GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE - Every active duty Air Force member on the base has an irreplaceable role to fill. Some people fly planes - that's easy to understand, it's the Air Force. Other people prepare food - that's obvious too, it's survival. ...
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE - Every active duty Air Force member on the base has an irreplaceable role to fill.
Some people fly planes - that's easy to understand, it's the Air Force. Other people prepare food - that's obvious too, it's survival. Yet, some people, such as Master Sgt. Keith Westerbeck, who has worked in administration for 17 years, performs important tasks that go relatively unnoticed.
Administrative roles in finance and accounting can elicit thoughts of well-groomed men and women in tailored jackets sitting at oak desks shuffling through paper and entering numbers on computer databases.
Although Westerbeck sits at a desk surrounded by papers staring at two large computer monitors, his job is not immune to grimy desert sand.
"When a new base is built, finance and contractors are the first in and last out," Westerbeck said.
He's participated in two bare build-ups, Turkey in 1999 and Kyrgyzstan in 2002.
Like a painter working with a blank canvas, Westerbeck helps define the space of a new base by allocating money to get construction started.
He keeps in contact with contractors and writes out checks for products for plumbing, electrical, frame-in, roofing and other carpentry necessities.
Aside from construction, Westerbeck must consider and pay out on other needs.
"From vehicles to garbage collection, it's granted by finance," Westerbeck said.
Back home at Grand Forks Air Force Base, Westerbeck continues to manage a large sum of money.
"The Air Force picked finance for me," Westerbeck said, who scored highest in administration when joining the Air Force.
Every year budgets for the base and squadrons are re-figured and a financial plan is developed for the next year's operating expenses, Westerbeck notes.
The plan is then sent off and approved while all military branches wait for Congress to settle on defense spending.
Once the bill passes, the government makes deposits to the military.
"The budget comes from Scott (Air Force Base) and then it's distributed to the base," Westerbeck said.
Essentially, each squadron has a checking account and there must be money in the account for the squadron to purchase anything, Westerbeck explains.
"Everything on base is paid by the military, from de-icer to gas, it is millions of dollars," Westerbeck said.
Working among 34 people in the finance office, Westerbeck notes that there is often not enough time in the day to accomplish everything.
"We're not in the business of making money, but we're definitely in the business of spending it wisely," Westerbeck said.