The Exchange’s personal shopper program is making quarantine feel a little more like home for Soldiers and Airmen at more than 20 military installations.
Through the program, Warfighters staying at the installations’ restricted quarantine areas can order snacks, drinks and personal hygiene products via phone or email. The order is then delivered to an intermediary at the troop’s quarantine location, usually on the same or next day.
Orders are picked using stores’ existing Ship from Store personnel and resources—the program brings no additional cost to Exchanges.
The Army and Air Force are currently quarantining troops returning to the U.S. from overseas duty stations as a precautionary measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s hard to imagine how stressful it must be coming back from a foreign duty station only to be separated from family and friends for two weeks,” said Wayne Hansen, Vice President of the Exchange’s Southwest Region. “We hope this program brings Warfighters a sense of normalcy despite the uncertainty of the current situation.”
Hansen said the roots of the program go back to 2014, when a similar initiative was launched at Joint Base Langley-Eustis for troops coming back from West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. An updated program was launched at Fort Bliss at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
“When we started having the quarantined Soldiers at Bliss, we gave our managers the template of what we previously used at JBLE,” Hansen said. “We streamlined the process a little bit to incorporate phone and email communication. I sent the program over to [Vice President of Store Operations] Nicola Carter, and Store Operations standardized the process with some additional checks and balances.”
Bliss’ program saw immediate success, with more than 890 orders being placed in the program’s first two weeks. The program was subsequently implemented at 20 additional locations: Forts Belvoir, Benning, Bragg, Drum, Jackson, Lee, Riley and Myer; Camps Casey, Humphreys and Fuji; Schofield Barracks; Charleston, Hickam, Keesler, Shaw and Tyndall Air Force Bases; and Joint Bases Langley-Eustis, McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Elmendorf-Richardson.
In hard-hit New Jersey, the JBMDL Exchange’s program serves 2,000 Army troops being held in quarantine after serving at the temporary hospital set up to treat COVID-19 patients at the Javits Center in New York City.
“We’ve worked out a system where if service members can get their orders in by 10 a.m., we can get them their orders that same day,” said JBMDL Exchange General Manager Andrea Frazier.
Fort Bragg General Manager Bill Shoffner said he first heard about the program during one of the Disaster Support Group calls with Exchange senior leaders. He said as soon as he heard there were quarantined troops at Bragg, he emailed Hansen to see what could be done to set up a similar program.
“He and [Fort Bliss Exchange Main Store Manager] Paula Bradford got all the information to us that same day,” Shoffner said. “It was tremendous teamwork getting us that information so quickly.”
That spirit of teamwork, Hansen said, is the foundation that has made the program possible.
“We couldn’t have done this without the help of Eric Boen and the PAR teams, who pushed out additional items to support the demand from quarantined troops,” he said. “The LG teams at Waco and West Coast distribution centers also helped us deliver on command requests for items to support the overall operation of quarantine facilities.
“This has been a team effort for sure.”
Marisa Conner contributed to this article.