JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- After Hurricane Michael unveiled its might by inflicting damage and destruction at Tyndall Air Force Base, the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Financial Operations Division displayed its networked and integrated power through the many ways it supports people impacted by the storm.
“Our hurricane response truly reveals the benefit of AFIMSC’s Financial Operations centralization,” said Linda Alcala, Financial Operations Division Chief. “Across the Air Force, people are seeing the depth of our capabilities.”
Jason Schneider and Patrick Quinn recalled their personal evacuation experiences as they provided much needed support.
“In a way, I could put myself in their shoes,” said Schneider, who lived in Northwest Florida for 12 years and evacuated for two less-destructive hurricanes. “Knowing what they were going to have to do as a result of their situation helped me empathize with their situation.”
Schneider, AFIMSC’s Civilian Payroll Policies and Procedures Manager, served on an AFIMSC team that with Air Combat Command’s approval assumed duties as Tyndall’s civilian payroll office, ensuring Tyndall employees would be paid on time. The four-person team that includes Alcala, Rick Baltes, Charles Hendricks and Ellen Lounsberry, continues to certify payroll nearly two months after the storm.
“We wanted to make sure employees weren’t going to be hurt any further financially,” he said. “If you’re not getting your paycheck, how can you sustain yourself and your family?”
During the first week AFIMSC certified time cards, Schneider and Kathy Carasas-Figueroa, AFIMSC Customer Services Representative, noticed two new Tyndall employees did not have their banking information in the system for direct deposit. Collectively, they worked with the Air Force Personnel Center and researched Facebook to contact the employees. Their records were then updated in the accounting system with their information ensuring they and the nearly 700 other employees were paid on time.
“The two employees were nervous because they didn’t know whether they would be paid,” Schneider said. “We helped alleviate some potential financial stress.”
Quinn, an AFIMSC Financial Management specialist who also experienced a hurricane evacuation when he was assigned at Hurlburt Field, Florida, is one of eight people who manned a 24-hour operations center in support of Air Force Personnel Center’s Total Force Center, which began receiving finance-related questions from people impacted by the hurricane.
“We tried to give as much peace of mind as we could,” said Quinn,
Normally, callers would have a hierarchy to go through, working issues at the lowest level. However, the Financial Operations team quickly became the one-stop shop for financial policy updates.
“Our goal was to not turn anybody away,” Quinn said. “We moved questions to appropriate channels, but in the beginning there were a lot of questions that fell into gray areas. Callers needed reassurances, and so our overall guidance was to be patient as information on many of their issues was being worked.”
One of the biggest stress levels was money, and the Finance Operations team quickly realized the evacuation would be in place for a longer period of time than predicted. Most evacuees would need their Government Travel Card limits increased.
Working with teammates Paula Boykin and 1st Lt. Cory D’Amico, Quinn communicated with AFIMSC Detachment 8 budget analysts to obtain a GTC report for Tyndall. To increase the limits on the nearly 4,000 GTCs quickly, Citibank recommended using their bulk maintenance feature. However, that feature did not work as smoothly as expected and required Quinn, Boykin and D’Amico to manually input most of the increases individually.
Boykin, a budget analyst who started in the Resources Directorate from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center a couple of months ago, serves as AFIMSC’s Agency Program Coordinator for the GTC program. During a GTC travel conference in August, she met and interacted with many people including Linda LeBarron-Block. Little did they know at the time that within a few months, Boykin would temporarily fill in as Tyndall’s GTC program coordinator while LeBarron-Block recovered from the storm.
Meanwhile, Schneider attended a Finance Customer Service Representative conference in April where he met Tyndall’s CSR, Senior Airman Patrick Bean. Schneider serves in Bean’s CSR role for Tyndall as Bean recovers.
“We developed personal relationships that made communication after the storm so much easier,” Schneider said. “It’s interesting how your relationship dynamic changes from talking on the phone to actually meeting them in person. All of a sudden, it seems so much easier to communicate or reach out to them.”
Quinn, Schneider, Boykin and Master Sgt. Pete Wells volunteered to spend a month or more on temporary duty to Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., to assist the Air Force Financial Services Center team with processing vouchers from Hurricane Florence evacuations and the summer PCS season. Their efforts helped posture the Center to receive the hundreds of Hurricane Michael evacuation vouchers that are expected to be more complicated due to the length of the evacuations.
Alcala’s team networked with the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office and Air Force Financial Management officials to update a hurricane guide and push it to the AFPC. The guide identifies and clarifies evacuation policy updates and evacuation travel allowances for military, Appropriated Fund and Non-Appropriated Fund employees in a one-stop shop location.
AFIMSC’s centralization of installation and mission support resourcing along with its network and integration efforts across the Air Force enterprise helped the Financial Operations team provide immediate and continuous support to what Alcala calls the big ‘A’ – Airmen at Tyndall.
“If I was in that situation, I would hope somebody would help,” Alcala said. “We’re taking care of our Air Force family. This is what we do.”