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101st Sustainment Brigade Finance Soldiers bring cash to troops, boost morale in Liberia

 

Written by Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods
27th Public Affairs Detachment

United States Africa CommandMonrovia, Liberia – Cashiers from the 101st Financial Management Support Unit, Special Troops Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, have been traveling to various camps throughout Liberia to give service members the opportunity to withdraw cash from their paychecks.

Remote locations combined with a lack of established commercial infrastructure has resulted in the need to provide troops deployed to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance a way to access their money.

Spc. Jon Heien, right, cashier, 101st Financial Management Support Unit, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, dispenses cash to Pfc. Vashawn Robinson, military policeman, 194th Military Police Company, JFC– UA, at the Barclay Training Center, Dec. 15, 2014. Troops deployed to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance depend entirely on the finance unit to bring them cash in order to purchase goods. (Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

Spc. Jon Heien, right, cashier, 101st Financial Management Support Unit, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, dispenses cash to Pfc. Vashawn Robinson, military policeman, 194th Military Police Company, JFC– UA, at the Barclay Training Center, Dec. 15, 2014. Troops deployed to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance depend entirely on the finance unit to bring them cash in order to purchase goods. (Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

According to the U.S. Department of State, ATMs are not widely available and credit cards are not regularly accepted in Liberia.

In a country where the majority of financial transactions are based on paper currency, service members depend entirely on the finance unit to bring them cash in order to purchase goods.

Private Hayley Noble, cashier, 101st FMSU, JFC-UA, said they give troops an alternative to depending on unreliable ATMs, which, if working, charge a fee of $5.00. She said their service is free, and they go to the service members rather than the service members having to locate a place to access cash.

Unlike deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan where troops were issued an Eagle Cash Card, Operation United Assistance is a humanitarian deployment taking place in a country where U.S. dollars are accepted as legal tender, said Sgt. Antonio Ellison, certifying officer, 101st FMSU, JFC-UA.

The ECC is an electronic debit card issued to service members to purchase goods while simultaneously protecting against identity theft and reducing the amount of American dollars on the battlefield.

Since American currency is used alongside Liberian currency, it doesn’t hurt the Liberian economy when troops use American dollars in the markets, Noble said.

Recently, service members were given permission to take trips in groups to the market to purchase items they may need or want.

Special Troops Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Alexander Gallegos said that since the restriction on the U.S. armed forces from buying souvenirs has been lifted, Soldiers are able to purchase items they need as well as souvenirs.

“Now that we have an [Army Post Office], Soldiers can mail items back home which is an important morale booster for them,” he said.

The finance Soldiers also pay out local contractors and vendors. These contractors and vendors assist JF-UA in maintenance of the camp facilities as well as driving troops to other camps.

The 101st FMSU got to Liberia in October and are scheduled to remain with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for the duration of the deployment.

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