COVID-19 Heroes: Dispatch From Western Region

Travis AFB cashier Susan Aninion sanitizes her register’s pin pad. Increased sanitation is just one of the steps Western Region Exchanges are taking to protect shoppers and associates from COVID-19.

When California became the first state to issue a shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Exchange associates didn’t hunker down: They reported for duty.

“We knew we had a job to do,” said Phonda Bishop, general manager of the Travis Air Force Base Exchange. “Service members are still coming into work, and it’s still our mission to serve them.”

The Exchange’s Western Region has embraced this spirit during the past month, with associates continuing to work to ensure Soldiers, Airmen and their families have access to the goods and services they need during the pandemic.

“Our managers are working closely with their respective command groups to ensure we are giving military communities the support they need right now,” said Western Region Senior Vice President Shelly Armstrong. “With all the uncertainty everyone is feeling right now, we want Warfighters and their families to know their local Exchange is still here for them.”

Exchanges in the region are taking several measures to protect associates and customers from the spread of the virus. Surfaces like point-of-sale counters, pin pads, shopping carts and baskets are being disinfected regularly, and food court and restaurant dining rooms have been temporarily closed, with restaurants limiting service to take-out or delivery only.

Some stores are setting aside dedicated shopping times for at-risk customers. From 8 to 9 a.m., the Fort Carson Exchange is limiting access to seniors age 65 and older—a population uniquely vulnerable to the virus’ most severe effects.

Exchanges at Beale, Luke, Davis-Monthan, Malmstrom and Peterson Air Force bases have also offered dedicated shopping periods for active-duty personnel and their families, a move intended to ensure Warfighters and their families can get access to in-demand items that may sell out quickly.

Bishop said that while uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has been by no means easy for associates at Travis, their passion for serving those who serve continues to see them through.

“We all get the mission—it’s more than a job,” Bishop said. “We knew when we came on to work with the Exchange that there were going to be some challenging moments, and this just happens to be one of them.”

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