Exchange’s MFE Provides Military Brats A Glimpse of How We Serve Their Deployed Parents

Former Main Store Manager Neal Smart, center, show children and their parents one of the MFEs the Exchange uses to serve deployed Warfighters. Smart is joined by associates Betty Pyka and Cleveland Sykes, far right. (Smart recently became store manager at RAF Lakenheath in England).

Sometimes, military brats can’t comprehend the challenges their parents face while deployed to dangerous parts of the world.

At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Exchange managers supported Operation Junior Expeditionary Team, a mock deployment last month for 120 children ages 6 to13. The annual event is held by the 802nd Force Support Squadron and involved children from JBSA-Randolph and JSBA-Fort Sam Houston. The event is part of the Hearts Again program, created to keep families connected with their deployed loved ones.

“We had the privilege to support the installation’s Operation Jet and teach these young Airmen just what it’s like to go through deployment just like their parents or guardians do,” said Alison Clement, the Exchange’s sales and merchandise manager.

Clement and her fellow managers parked a mobile field exchange “to show kids that the Exchange really does go where you go and show them what our stores look like down range,” she said.

The San Antonio summer heat provided a similar climate and Exchange associates wore shirts from Kuwait.

Exchange managers provided goody bags, water and snacks to keep the young Airmen energized. A vendor ensured the kids had the best camo paint during their “deployments.” They got pictures of themselves to show their families of the time they spent in the “desert” participating in combat demonstrations, gear fitting, physical fitness and other activities their parents experience firsthand.

“The children were so excited and proud to serve,” Clement said. “They got a glimpse of what their parents really do while they’re deployed. They were able to have a sense of pride in their families.”

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