Comptroller commander says: Watch that government travel card

LAUGHLIN AFB, TEXAS -- We're right in the midst of the holiday season, and there's one sure way to mess up a perfectly wonderful holiday - misuse your Government Travel Card.

One military member recently learned this lesson the hard way. A cardholder with 20 years of service used the Government Travel Card when not in TDY status for unauthorized charges. Result: Article 15, reduction in grade and forced to retire shortly thereafter. Unauthorized purchases are not the only form of GTC misuse; payment delinquency is just as common.

Our AETC commander Gen. William R. Looney III, has a goal to break the negative trend of higher GTC payment delinquencies during the holiday months.

The key to breaking the trend is simple -- pay your GTC bill when it is due, and ensure it is only used for authorized charges. The GTC may only be used while in a TDY status, and only for travel related expenses (i.e., airfare, rental vehicles, lodging and meals).

Don't put this card in your wallet alongside your other credit cards and use it by mistake. GTC accounts usage is highly scrutinized. Don't bring this kind of scrutiny on yourself. Have it with the items you take TDY and don't bring it out until then.

It's so tempting sitting there in your wallet or purse when you're under a financial crunch but the results are brutal when squadron officials spot that withdrawal downtown a month ago and they know you haven't been TDY in six months.

All charges must be split-disbursed through the travel voucher and paid by the due date on the billing statement from Bank of America. If charges exceed 60 days, they become delinquent. By following these simple guidelines, Airmen can avoid disciplinary actions and focus on enjoying the holidays instead of scenarios like these:

Scenario #1: A cardholder at another AETC failed to pay the GTC bill for 120 days. Result: Article 15, BoA began salary offset at 15 percent of monthly pay and delinquency reported to credit bureaus.

Scenario #2: A cardholder at another AETC base abused/misused the GTC in the local area. Result: GTC account immediately closed and his unit suspended him from duty for three days without pay.

Sadly, I could cite examples from our wonderful base here, but it's so small, it would be very easy to know who I was writing about.

None of these are scenarios we want anyone in the 47th FTW to find themselves in.

Our command routinely has the lowest delinquencies of all major commands. Leadership and responsible Airmen within AETC are the driving factors ensuring proper use of the card. In addition, the commitment and professionalism of the base and unit GTC Agency Program Coordinators contribute to the success of the program.

At every AETC base, GTC statistics are briefed at least monthly to wing leadership -- some even weekly. Many APCs begin contacting Airmen with outstanding charges and their commanders at the 30-day point to help ensure they do not end up at 60 days and delinquent.

The GTC and the holiday season aren't something you would normally think go together, but to continue AETC's successful record, they have to. It's relatively simple to avoid trouble with your GTC, use it properly and pay the bill on time. With continued conscientious effort, AETC can break the "holiday spike."

Also remember, if you're falling into a negative spiral, don't let your commander find out when he opens up his "Bad Boy" list. Contact your unit's leadership early on when there's the slightest indication of any problem.

Let this year's holiday surprises come gift wrapped, not in an email from your First Shirt or Commander for GTC misuse!