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Bridging Relationships – Breaking Down Barriers

  • Published
  • By Michelle Whitford
  • HQ Air Force Reserve Command

In 20+ years as an Air Force Financial Manager, there have been tremendous commanders in various missions and locations across the world. As an extension of the commander on all matters involving financial resources (from pens to people to planes), the relationship between the commander and FM is vital to mission success…honesty, consistency, transparency, and trust are the cornerstones of that relationship.

Unfortunately, Financial Managers get a bad reputation for being the “hold out from getting the mission done,” “too tight on the purse strings,” or “those bean counters don’t have a clue about our Airmen.” FM is an easy target because of the extreme budget uncertainty we are all faced with. Financial Managers should keep the mission afloat, advocate for legal and appropriate stewardship of funds, maximize resources for readiness, and strategically push and pull dollars to succeed.

As Financial Management leaders, we need to debunk the myth of “just say no,” by using rigid flexibility in our advocacy to help get to the “yes” when it is legal and appropriate, and bridging relationships, while breaking down barriers from an “us vs. them” culture to a “we can together” culture.

In April, a two-day training conference of approximately 125 FM leaders from all levels of the Air Force Reserve Command met near Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Multiple events at the conference provided the building blocks for shifting the current culture. From education to team-building events, each session brought vital information to our leaders to develop and understand each other and the Citizen Airmen we support. Here are a few highlights from the conference:

· Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, Commander of the Air Force Reserve Command, spoke about the current budget climate, her recent testimony on “the hill,” and the effects of the continuing resolution on our Reserve Citizen Airmen in the U.S. and abroad. She also focused beyond our vocation on the importance of spouses, siblings, and parents and stressed nurturing the work/life balance.

· The 2016 FM Annual Awards spotlighting some of our stellar Financial Managers illustrates our commitment to supporting the mission on a day-to-day basis.

· Speakers such as Ms. Crystal Moore, the Director of the Financial Management Career Field Team discussed civilian career development and opportunities for FM education and training. Mr. Jerardo Perez from Profession of Arms Center of Excellence discussed the value of “trust” and how that translates through the Air Force core values as well as professional and personal relationships.

· The Airmen and Family Readiness Team from Robins AFB presented the Four Lenses Leadership Training. This training shed light on the importance of self-awareness in leadership and increased our awareness of what motivates and drives the people around us, especially in collaboration efforts, and building team cohesiveness.

· An AFRC roundtable discussion with various units communicated challenges, support and advocacy required from our headquarters, and topics that tend to be our barriers such as travel and pay processes. More issues were discussed such as manning, Total Force Integration training, communication, issues tracker, and utilization of a SharePoint web site to post best practices from across AFRC.

· The conference also focused on the unit commander and what it takes to build the best possible relationships, advocacy, and perspective to accomplish the mission. Maj. Gen. Curtis Williams, the Mobilization Assistant to the AFRC Commander provided senior leader mentorship, and Col. Randal Bright, the AFRC deputy Inspector General and previous wing commander for three Air Force Reserve units, provided perspective on the challenges they faced as a commanders, what they looked for in a Financial Manager, and how we can best meet those expectations through education and information.

· The conference concluded with discussions from various subject matter experts to include Col. Lasheeco Graham, the Director of Financial Management and Comptroller for Chief of the Air Force Reserve, on the planning, programming, budgeting and execution process. We accomplished this from the perspective of the commander with the FM guidance in mind, while focusing on the numbers and mission objectives that are important to financial managers and commanders. We also talked about metrics and how to utilize them for advocacy in changing behaviors, why we should focus on the biggest challenges, how to tackle the root cause of an issue, and then move on to the next challenge.

The purpose for the entire event was to empower our FM Leaders. It illustrated the need to present tools to provide insight into self-development, spotlight our core competency in leading teams, and share ideas for consistent and transparent processes. Ultimately, the tools provided at the conference build trust and shift the culture to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight, and win! Who can bridge relationships and break down barriers? “We can together.”

Air Force Reserve Command 2016 Financial Management Award Winners

Major General Alfred K. Flowers Comptroller Organization of the Year:
301 Fighter Wing FMO
Financial Services Office of the Year:
301 Fighter Wing FMO
Financial Analysis Office of the Year:
442 Fighter Wing FMO
The Chief Master Sergeant Larry P. Gonzales Superintendent of the Year:
SMSgt Michelle Cartagena, 340 FTG/FM
Financial Management SNCO of the Year:
SMSgt Theresa Furbush, 482 FW/FM
Financial Management NCO of the Year:
TSgt Jeremy Lawson, 911 AW/FM
Financial Management Airman of the Year:
SrA Michael Moreno, 927 ARW/FM
Financial Management Officer of the Year:
Capt Alina Brigham, 927 ARW/FM
Resource Advisor of the Year:
Maj Whitney Lee, 304 RQS/FM
Financial Management Civilian of the Year (GS-09 and Above):
Ms. Annabelle Ngayan, 943 RQG/FM
Financial Management Civilian of the Year (GS-08 and Below):
Ms. Leslie Ross, 442 FW/FM