A finance job in Qatar may seem to pale next to that of a trigger puller, but when a soldier has a pay problem that finance NCO becomes the most important person in the world.” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kileigh Gard of North Dakota is that person. She is the non-commissioned officer in charge, NCOIC, of commercial vendor services and handles other financial issues including military pay, travel and disbursing.
Gard previously served in an Army engineering company and retrained for her recent deployment in finance. Having worked through college, she earned a political science degree in 2004. She believes her education and deployment to the Middle East will prove helpful in her future career. She called from Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar and spoke with Tribune correspondent MyLinh Shattan.
Can you start off by telling us about your assignment? I’m currently with 395th Finance out of Salt Lake City and I work in a finance office in Qatar. I have been here since November 2006 and it’s technically my second deployment. My first was with my old unit, 461st Engineer Company. I’ve retrained for this mobilization.
Our office handles everything, different sections of finance, vendors, invoices and paying all the different functions throughout the post. I work there and I’m the NCOIC here. We also have inquiries, travel, vouchers, and a disbursing office.
What were your expectations of this deployment in finance? It’s kind of different being finance from engineer before. I was happy to take that challenge and surprised at how many different places are involved and how it all kinds of works together.
We’re in contact with finance offices in Iraq, Afghanistan. It seems like the theater has matured quite a bit. We take care of all the service members better than before, especially with all the people coming in and out. It’s nice to help.
The contactors that we have over here are locals and some are back in the states. That has been a challenge and a great learning experience: the way their invoices are in foreign currency and written in Arabic. I had to learn how to read and understand them. When they call, we have a language barrier. The more we deal with it, the more you learn how to understand. I was nervous initially, but more comfortable now.
What challenges have you experienced? With the vendors, one of the issues we have, there’s a certain process in how the Army pays a contract. Sometimes they turn in their invoice and they think they should get paid the next day. We have to send it to Kuwait and follow a process. Dealing with the government is different for them. They may be new vendors and they get frustrated. Sometimes you have to explain it to them then they understand how the process works.
What’s the best part for you? Within in the office, seeing all the service members come in and being able to take care of their pay problem. If they’re not happy, the family is not happy. When they come back in, they have a big smile on his face. My primary responsibility is commercial vendor services but we’re cross-trained and we do know enough to answer basic questions.
What’s the worst aspect of this deployment? I think what gets me down is the monotony of the days. It sometimes feels like 365 Mondays and you have to ask what day it is. Being away from family, not being in your comfort zone. We’re very fortunate in hard buildings; we don’t have to be outside wearing all our gear all the time. There are challenges. Sometimes it’s mentally draining.
The Tribune arranges the Voices From The Front interviews with service members through U.S. Central Command. Tribune correspondent MyLinh Shattan can be reached at mylinh@mylinh
shattan.com. Keyword: Commentary, to read other recent Voices From The Front stories.