WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
The Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri Air National Guard's finance office live by a simple credo: 'No Money, No Mission.'
The office's Airmen form a small but tight-knit group with the critical responsibility of ensuring the Wing's 1,100 Airmen are paid and their benefits are distributed properly, said Master Sgt. Cheryl Ropp.
"There is never a day that's not challenging," said Ropp, the superintendent. "But I enjoy those challenges and the personnel that I work with."
Ropp, who has 27 years of service, first entered the world of finance not through a door, but through a wall. She was serving as a structural technician with the 131st Civil Engineering Squadron, removing a wall from the finance section when the superintendent asked her if she had ever thought about working in an office. She applied, was hired, and has now been working in the finance career field for 13 years.
She enjoys the ever-changing mission, and understands the importance of her team's role. For many Airmen, drill pay is critical in meeting expenses such as mortgages and car payments. Ropp and her team know that a small mistake on their part could have a major impact on an Airman's life.
"The last thing you want to do is have a member overpaid," she said. "When that happens, they get 80 percent of their pay taken back, so we try our best not to create debt."
Tech Sgt. Mandy Pauley, who has worked in the wing's finance office for two years, came to the career field through a more traditional route. When she enlisted nine years ago, she said finance was her best career option.
"Being able to solve people's problems keeps me in the job," she said.
Tech Sgt. Alan Castor, a military pay technician, said customer service is what he enjoys most about his job.
"When you solve a problem and you can make a frustrated customer happy - that's rewarding", Castor said. "You have to develop a thick skin."
Castor's Air Force career has been a constant search for new challenges. He began as a Black Hawk crew chief, cross-trained to become an optometry technician, and later transitioned to a combat arms training and maintenance with security forces.
Now working in the finance office, Castor said he is challenged every day with the work he does.
"This job is part detective, part problem solving," Castor said.
Although the team is dedicated to its mission, what keeps them enthusiastic about their role is being part of such a great team.
"The best part of finance isn't the work," Castor said. "It's the people you work with."