NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Whether ashore or at sea, one of the top priorities for U.S. Marines away from home are the families they’ve left behind. Behind the scenes, even during pre-deployment exercises like PHIBRON-MEU Integration Training (PMINT), the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Disbursing Section, ensures troops' finances are taken care of so they can focus on whatever challenges they may face when deployed.
“Disbursing is a misunderstood field,” Kaput said. “Disbursing Marines make sure the Marine Corps stays within its budget, so everything we do must be checks and balances, from travel claims and pay to the Defense Travel System and contracts.”
Those checks and balances, much like the Marines themselves, are present both on land and at sea, whether training or in active operations and exercises like PMINT.
“During PMINT specifically, we are issuing Navy Cash cards and exchanging Marines’ cash for money on the cards,” said Kaput, a Carpentersville, Illinois, native. “These cards are important because ships are cashless, so you must have one to buy anything you may need. Also, they work as prepaid cards when we make port calls on deployment, giving Marines another tool to avoid a financial disaster like stolen cards and lost personally identifiable information (PII). If Marines aren’t sure if their pay is adding up, they should drop by.”
According to Sgt. Martin Kassner, a pay clerk for the Fighting 13th and Fayetteville, North Carolina, native, a Marine may also want to visit disbursing for big pay problems. For instance, if a Marine recently married and moved out of the barracks and never turned in a checkout sheet to the command, that could cause a major pay issue. That Marine rates a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), but he would also continue to be charged Basic Allowance for Sustenance (BAS) because he’s never checked out. That issue would need to be resolved by the Marines in the disbursing office.
For most, the upcoming deployment aboard ship alleviates the day-to-day garrison problems, but for disbursing, their responsibilities stack up even more.
“Duties on ship versus land are a little different for us,” Kaput said. “In Garrison, we have the Fiscal Section which usually handles the cash while we deal in vouchers and claims, but in a deployed environment we’re handling both and more.”
On top of reconciling pay issues, Kaput, Kassner and other disbursing Marines find themselves receiving, counting and securing large amounts of money they are held accountable for. That’s why every transaction they make must be correct, accurate and legal, said Kassner.
“The moment of truth is when we make stops at liberty ports,” said Kaput. “Everyone wants to put money on their cards to have out in town and that’s when we have to work fast but can’t afford any mistakes. It’s hectic, but it’s going to happen and we have to be ready.”
While the Marines maintain their funds separate from the Navy, the services still work closely to ensure processing and practices are done up to Department of Defense standards.
“On ship, we’re obviously working on the Navy’s system, so we work together and make the process as seamless and simple as possible,” Kaput said. “But we do the same job on the green and blue side, all working as one team in one fight.”