Commissaries, Exchanges 'in this together' during pandemic

Julia LeDoux
April 22, 2020 - 3:31 pm
DeCA

Defense Commissary Agency

The military resale community is united in its commitment to support service members and families who rely on exchanges and commissaries for goods and services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around the world, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) are mission essential, while the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is mission-critical, according to a joint press release.

All told, military resale has 300 main exchanges, 236 commissaries (more than 6,700 facilities) in nearly 40 countries.

The joint buying alliance was signed in early 2019. It has enabled exchanges and commissaries to significantly increase orders for high demand items such as cleaning and hygiene products during the pandemic by sharing sources and leads for constrained products, according to the release.

Additional recent protective measures instituted by military resale to keep communities safe include:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting stores and restaurants.
  • Reducing/changing hours for thorough cleaning and restocking.
  • Deploying signs to remind shoppers of physical distancing guidelines, and in many cases, marking the floor to ensure shoppers keep 6 feet of distance while waiting in line.
  • Serving grab-and-go meals to military children engaging in virtual learning in South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Europe, and Guantanamo Bay. More than 10,000 meals have been served during the pandemic.
  • Encouraging “cashless” transactions.
  • Canceling special in-store events to reduce crowds.
  • Working with MILITARY STAR® cardholders individually on hardships. Cardholders can email militarystar@aafes.com for information.

“AAFES is fully nested with installation commands to ensure alignment with the Army and Air Force missions,” said AAFES Director/CEO Tom Shull. “Our team stands with military families around the world during this challenging time. Never has the benefit we are honored to provide Soldiers and Airmen been such a force multiplier in protecting the force.”

The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) serves the nation’s U.S. Navy Sailors and their families. 

“NEXCOM’s mission is enduring, and remains critical especially during these times of crisis,” said retired Rear Adm.  Robert J. Bianchi, CEO of NEXCOM, who is dual-hatted as the DoD special assistant for commissary operations. 

Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) is doing its part for its customer base as well.

“Key components of MCCS, such as the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Inns of the Corps Lodges, continue to be steadfast in their support during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marine Corps Business and Support Services Division Director/CEO Cindy Whitman Lacy.   

CGX is fully engaged with taking care of Coast Guard members.

“CGX associates are working around the clock to keep stores open and sanitized, maintain stocks, and make stores available and safe for authorized patrons,” said Capt.  Bruce C. Brown, commanding officer of the USCG Community Services Command. 

Commissaries are mission-critical and have leaned forward to care for service members worldwide.

“We want to reassure our valued customers and our dedicated employees that their health and welfare are our No. 1 concern,” Bianchi said. “Our objective right now is to provide military members and their families with necessary goods and to make sure our stores remain safe and clean.”

To protect employees, commissaries are installing plexiglass

DeCA increasing air shipments to overseas commissaries during coronavirus pandemic 

Reach Julia LeDoux at Jjulia@connectingvets.com.

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