UNDISCLOSED LOCATION -- With the digital era in full swing, nearly gone are the days of writing checks and manually balancing your checkbook. Smart phones and other technology can do for virtually anything these days between tracking every penny earned, saved, or spent. However, sometimes the balance shortfalls in technology appear and the numbers don’t always show the full picture.
The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) Comptroller team does just that, balances the unit’s budget so the commander knows at all times the financial resources available.
The team of three was able to identify approximately $800,000 of allocated yet unspent funds by meticulously reviewing reports and rebalancing the unit’s accounts over the course of the past eight months.
“It is a lot like balancing your checkbook, essentially knowing where your debits and credits are,” said Capt. Andres Zuniga, the SPMAGTF-CR-CC comptroller. “Sometimes transactions will sit in the systems that aren’t necessary… An example would be writing a check from your checkbook, but never sending it out, so you think that money is gone, but in fact it’s not.”
According to Zuniga, those transactions are due to a wide variety of error codes that the team tracks through their system.
“By focusing on our error reports, we’ve been able to identify where money was being tied up,” Zuniga said. “An error that can come from a financial transaction for example is an outstanding travel order… [If someone] puts in an authorization, it gets approved, but the person doesn’t take the trip, the money has already been committed or obligated, so that money was just sitting there, which could have been utilized for something else.”
With the additional financial resources recovered by Zuniga’s team, the unit was able to purchase additional products to enhance the command’s ability to react to any mission they may encounter while conducting USCENTCOM’s crisis response mission.
“We were able to allocate those funds for other SPMAGTF initiatives such as hybrid logistics: the 3D printers, the Nibblers, and the atmospheric water regeneration. This further enables the commander, and the SPMAGTF Marines to accomplish the mission,” said Cpl. James S. Frost, a financial management resource analyst with SPMAGTF-CR-CC.
Although crunching numbers and reviewing daily reports can be somewhat tedious and repetitive in nature, it’s also very rewarding, Frost said.
“I like doing causative research, finding out what the root cause of the problem is and from that being able to correct something and seeing it all the way to the end,” Frost said. “It gives you a real sense of accomplishment to be able to see that.”
That sense of accomplishment was an overall theme of the team during the deployment.
“It’s important to work together, find a common ground that will motivate your Marines,” said Sgt. Michael Roman, SPMAGTF-CR-CC comptroller chief. “It’s not about the individual… there’s a bigger picture of completing the mission.”
In recognition of the high level of professional excellence shown during the deployment, both Frost and Roman received coins from the SPMAGTF commanding officer, Col. Bill Vivian.
“They truly demonstrated MCDP-1,” Vivian said. “They took commander’s intent and turned it in to reality, they understood what we were trying to achieve… They made us better through their own initiative.”
Frost, a John’s Creek, Georgia, native, always knew he wanted to be a Marine like his father.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps … he always talked about the experiences he had while he was a Marine that helped him later on in life, the leadership roles and discipline instilled in him,” Frost said.
His love for numbers has developed since joining the Marine Corps and becoming a financial management resource analyst.
“I didn’t necessarily love math or numbers, but I’ve grown a fondness for it. My current degree path is in accounting,” Frost said. “Accounting is rewarding because your hard work pays off in the end. Doing your work, doing the best you can, it all comes to play.”
Frost was meritoriously promoted to corporal during the deployment, and he says he couldn’t have done it without the mentorship, guidance and help from his peers and leaders.
“Sgt. Roman shaped me as a leader,” Frost said. “He’s a strong asset to the Marine Corps and he taught me to be better than myself always. He’s physically fit and truly embodies the whole Marine concept and gave me tools to strengthen myself not only physically, but mentally as well.”
In addition, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller had a chance to sit down with SPMAGTF Marines, including Frost, during a recent visit.
“As I was sitting there, General Neller mentioned the CO was bragging about us,” Frost said. “He asked me if I wanted to go work for him, and at first I thought he was kidding, but of course I said yes. A few days later I received a call from the Pentagon asking if I still wanted to work there.”
Continuing on his Marine Corps career, Frost intends to reenlist, take the Commandant up on his job offer, and eventually earn a commission through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program.