Story by MAJ Brandon Mace on 06/18/2019FORT MCCOY, Wis. Members of the U.S Army Reserve 350th Human Resource Company, based in Grand Prairie, Texas, are participating in Diamond Saber 19 from June 10 to July 1, 2019.
Diamond Saber is the U.S. Army's largest multi-component finance exercise, which simulates the conditions Soldiers will encounter when they deploy and incorporates real-world tasks into the training day.
Sgt. 1st Class Jena McKinney, senior HR NCO with the 350th HR Co, said this is a great annual training for her unit that will greatly improve their readiness.
"This training makes a lot of sense for us," said McKinney. "It's beneficial because we must be fully trained and ready and this exercise offers us that opportunity."
As a part of the training, McKinney and another HR NCO from the 350th HR Co, Sgt. Keila Orozco, are attending a two week class on pay actions. In their civilian jobs, both work for the U.S. Army Reserve supporting units with administrative and pay actions. McKinney is an RPAC supervisor in Seagoville, Texas, serving roughly 1900 Soldiers.
"We're training on the defense joint military pay system," said McKinney. "Normally we don't use it at the unit level, but we would need to use it if we deploy."
Finance is a responsibility that requires that kind of training and experience. Mr. Vernard Bendy, director of military pay of Fort Bliss, Texas, and part of the training cadre at Diamond Saber 19, said it is vital that units, active and reserve, understand the pay system before they deploy so they can hit the ground able to answer questions and fix issues on day one.
"If you walk up to a finance office, as a customer, and you tell them about your pay issue, do you want them to be able fix your problem or do you want to wait for another guy to answer?," asked Bendy. "That's what I ask these Soldiers, do you want to be the answer guy or the guy that has to get another guy?"
He said the class has morphed over the years getting better and better. The class's current format came out of a real-world need. Years ago the training was 40+ hours of PowerPoint and units had to bring work from their units to do after the training day. Today the training incorporates those real-world actions that need to take place anyway.
"The exercise is live pay work," said Bendy. "They will handle at least 3,000 real-world pay actions from a mobilization mission."
In another part of their training, the real-world actions continue as the Soldiers are tracking the accountability of all participating Soldiers and units. Sgt. Caroline Iribe, an HR NCO with the 350th HR Co, said the real-world part of the mission keeps the team motivated.
"We actually ensure all units have their people," said Iribe. "We are tracking them from home station to here, if they went to sick-call or the hospital, or left early for some reason. We track physical accountability for each Soldier."
She said this training is better than the regular training they do on a drill weekend because there is more time and resources to work with.
"Here it's hands on and everyone gets a chance because we are focused on this training," said Iribe. "This helps us hone our tasks and drills so we are ready, and we know what we are going to do when we do deploy."
Among the 350th HR Soldiers was Pvt. Uriel Vazquez-Hernandez, an HR specialist who just graduated from his Advanced Individual Training in September 2018, this is his first annual training with the unit and in the Army Reserve. He said he was nervous at first to jump right in but has become really comfortable with the mission.
"This training helps us with our communication," said Vazquez Hernandez. "When we contact units for accountability we don't know if they are going to be friendly or not, but we still have to do it because we are doing real-world accountability."
It can be tough for new Soldiers to create a bond with the rest of the Soldiers in a unit since they only see each other once a month. Vazquez Hernandez really likes his unit and said this training helped him break through any reservations he had about his unit because they get to spend a few weeks together making connections.
"We have been grouped together as a family and have to work efficiently," said Vazquez Hernandez. "I feel like I've broken my ice. I trust these people and we are working well together."
The 350th HR Company is a part of the 300th Sustainment Brigade and 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The command is made up of Soldiers, Civilians and their Families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America's Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.