Last month, four of the Army’s top troops visited the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s world headquarters in Dallas, Texas, to learn more about exchange support and provide feedback to AAFES leadership.
Gen. Douglas Macarthur Leadership Award winners, Capt. Julia Bell and Capt. Nicholas Ayers, joined the Army’s Soldier of the Year, Sgt. Chad Steuck, and the 2005 NCO of the Year Sgt. Jeremy Kamphuis, for a day that included photo shoots, interviews and briefings. The day at the headquarters also included a lunch with AAFES’ Commander Maj. Gen. Bill Essex, Chief Operating Officer Marilyn Iverson, Vice Commander Brig. Gen. James Kennon and other senior leaders.
The Soldiers focused their comments on AAFES’ tactical field support in contingency locations.
"Everywhere we’re stationed, AAFES is there. Downrange, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq - they have pretty much everything you could want down there,” said Sgt. Kamphuis. “I mean, what other Army can you be in, in a combat zone, where an AAFES has a mortar round go through the roof, and they’re open the next day? That's pretty impressive right there."
Capt. Bell echoed the NCO of the Year’s sentiments as she recalled her favorite PX memory.
“When I was in Germany, and we deployed to Macedonia, and they [AAFES] were setting up Camp Bondsteel and Camp Monteith up in Kosovo,” said Capt. Bell, “there was an 18-wheel tractor trailer where AAFES set up shop there. I don't know how to explain it. It's just being away from home, being able to get a product that you weren't able to get anywhere else, it just makes you feel a little bit closer to home.”
"I see AAFES as part of the community,” said Capt. Ayers. “I've known for awhile that there is a certain amount of money that gets pushed back to Soldiers and the family; not only by employing family members and employing people in the community, but also the amount of money it gives back MWR-wise."
Sgt. Steuck, who hails from Fort Polk, La., pointed out that the exchange services’ relevance is not limited to overseas locations or just being a store offering goods. “They [AAFES] contribute to MWR and our BOSS programs and they help us out as Soldiers,” said Steuck.
AAFES Command was encouraged by the feedback of the Soldiers and their visit.
“Feedback is a critical component of what AAFES does,” said Maj. Gen. Essex. “The Soldiers’ visit allowed us to get an impartial assessment of AAFES operations from some of the best the Army has to offer. These troops performed a vital service by taking time out of their schedule to give our senior leadership their thoughts. We truly want to do everything possible to improve AAFES processes and services.”
Military personnel don’t have to win an award to let AAFES know their thoughts. Any authorized customer can provide instant feedback by choosing the “Customer Comments and Feedback” link at aafes.com (http://odin.aafes.com/feedback/default.asp).
The visit by these top Soldiers was a collaborative effort between AAFES and Soldiers Magazine for the 2006 AR 670-1 Wear and Appearance Poster, which will be featured in the magazine’s yearly almanac edition. The Soldiers also posed for advertising shots for AAFES to be used throughout the world.