Pay Story from 2/94th Arty to 101st163, 9/30/2006
Pay story from 2/94 Arty to the 101st
by Dick DARCY, Jerry HEARD & Doug LAWHORN
Dick DARCY says. "Jerry HEARD says it was interesting to read Chicks remarks. I just returned from the 40th anniversary reunion of the 2nd Bn, 94th Arty (175mm) with whom I served in Vietnam, 66-67.)
This item brought back a few memories. On my second Vietnam tour (Nov '71-'72), I replaced Bob ADAMS as the Americal Division Finance Officer. The Division at Chu Lai was standing down and I was to rename the DSSN the 196th Infantry Brigade (Sep). The Brigade was reinforced with a Cavalry Squadron along with 3 line Infantry battalions, and a 105mm howitzer battalion at Camp Redhorse along with the standard support battalion and admin company into which the finance element was integrated.
On my first payday after Bob had left for Long Binh, the old man was hopping mad that A/2/94 Arty had not been paid. The first answer to my question to the pay element was "who is A/2/94 Arty."
Background: the 2/94 Arty had been part of XXIV Corps Arty (which had stood down). Rather than lose the capability of the "big guns," the battalion was attached to the 101st Abn Div at Phu Bai while Alpha Battery was detached and further reattached in direct support of the 196 IB. Who knew? (Brigade TOC of course, but they thought there was a pay fairy.) And, more importantly, where were its PFRs? (Remember, we were converting to JUMPS.)
The old man didn't care about the details-just get them paid.
After some frantic calls, we determined the records were with the 101st. Brigade aviation gave me a OH-6A Loach and a pilot and I flew to Phu Bai. Long story, short--I found the records in a storage area of the finance office where, it appeared, were all of the battalion's finance records. I think I had the foresight, but would not swear to it 35 years later, to bring a roster. I grabbed what I believed to be Alpha's records, piled them on the Loach, and flew back over the Hai Van pass to DaNang (the Brigade was occupying the old III MAF Hq west of Freedom Hill). To say that the records were in poor shape from being transferred from Corps support one month (a finance section), to Division support the next month, to Brigade support the following month, would be too kind. Remember the USARV/MACV policy was that stand down units got 90 day drops and replacements came in from other units who stood down but whose members were not qualified for the drop. The pay story of A/2/94 Arty is just a microcosm of the administrative mess Vietnam was in late '71 and and all of '72. We got Alpha Battery paid but it took several months to get the pay in order and convert those that were still manual to JUMPS. Our reward was to inherit Headquarters, Bravo, and Charlie Batteries from the 101st when the Division stood down in the spring of '72. Now we had a Brigade of 6 line battalions (3 In, 2 Arty, and 1 Cav) all engaged. And my finance troops wanted their drops, too. I convinced the Brigade commander that there would be few finance replacements and that we should be the ones to turn out the lights. He agreed and froze every 73C in the Admin Co. Was I popular! It was our good fortune to get stand down orders which took us out in June, '72. Since I had 7 months in country, I was reassigned to the USARVCFAO in Long Binh with duty at Nha Trang...but that is another story." (Editor: I am posting this reflection because the youngster members of RAFINO have no clue what we went through in those days. I understand that we still have problems when a Reserve or Guard unit is activated. The problem seems to be that the two pay systems will not talk to each other.)
Jerry HEARD adds to the story, "My Finance part of 2/94 Arty is even more complicated. When we arrived in-country in 1966, my Btry was assigned to 1st Marine Division and placed on the Marine pay system. We were paid off a pay list by a Marine Officer which allowed our guys to take some in cash, send some home, and let some stay on the books. It went fairly well except that when the Americal came in we were converted to the Army system and many of my guys had lots of money "on the books". We were forced to draw it all in cash and some of my guys had literally hundreds of extra cash on hand. But I converted to Finance after I returned and got it all straight (Ha HA)--ON the question of merging USAR/NG pay with active--I had a fit as Commandant in 90-92 because DFAS wouldn't listen to advice about merging the systems. But then it has only been 15 years!"
Re: Dick DARCY story in Bulletin dated 23 June 2006
Jerry HEARD story and comments dated 26 May and 23 June 2006
Doug LAWHORN continues the story about the return to the CONUS of the 101st ABN and the part that I played in its Finance Office reconstruction.
But first a little background to set the stage for the comments. Like Dick I also shut down a Finance Office upon my departure from Nam. I returned from RVN in February 1971 and was assigned to the Finance Center under Col James STRINGER in the Quality Assurance Department. The Department was in the middle of the JUMPS world wide conversion with the mission to help in the preparation of the Army military finance offices. The travel time and distances were extensive and not conducive to any kind of home life after a year's tour in RVN. After implementation, a lot of the offices had trouble with the new system and how it worked. General RICHARDS' group in DC developed a model office concept which would provide the accuracy of input required for the computerized system.
Beginning in 1972, various teams were organized to again traverse the world wide offices to implement and assist in installing the proper organizational concept. Information came in that the 101st had a significant pay day problem. We understood that after payday activities were so bad that the MP's had to direct traffic and maintain order. I am unsure of the exact date but around June 1972 the 101st Commanding General came to the Center to ask General FAZAKERLEY for help. With advice and help from throughout the Center it was decided the team would consist of myself and Capt Al JOHANNSON.
On our second try, we met General RICHARDS at Fort Campbell and had the initial meeting with the Commanding General and then a group meeting of the pertinent Commanders of the 101st for the purpose of introducing Al and myself and explaining our mission. The Commanding General ordered full compliance and support for our team.
You would not believe the sight that welcomed us at the Finance Office. As Dick had mentioned stand downs plus attachments and detachments in the latter days were chaotic. Boxes of files were located everywhere in two different but side by side WW II barracks. Some boxes were partially opened; others were still sealed and yet more were arriving daily by every mode of transportation available to the U.S. Army. Firstly, there were no shelves or cabinets to store the records and secondly the personnel consisted of one very young Finance Captain and five (5) MOS 73C assigned to the office. Why there were not more 73C made available I don't know but the Commanding General knew that more personnel were necessary. He ordered the AG to scan the complete Division and assign, to the Finance Office, every soldier that could add 2+2 and get the correct answer of 4 at least 3 times out of 5 tries. This consisted of cooks, mechanics, clerks and even the General's own personal driver. It was a complete hodge-podge of backgrounds and experiences assembled with one mission. What a mess from the beginning.
With the departure of General RICHARDS we assembled at the office. Our first meeting with the troops was to introduce ourselves and outline the mission and the goals to be accomplished. We briefly espoused the concepts of the model office and that the mission appeared to be a 24/7 job until the desired results were attained. That was greeted with a very loud groan. Al took all the troops to initiate training in AR37-104 and the document flow and procedures of the new look of the office. The Captain and I met, as per the CG's guidance with the Division AG and the Post Engineer. We quickly completed our coordination with the AG to outline and establish the rules of work between the two offices. He agreed to cooperate to the fullest realizing that a lot of the problems had been generated from his end of the work effort. The Post Engineer reviewed the set up of the two buildings and was ready with some recommendations. The first order of business was shelf space. After our explanation of the requirement for shelves, he recommended to build an A frame type with pocket shelves that could accommodate files on both sides. He also recommended how to cordon off a section of the barracks to receive and secure the file room. Along with the training session Al had the troops secure and sort every loose piece of paper into strict alphabetical order. Once done we had about 6 piles each about 12 inches tall.
In accordance with the QA checklist for all Finance Offices, the next day Al and I presented to the Captain a detailed sketch of how the office should be structured including each desk and chair. We assigned the 5 73C personnel as chief of the sections, i.e., Control, Pay, Quality Edit, Key Punch (part of Control) and Customer Service. The Captain needed to insure control and comprehensive supervision of the Cash Section. The rest of that day and evening was spent setting up the physical office in accordance with the plan. This completed the second day in the office.
The next day we started with Block Tickets and flow of documents. This brought back memories of my days as a 2nd Lt in the 3rd Infantry Division receiving raw recruits off the bus to be made into soldiers. I remember so well the soldier we selected to receive and handle the flow of documents through out the office. He was about 6'3", all raw bone and muscle and almost had to turn sideways to fit through the doors but a very intense and at the same time nice guy. He was overwhelmed by the 6 piles of documents that were on the front part of his desk. He desperately wanted to start with those piles. My guidance to him was; that most of them had probably already been processed via a pay complaint and would force him to continue behind schedule. He was to find a brick or concrete block and place on top of the 6 piles and not touch them until he had some spare time on any day after completion of the current days work. As of that moment we were up to date and current and processed only those documents that came in that day. We secured a date time punch clock to accurately record the initial time of receipt in the Finance Office to stop any arguments. Any order over 3 days old prior to reaching the office was questioned.
The 3 main processing sections were located on the upstairs of each building to eliminate any access to the public. This caused some flow problems due to going down stairs in one building and back upstairs in the other. Time consuming and accident prone, i.e., dropping records. Amazing before the end of the week the Post Engineer delivered the shelves. They were made of hard wood, sanded down and varnished. He had installed wheels on them which I initially rejected but he showed me that they had locks to hold them steady and then later it was a good thing because we did want to move them out in the bay so that more people could help get all the initial filing done. At that point I mentioned to the Post Engineer that the stairs was a problem and why. He agreed and indicated that what he would do is knock a hole in the top floor of each building and build a covered walkway in between. What support. This was done in one week. Then we needed something to move all the block tickets around. The Commissary was replacing their shopping carts so we grabbed some and two of the light armor mechanics took them and in one day had them running as smooth as a brand new one. With the walkway and the carts identified problems were solved and/or reduced.
The CG had promised to give me a month prior to his review of progress. Most of us old timers know how that goes. At the end of 3 weeks he showed up via helicopter to get a walk through. No problem but for all of those who have spent any of the summer months in Fort Campbell you know it is hotter than blue blazes. All the windows were open to get any breeze that might blow through. When we were at my document initiator with a lot of loose documents lying around, a puff of wind blew up or wind from the helicopter blades caused them to blow out in all directions. The soldiers immediately jumped up to try to secure them. The CG thought this was a problem and indicated that he would talk to the Post Engineer about air conditioning the two barracks. Great.
Payday was approaching, so Al and I took that opportunity to go back to the Center for some R & R. Prior, to that we had a meeting with the CG, Chief of Staff, AG and the Division CSM. It was agreed and so ordered that there would be no pay complaints as normal. For those soldiers that received zero pay, they were to address the matter with their 1st Sgt and then depending on the apparent reason for the zero amounts the 1st Sgt was to escort (not send) the individual soldier(s) to the appropriate office for resolution and action, be it AG or Finance. It had to be an emergency to be considered. Payday was considered a success despite all the incidents along the way.
Upon our return, my document initiator was the most joyous individual I think I had ever encountered. He came running up to me with two block tickets (about 10 each records) indicating that they were both totally off the first old pile. He was not to review and take action but process as any other transaction under control of block tickets. During the next two weeks you could see the office evolve into a smooth working team such as the old Boston Celtics. The hours had been horrendous from 7 AM to around 10 PM each and everyday. Some of the non married types were using mattresses to sleep in the office. They would only go to their own barracks to get a shower, shave and get a new clean set of clothes. We almost had to call in the MP's again but this time it was to keep the stampeding wives, girl friends and other family members from storming the office. This team, for the past 6 weeks, had done nothing but work except to eat at the mess hall, go to the chapel on Sunday morning and grab whatever sleep they could steal.
At this point in time, the Post Engineer completed the air conditioning and what a God send. Also the office had received another Finance Corps officer as a deputy and two Finance NCOs. So, two weekends prior to the next payday, I told the Captain that it was time to be a complete normal group again. We started ending the day around 5 PM. We set up a picnic on Saturday. The NCO went to Special Services and secured Softball equipment, volley ball set, horse shoes and other games to play. The mess hall Sgt was contacted about feeding the crowd and he indicated that he had a scheduled drill for bivouac service so he said he would set it up for us. There was a very large field behind the office so we settled on that location. It was an ordered formation for the troops and they were to escort their complete family as well. All came with the children playing drop the handkerchief, ran races and otherwise worked off a lot of energy. At 5 PM we all stood Retreat after a very successful afternoon of fun and games. Everybody appeared pleased. Payday problems after all this seemed to be nothing more than what could be expected normally.
The camaraderie and cohesiveness brought together was awesome to be part of and to see develop almost in front of your eyes. This group became the Finance Section and I think speaks volumes as to why our Corps is so well thought of through-out the Army. Once the permanent 73C PMOS types started to arrive, most of the soldiers did not want to leave the section. Of course the support directed by the CG and the Division Staff and the Post personnel was outstanding.
The Team's ability to accomplish all this would not have been possible without the support and help from all the people who operated the JUMPS system at the Center. My every call was done almost immediately to the point that I had to be careful for what I asked. I must respectfully recognize especially the support of General Dick FAZAKERLEY, Col Jim STRINGER and Col Ralph DIXON.