JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
To non-accountants, looking at the budget financials for 176th Wing may make as much sense as a dusty wall of ancient hieroglyphs.
To Alaska Air National Guard Master Sgt. John (J.C.) McAleavey, 176th Comptroller Flight budget analyst, those numbers equate to paychecks, jet fuel, replacement helicopter parts and everything else that keeps the wing running between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 the next year.
To make sense of those befuddling figures for squadron resource advisors, McAleavey devised a host of spreadsheets that work like digital Rosetta stones.
“The accounting system — if you look at it — it’s like a different language,” McAleavey explained. “Having a tool that communicates those numbers is very helpful for pilots whose job is to fly, not to learn finance.”
For his work keeping the wing ledger in order, the Airman accountant earned honors as the National Guard Bureau financial management and comptroller noncommissioned officer of the year for fiscal year 2018 after flight leadership submitted McAleavey’s name for his achievements.
Maj. David Victory, 176th Comptroller Flight commander, said the honor reflects well on the entire unit.
“Winning at the NGB level recognizes we have an Airman in this office willing to go above and beyond to excel,” he said. “It shows we have leadership in the flight who are willing to put in the effort to recognize that."
According to McAleavey, when he took the job as budget analyst, earning a nationwide award was the furthest thing from his mind; simply surviving the task of managing a wing’s budget seemed at times overwhelming.
“Fiscal year ‘18 was a blur of me learning how things work,” he said, explaining he was new to the job while Victory, his budget officer at the time, was called away for service at NGB. “And we were down a man.”
Innovation, he said, was therefore a necessity rather than something nice to do.
“We did a lot of process improvements like reaching out to the wing, keeping on top of status of funds and spend plans, because with one Airman down, we just don’t have the time to not be as efficient as possible,” McAleavey explained.
McAleavey went to wing, group and squadron meetings, proverbially pounding the pavement to ensure his non-expert resource advisors had the knowledge and tools they need to confidently execute their budgets on time without crashing into the red.
“They should be able to look and track their status of funds,” he said. “If you can do that, then I can take care of the rest.”
Keeping after the bottom line is what led McAleavey, an Eagle River native, to the Alaska Air National Guard in the first place. He said he went flat broke attending a private college in Spokane, Washington, and needed a way to pay for his education.
He was led to the Air Guard as a C-130 Hercules loadmaster with the 176th Wing.
“I didn’t want to be in the military for the long term, that’s for sure,” McAleavey recalled, though he would later realize the many of rewards of service including camaraderie and the satisfaction of a job well done. “I just wanted to get school paid for and figure out what I wanted to do.”
Not long after getting back from technical school, the young Airman shipped out for a deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Again, McAleavey found himself with a big requirement pitted against limited resources when he had to figure out how to load a firetruck into the confines of the cargo Herc.
“It was inches from the side, and it took a while to load it,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
Later, McAleavey got a temporary full-time job doing what he terms “grunt work” around the Comptroller Flight. Soon enough, he found he had an aptitude for the career field and switched over from slinging cargo on C-130s.
Whether tying howitzers down to the floor of a Hercules or budgeting for their moves, Victory said McAleavey has always distinguished himself.
“Sergeant McAleavey exemplifies what we expect from a senior NCO,” Victory said. “Since he became a drill-status Guardsman, he was always more than willing to pick up what needed to be done.”