhives said. "We simulated a fly-in to country, built our own tent and set-up shop with the help of the 239th (Combat Communications Squadron). We followed that up with several real-world scenarios."

Included in the scenarios were a mock robbery, incoming attacks on their base of operations and several actors who came in and attempted to cash checks for more than the maximum amount allowed by the base.

"The actors are really doing well," said Rhives. "They are rattling the troops, but everyone has performed very well for each scenario."

To prepare for the event, the finance team participated in the two-week-long Silver Flag contingency training and used what they learned during last year's annual training.

Flight leadership used this week's training to build upon the Silver Flag training in an effort to get the Airmen ready for approaching deployments.

The deployments will come within the next year in the form of Air Force taskings, said Capt. Gary Leadstrom, flight commander. The Air Force will request finance deployment packages to work in embassies, forward operating bases or command bases. Those jobs could include cashiers, paying agents, disbursing officers or any of four other jobs, so they need to be ready for anything, he said.

Leadstrom's team members say they feel ready for whatever comes their way next year.

"Every exercise we've done is preparing us better for the deployments," said Senior Airman Tatum Friedrich, customer service specialist in the comptroller flight. "Being in these exercises is much better than the day-to-day of the office. We're more limited here in what we can do, so it's more realistic."

Internet connectivity, cash limits and a dispersed staff are some of the hurdles Friedrich cited as limitations they may run into on a deployment, compared to weekends during drill in an office setting.

"Sometimes, not everyone is in the office," said Friedrich, a traditional Air Guardsman who is a full-time student at the University of Missouri in Columbia. "Different questions have come up where only certain people are the experts. And, some of those questions will be specific per deployment, due to the currencies and laws of each country."

No matter what country or missions are requested, the office's only current team member who has yet deployed overseas spoke highly of the intense training and of the team's performance.

"This was really a great exercise, because we don't know what we'll be faced with in theater," said Leadstrom. "When I was in Iraq, we had to evacuate the embassy and move to Kuwait where we worked with the Army. Setting up the site this week was very similar to that experience when we started with nothing.

"When the team is put into conditions like that, I know they'll exceed."