Financing the fight

Financing the fight

Jim Reitzel

When MGen (S) Frank Faykes, Director of Financial Management of Air Force Materiel Command, says his team is Financing the Fight”, he literally means it. That’s exactly what four members of his staff are doing supporting the Global War on Terrorism. While his HQ AFMC Financial Management staff only comprises about 20 military members, upwards of 25% are deployed at any time during their AEF rotation. Four members are currently serving in various positions in Baghdad, Iraq, serving in 3 different organizations. They are also joined by Lt Demetrius Prado, the Financial Services Officer from another AFMC base, Edwards AFB, in California.

The Command budget director, Colonel Don Davis, is currently serving as the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Comptroller in Baghdad, occupying real estate in the former Presidential Palace. He and his staff are charged with overseeing the $17B Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), funding generated largely from the country’s oil revenues. Col Davis sees the role of the comptroller staff as more of a treasury-like function. “Iraq’s operating on a cash-based economy. The country’s money is managed through the NY Federal Reserve Bank. We process the majority of the country’s disbursement through the bank. In addition, we partner with the Ministry of Finance to project the country’s internal operating expenses. Once this is completed, we work the arrangements for transporting cold hard cash for these expenses to the Central Bank of Iraq to pay the bills. Last month, this meant spending over 24 hours escorting three pallets of cash–a total of $750M–from Andrews AFB to downtown Baghdad. I have had to learn many things about commercial banking over the last sixty days. I only wish I had paid more attention to those banking and economic courses I took years ago.” In addition to these duties, he is responsible for managing the CPA’s $858M operating budget.

Working along side Col Davis in the CPA Comptroller office is 1st Lt Demetrius A. Prado. Lt Prado is the Deputy Financial Services Officer stationed at Edwards AFB CA at the Air Force Flight Test Center. In Baghdad he is assigned to the CPA Comptroller office where he is in charge of DFI disbursements. Although new to the financial management career field, Lt Prado plays a critical role in the management of the DFI. His primary duties include ensuring all payments from the $17 Billion fund are in accordance with CPA regulations. He is also directly responsible for distributing and tracking over $700 Million in cash issued to 15 disbursing agents throughout the country in support of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) and the Rapid Regional Response Program.

When asked about being deployed for the first time in his short career, Lt Prado stated, “While I miss my family and friends, I am proud to have been selected to serve my country in such a critical mission so early in my career. I am also excited about the very challenging position I work in. I also feel very fortunate to work with such an elite group of men and women as those I serve with here in Iraq. I know I’m here for a real reason.” Like Col Davis, Lt Prado is scheduled to rotate back home sometime in July.

While Col Davis and Lt Prado work with Iraqi generated funds, Lt Col Deron Wendt also works financial issues for the CPA, but he works for the Program Management Office (PMO) Comptroller. The PMO responsibilities are part of the largest reconstruction project undertaken since World War II. The PMO manages $18.4 Billion in funding appropriated by the US Congress for reconstruction, services and equipment in Iraq and is charged with overseeing 2,300 construction projects ranging from fixing sewer systems and oil pipelines to repairing schools and building roads over the next three to four years. Lt Col Wendt is the budget analyst for the services, supplies and material or non-construction portion of the program, which makes up approximately $6 Billion of the total program. Some of the more interesting components of the job are helping arm and outfit the Iraqi Army, police, Civil Defense and Embassy Protection Service Forces.

This is a very high interest item for obvious reasons. He also secures funding for services such as translators and security teams. “The job brings intense pressure and long hours, but it’s one of the most exciting missions I’ve ever been involved with and is worth the effort.” The finance office briefs Ambassador Paul Bremer, the head of Coalition Provisional Authority, on a weekly basis and the Secretary of the Army every other week.

Lt Col Jim Reitzel is the third HQ AFMC/FM officer working in the Palace in Baghdad, however he’s not assigned to the CPA. He is attached to Combined Joint Task Force-7 (CJTF-7) under Army Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez. CJTF-7 is headquartered across Baghdad at Camp Victory, but they maintain a forward presence in the CPA palace. It is responsible for all military stability operations to support the establishment of government and the restoration of essential services and economic stability in the country of Iraq … they run the warfighting operations. Lt Col Reitzel works in the CJTF-7 Joint Operations Center at the palace and functions as a liaison with the CPA and other organizations for financial issues. When asked about his job he said “My job changes everyday. I serve primarily as an action officer charged with finding answers to questions coming from Lt Gen Sanchez and his senior staff and coordinating on-going financial actions that involve CJTF-7. There are virtually no aspects of our involvement in Iraq that don’t have a financial component, and interaction with nearly every organization in the Palace while working funding issues keeps my job interesting. When tasks come down from Ambassador Bremer, Gen Sanchez or Washington DC, they usually come with very few details and even less time to respond. This can make the work very challenging … but extremely rewarding as well. Working side-by-side with members of our sister services and coalition nations in this environment has been a great learning experience for me.”

Working at Camp Victory on the other side of Baghdad is the fourth officer from HQ AFMC/FM, Major Clayton Lohn. Major Lohn, who works in the CJTF-7 Comptroller shop said “every day here I am being challenged to provide the best warfighter support I can to the Coalition Provisional Authority and CJTF-7 Coalition Forces. You have to keep your eye on the ball of what our mission objectives are and why we are here”. He provides program and resource management guidance and execution for the Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) Buy-Back Program, the REWARDS program for the capture of wanted individuals, weapons and information and Iraqi Security Force funding for the Iraqi Armed Forces and local security forces.

When asked about having four of his field grade officers serving in Baghdad at the same time, General Faykes said “the most important job my financial personnel can do is to provide first class, expert financial advice, guidance and support to the warfighters. I want them focused solely on this mission and my home team will “check their six” back here at Wright Patterson AFB. My deployed personnel are trained, ready, and willing to do their part in securing freedom for the people of Iraq, I’m very proud of each of them and they help make the financial management community valued members of our great Air Force team.”

COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Air Force, Financial Management and Comptroller

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group