MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- ‘From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli, …’ the Marines’ hymn plainly states that the Corps travels around the globe to train, fight and win the nation’s battles.
Marines often incur heavy transportation, lodging and dining expenses to get from destination to destination, however. These are the issues fiscal clerks like Cpl. Antonio Ramos help the warriors on the front lines face every day.
Ramos, a 26-year-old Bronx, N.Y., native, handles hundreds of travel claims from the 2nd Marine Division via the Defense Travel System, or DTS.
This paperless system permits users to make travel arrangements from their computers, including the ability to make hotel reservations, purchase airline tickets and have their claim approved by their fiscal chain of command.
“DTS was created to streamline the travel process for all of DoD (Department of Defense) military members and civilians,” explained Ramos, a 1997 Mt. St. Michael Academy graduate. “It may seem a little cumbersome at the beginning until you get the hang of it, but it’s a great system all in all. It enables a Marine to sit down in front of a computer and create their own itinerary, from point A to point B and back again.”
Ramos said he’s been using this system since returning from Iraq, where he was deployed from February to September 2005. The 2002 graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook has handled approximately five to 10 travel claims per day since then.
Although he submits some of these claims, Ramos said he mostly glances over ones that others have submitted to ensure their reimbursement money comes from the right funds.
A Marine can expect their money to be deposited in their bank account within 48-72 hours of completing the claims process, Ramos added. In addition, filing through DTS encourages users to be accountable for their own travel claim because they themselves fill it out.
“It eliminates them from having to go to DPAC (the Division Personnel Administration Center),” Ramos stated. “If the money doesn’t get to that Marine’s bank account, they can look back to see if they need to update their profile or if they might have filled out their claim wrong.”
System users like Cpl. Ed Mennenga of the II Marine Expeditionary Force’s chief of staff section agree with Ramos’ favorable assessment of DTS.
“It really does eliminate the paper trail and puts the user in direct control of their travel claim,” said Mennenga, who often uses DTS to make travel arrangements for the II MEF commanding general, deputy commanding general and sergeant major. “It’s kind of like a government-run version of Travelocity, so that makes it simple for the individual to use.”
According to the DTS Travel Center website, www.dtstravelcenter.dod.mil, DTS was fielded in more than 2,800 sites by the end of October 2004. The system is expected to be used in approximately 11,000 sites worldwide by the end of October 2006.
Ramos said all personnel within the 2nd Marine Division are not using DTS yet but plan to do so in the near future. Already, his office handles most travel claims through the computer while rejecting the antiquated paper-based process.
Ramos handles the DTS and his other responsibilities with great expertise, said Staff Sgt. Larry McNair, 2nd Marine Division’s fiscal chief.
“He’s probably the most important Marine in the whole DTS process, because he helps approve the funding and speeds up the travel claims process,” McNair stated. “Obviously, if there’s no funding available for a Marine to travel, he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Cpl. Ramos helps ensure that that money is available, so he helps accomplish the mission from behind the scenes.”
Ramos, however, remains modest and diligent as he works his small but significant role in keeping Marines administratively prepared for battle.
“I think of it (helping Marines file for travel via DTS) not from the standpoint of an admin Marine, or even one who has regular access to a computer, but from guys like the wounded warriors here,” he said, stating how he loves to help the injured combat veterans living in a barracks adjacent to his office with their administrative needs. “Some of these guys are even missing limbs, so it saves them the trouble of having to go to DPAC and take care of their issues. That’s what makes my job so gratifying.”