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On the road to Ellsworth...are we there yet

Maj. Gena Stuchbery, 14th Comptroller Squadron, takes the guideon as squadron commander while deployed to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Maj. Gena Stuchbery, 14th Comptroller Squadron, takes the guideon as squadron commander while deployed to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The road trip is a classic. Some of my life's most interesting journeys are stored as pictures in my memory, looking through the metal framed glass of a car door. The view is always in motion, going forward, going somewhere. Not always exactly where we planned or the way we planned. But we arrived nonetheless.
And often the rewards we experienced at our destination exceeded our expectations.
So it is with transformation. As many of you know, the Financial Management career field is in the midst of change. We've actually been "doing" transformation since late 2002. So there's been a fair amount of thought and planning that has created our vision for the future: a completely re-designed way of delivering financial services to Airmen and Commanders.
Phase one is the opening of our new Mecca, the Air Force Financial Services Center. Located at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., the AFFSC opens its doors Oct. 1, with the establishment of a new Central Processing Center that will pick up responsibility for financial travel and pay processing currently being performed at Columbus AFB and every other base in the Air Force. Workload will be migrated to the AFFSC one base at a time, with Columbus scheduled to make the move Feb. 1, 2008.
Not to worry, we'll be ready to go! Our goal is to make this transition as seamless and transparent to our customers as we can. For starters, an advance team from the AFFSC will be visiting Columbus AFB Sept. 13 to meet with our stakeholders. These stakeholders will include the wing commander, our comptroller staff, our Airmen and their families and will be presented in a "Town Hall" type forum or whatever is necessary to answer your questions. Our preparation continues throughout the fall to complete our training and continue to work any bumps out of the new processes as we practice in preparation for the "cutover". Then, when we're about one month away from the target date, we'll be running certification checklists on all our processes to determine "go/no go" Feb. 1.
The Air Education and Training Command Financial Manager and I, as the base comptroller, must agree on 100 percent validation or we won't flip the switch.
Phase two of our AFFSC transformation begins Oct. 1, 2008, with the activation of a 24/7 Contact Center. This feature will provide Airmen "one-stop" service from anywhere in the world, by phone or computer. There'll be an interactive website and highly trained FM experts standing by to answer your questions, alleviate your concerns, fix your problems and make sure your pay is 100 percent squared away.
"Why are we doing this?" you ask. Well, how about a savings of over $200 million that can be re-channeled to the warfighter, an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21century win that aligns with the Chief and Secretary of the Air Force's end strength targets, or better yet, joining over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies with shared service centers. This will be considered moving toward an industry best practice.
Ultimately, streamlined customer service is what you will receive out of this merger. Flexibility for you and a reduced wait time are benefits to our customer. In fact, you don't even have to leave your workplace or home. And the real kicker, you will receive a true one-stop service 24/7, from anywhere in the world.
Will we achieve complete Nirvana on Oct. 1, 2008? Not likely. Of course there will be a few bumps and the occasional pothole along the way. But we'll keep motoring on, focused on that final destination: delivering world class financial service to all our Airmen, whether deployed, at home or stationed abroad.
So, hop in and travel along with us. I promise it'll be an exciting ride! Are we there yet?!