“Mr. E-Commerce,” “Daddy Warbucks,” and “Mr. Reid,” are just some of the names given to a fixture in the Army Finance and Comptroller community, and that stalwart fixture recently added a new name to his collection: retired.
G. Eric Reid, who served as the U.S. Army Financial Management Command Military Pay Operations director, also received the Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the highest award given by the Secretary of the Army to civilian employees, during a special ceremony at the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center recently.
“This is due to [his] superior intelligence, passion to serve, and faithfulness to the mission,” said Greg Bitz, a retired member of the Senior Executive Service who officiated Reid’s retirement ceremony. “Political appointees, general officers, SESs and commanders at every level called on him continually over the last 25-30 years to confirm the facts, fix big problems and identify the unintended consequences of decisions.”
The medal citation, which was signed by John E. Whitley as the acting Secretary of the Army, credited Reid’s “expansive knowledge and superb leadership with helping to shape, develop, and improve Army and DoD financial accountability, audit readiness, and finance and accounting operations across a wide spectrum of initiatives.”
Since March 2018, Reid served as USAFMCOM’s Army Financial Services director, acting deputy to the commanding general and MPO director.
During that time, he oversaw the performance of Army-wide finance systems, designed and led the transition of military payroll processing from a legacy accounting system to the Army’s General Fund Enterprise Business System, developed the Army’s miscellaneous pay process, expanded electronic commerce systems and operations abroad, and managed the transformation of the Army’s military pay operations.
“You absorbed the Defense Military Pay Offices from DFAS, including 919 employees at 49 locations, you turned them into the Army Military Pay Offices, and you did it all in three months; ahead of schedule,” said Bitz. “You put something in place that is going to improve the reputation of all those you leave behind.”
“The greatest satisfaction for me has been being able to make a difference for our Soldiers and commands in support of combat and contingency operations,” said Reid. “If I leave any legacy with USAFMCOM, beyond the great team of people we’ve been able to assemble, it will hopefully be to continue to look to the needs of the Army for combat and contingency operations and not be engulfed in peacetime efficiencies and processes which detract from that effort.”
Looking back, Reid said his journey to retirement wasn’t one he ever expected to take.
“In 1975, I was a young 18-year-old, and I walked into the ROTC at the University of Minnesota with a scraggly beard having spent the last six months working on archeological dig overseas,” he recalled. “Little did I know that 46 years later I’d be here, having spent my whole career in the Army.
After graduating from the ROTC program at University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in international finance from the Wharton School of Commerce and Finance, Reid’s first assignment was as a Finance Officer in Germany. He would later go on to earn an MBA from Penn State University.
During his active-duty career, Reid served in Desert Storm, where he was awarded the Bronze Star medal.
“I’ve read a lot of Bronze Star medal justifications in my career,” said Bitz. “And, let me tell you, he earned it.”
Shortly after leaving active duty, Reid joined the Army Reserve and began his federal civilian career in 1992 with the newly-minted Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which had just stood up to consolidate finance and accounting across the Department of Defense.
Hitting the ground running at DFAS, he established requirements for automated finance support for Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. He also wrote requirements and coordinated development of the Interim Battlefield Finance System.
“I have been fortunate over my career to be in a position to help modernize the Army deployed finance operations through a series of contingencies and combat operations,” said Reid. “I’m extremely proud of the fielding of the first finance battlefield system to Somalia and then fielding the first laptop version using local area network technology to the Balkans.”
From 1994 to 1996, Reid was the DFAS Customer Service and Performance Assessment deputy director, where he supervised operational review, internal audit, systems testing and customer service programs for DFAS support to the Army.
In 1996, he supervised the unconsolidated defense accounting offices supporting the Army, and in 1997, he became the chief of operations and later deputy director for the newly-formed DFAS Central Disbursing, where he supervised the centralization of worldwide disbursing operations for the Army and 16 Defense Agencies with $100 billion in annual disbursements.
“I’ve always considered him more than a finance geek,” said Bitz, who served with Reid at DFAS from 1992-2000. “He knows accounting, he knows systems, and he knows how the core business processes that have a financial element are operated.”
In 2003, Reid joined a small command situated in the Bean Center next to DFAS Indianapolis. The U.S. Army Finance Command, as it was then known, was what was left of the U.S. Army Finance and Accounting Center after the DFAS consolidation.
Reid rose through the ranks, becoming the senior civilian in USAFINCOM before the organization became USAFMCOM and was elevated to a two-star command in 2015.
“You became the foundation of what ultimately became a two-star command,” recalled Bitz. “You were responsible for everything – disbursing, military pay, civilian pay, retired pay, vendor and travel pay, special access programs, and supporting the Special Operations Command.”
During Reid’s tenure as AFS director, he and his teams worked with the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Banks in Boston, Cleveland, New York and Kansas City to deploy a full suite of E-Commerce systems including: EagleCash; Over-the-Counter Net, a military check conversion system; and International Treasury Services, which allows Federal agencies to issue payments to recipients in more than 200 countries in 140 currencies.
“The overarching theme of my career was the progression of automated capabilities for finance operations, particularly in active theaters,” said Reid. “In 1979, when I first reported to Germany, the only automation we had was preparing 80 card column keypunch cards which were sent by the Automatic Digital Network System to DFAS Indianapolis for processing.”
During those days, Reid remembers signing 500 checks per day since disbursing operations were manual, using cash and checks.
“Now we can make a payment anywhere in the world, in any currency, in any location, downrange, and our deployed Soldiers can process a transfer from their bank accounts via a cashless kiosk to a stored value card and use that to make purchases…”
While Reid said he fully embraced modernization, he never took his eye off the goal of delivery systems to the warfighter that would both improve their lives and be able to function in a contested battlespace with intermittent communication capabilities.
“All of those systems we built work with batch capability and don’t require full online communication,” he explained. “That is the crux of what I have tried to support over the years.”
“That’s why you’re known as Mr. E-Commerce,” said Bitz. “We gave you that name in your honor as you were able to keep current on all the issues related to so many core business processes and execute them daily while providing advice to so many people. Today we have electronic commerce in 20 countries because of you.”
“That wasn’t me,” Reid answered back. “Those were the people who worked for and with me, including the true father of E-Commerce, Juan De Jesus, who retired last August.”
He went on to thank a number of other USAFMCOM employees for their support throughout the last 18 years.
“There are some fantastic teammates including: Joe Myrda, the guru of disbursing operations; JT Sablan, who spearheaded massive improvements in pay support to mobilized Soldiers and Wounded Warriors; Pansy Chesney, my right hand; and Hans Kennedy, our finance lead on [the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army].”
Reid also gave credit to several of his former commanders, supervisors and leaders.
“Leaders including Ernie Gregory, Greg Bitz, Pat Shine, Clyde Jeffcoat, Bob Spear, Bud Klumph, John Argodale, Dave Coburn and Jim Watkins trusted me with the mission, provided support when needed, and, most importantly, gave me the freedom to execute,” he remarked.
“You kept your ego in check to ensure facts were accepted as the truth,” recalled Bitz. “Your message through the years has always been consistent: support the troops, uniformed or not; serve for the good of all, not oneself; and honor comes from doing what is right.”
But, it was the people that worked for him to whom Reid attributed the majority of his success.
“Throughout my career, I have learned that professionalism is not based on rank, or grade or position – it’s based on a deep sense of responsibility and caring,” he elaborated. “Many people that have worked with and for me over the years at USAFMCOM and DFAS are the true heroes; everyday making a difference taking care of Soldiers and our Army.”
Still, most important to Reid were three very special people.
“I want to finally thank the most important people in my life, my family,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, I thank my two sons, Christopher and Sebastian, who allowed me to fulfill both my responsibilities as a single parent and as a manager in both DFAS and USAFMCOM.
“I also want to thank my sister, Catharine, who I have looked to as the rock of our family,” he concluded.