Essence of Combat Retail: Getting Protective Eyewear to the Troops Quickly

Mark Hanson in his office in Dallas looking at the website for protective eyewear that he and his team got and delivered quickly to troops at Bagram AB. “It is a privilege and pleasure to be of service and to know your efforts have an impact.”

For Mark Hanson and his team, going the extra mile for Warfighters is a combat retailer’s job.

Hanson, a replenishment and inventory analyst at Exchange headquarters, learned that troops and civilians at Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield needed 1,000 pairs of protective eyeglasses as soon as possible. Service members and civilians were being required to wear protective lenses any time they were outdoors day or night—which meant demand for eyewear was increasing significantly.

Solving for ‘Yes’

Hanson worked with Military Clothing Divisional Merchandise Manager Dan Koglin; Buyer Eric Endel; Merchandise & Inventory Planning Manager Steve Ostrowski; Planning, Allocation and Replenishment Manager Kim Worrell; and Tina Destefani, the contingency support team leader, to get the eyewear to Bagram in two weeks, compared to six weeks for the typical shipment.

“This was another example of the terrific synergy between our Exchanges at the tip of the spear and our HQ partners to solve for ‘Yes,’” said Jason Rosenberg, senior vice president of the Europe & Southwest Asia Region. “Combat retail is a team sport.”

The glasses arrived two weeks before the deadline for all troops and civilians to comply with command’s order.

‘Urgency and flexibility’

Hanson’s group had ordered 600 protective eyeglasses for Bagram’s Soldiers, but soon learned that wasn’t nearly enough. During the busiest time of year for Hanson and his co-workers, they shipped 1,000 more of the best-selling styles to fulfill the immediate need.

“There are many competing urgencies for the time and talents we have to offer, but when an issue such as eyewear for Afghanistan appears, it rises to the top of the must-do list,” Hanson said. “While the magnitude of this request was significant, we are accustomed to dealing with unique situations like this that require urgency and flexibility.”

Commander ‘genuinely impressed’

The glasses are flying off the shelves, according to sales figures. Through mid-September, tactical eyewear sales at the Bagram Exchange averaged about $550 per week but jumped to more than $6,300 a week in early December after an additional $75,000 in protective eyeglasses was shipped to the Exchange. Sales of protective eyewear are up 400 percent since the policy change and arrival of the goods.

“The commander was genuinely impressed and grateful for the timely solution provided by the Exchange, a great example of our commitment and capabilities in contingency,” said Afghanistan Exchange General Manager Bill Ripley.

To Hanson, whose uncles two served in the military, getting the protective eyewear to Soldiers quickly gave him great satisfaction.

“It is a privilege and pleasure to be of service and to know your efforts have an impact,” Hanson said. “It is a great testament to Jason and his team and enhances ‘serving those who serve.’”

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