THE HISTORY OF THE

EXCHANGE

More than 125 years of serving those who serve

Exchange Logo in white

Operation Anakonda 2016, Poland

Photo by Jessy Macabeo

Hover over timeline dates for more facts

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On July 25, 1985, the War Department directed all post commanders to open post exchanges (PXs) at their installations.

The Early Years

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PXs, which operated independently, in the United States prepared 2 million Soldiers for deployment to France for World War I, but civilian agencies had to meet their basic needs once in Europe. 

The first documented use of the term "PX" was in the minutes of a post exchange council meeting as Camp McKinley in the Philippines.

World War I

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Army leaders created the Army Exchange Service to assist with the establishment, coordination and financial support of thousands of post exchanges throughout the world for World War II.

The Army Exchange Service operates 175 PXs throughout Europe.

World War II

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The Army Exchange Service operates 175 PXs throughout Europe.

Exchanges open in Tokyo, Yokohama and other major mainland Japanese cities and in Okinawa. Soon, nearly 200 PXs and 198 soda fountains, snack bars, bowling alleys and garages were operating in the country.

The Army Exchange Service operates 1,450 facilities in the U.S. zone of Germany and Austria, including 260 PXs, 19 breweries, 19 soft-drink plants, 52 ice-cream plants, 257 snack bars, 192 soda fountains.

The Army Exchange Service becomes the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) after the U.S. Air Force was created in 1947.

Post-World War II

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With help from AAFES, the Japan Central Exchange begins supplying PX items to deployed U.S. forces in Korea at the start of the Korean War.

Exchanges at McGuire AFB and Camp Kilmer, N.J., serve 15,000 Hungarian refugees entering the U.S. to flee persecution in their homeland.

Korean War

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AAFES begins selling automobiles overseas in a deal with American Motors Corp. Soon, Chrysler, General Motors and Fords were added.

During the Cuban missile crisis, AAFES ratchets up support for thousands of U.S. troops deployed to Florida.

AAFES assumed operations of PXs in Vietnam from the Navy as hundreds of thousands of American combat troops were readying for deployment to the country. AAFES operated more than 300 major retail facilities, 1,500 food outlets and 2,500 concessions during the war.

With mobile food canteens, AAFES serves hundreds of Soldiers deployed to Detroit for the worst race riot in U.S. history. AAFES also served troops at civil disturbances in Chicago and Washington.

AAFES begins closing PXs in Vietnam after President Nixon announced major troop withdrawals from the country.

The last of AAFES' associates in Vietnam are among thousands of Americans airlifted by Marines out of the country just before the fall of Saigon. They began emergency services at Clark AB in the Philippines for evacuees who arrived there.

Vietnam War

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AAFES' first solar-powered shopping center opened at Randolph AFB, Texas.

In Germany, AAFES-Europe supports the 52 American hostages recently released by Iran from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

AAFES sets up exchanges in Grenada and Barbados to serve U.S. troops that had invaded Grenada.

Burger King becomes the first national brand fast-food company to join the AAFES family, opening its first restaurants in Ansbach, Germany.

AAFES begins accepting VISA, MasterCard and Discoer credit cards.

AAFES awards the largest pay telephone contract in AT&T's history, covering 17,500 phones on 139 Army and Air Force installations in 45 states.

AAFES deploys emergency mobile exchanges to Yellowstone National Park to serve Soldiers and Marines battling ravaging forest fires.

AAFES supports 24,000 U.S. troops deploying to Panama to protect military installations in the country that Panamanian dictator Noriega had threatened to attach. Noriega was subsequently forced from power.

Dozens of AAFES associates deploy to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to serve U.S. forces in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. AAFES operated 17 facilities and established 152 field exchanges.

The successful overseas Deferred Payment Plan was expanded to the continental United States--and eventually evolved into today's MILITARY STAR credit program.

Operation Desert Shield/Storm

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AAFES opens dozens of exchanges, restaurants and concessions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, Hungary and other Eastern European countries to serve a NATO peacekeeping mission, which included 20,000 American troops.

AAFES launches its website, www.aafes.com, which evolves into today's ShopMyExchange.com.

Large screen TVs begin arriving at Exchanges in the United States after the House Armed Services Committee changed the regulations governing what products AAFES could sell.

AAFES' Deferred Payment Program becomes the MILITARY STAR credit program and available to all branches of the armed services.

The Balkans

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On 9/11, AAFES associates set up mobile field exchanges on the grounds of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center to serve thousands of first-responders to the terrorist attacks. Almost as soon as the combat boots were on the ground in Afghanistan, AAFES had opened hundreds of retail facilities in 10 Southwest Asian and Middle Eastern countries for U.S. Warfighters.

9/11

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The first exchange--a tent--opens in Afghanistan at Kandahar AB. The tent was soon replaced with a building.

Afghanistan

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On Christmas Eve, the exchange at Afghanistan's Bagram AB opened to great fanfare and intense international media coverage. In Iraq, AAFES sets up dozens of retail facilities for U.S. Warfighters who ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power.

AAFES associates deploy to Mississippi and New Orleans to serve National Guard members helping residents recover from Hurrican Katrina. The hurricane destroyed the BX as Keesler AFB, Miss., but associates kept a mini-mall open so customers could buy necessities. In New Orleans, associates staffed a mobile field exchange from September through December.

AAFES introduces more nationally recognized brands to its stores with Bassett furniture, Coach handbags, and Martha Stewart Collection of bed and bath textiles, housewares, dinnerware, glassware, cookware, home decor and gifts.

AAFES opens the world's two largest exchanges-at Ramstein AB's Kaiserslautern Military Community Center and at Okinawa's Kadena AB.

AAFES opens the 492,000 square foot, open-air Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, the first Main Street-type shopping village on an Army or Air Force installation.

Veteran retail executive Tom Shull is named the Exchange's first civilian director/chief executive officer. The Department of Defense had changed the Exchange's top position from one occupied by an Army or Air Force major general to one filled by a civilian.

The Exchange opens 424 store-in-store concept shops featuring top name brands. Executing the national brand strategy in the main stores resulted in $47 million in sales for the brands, 9 percent more than in 2012.

The Exchange had more than $186 million in contingency retail sales supporting military operations in Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Jordan and Romania.

Exchange celebrates its 120th year of serving those who serve.

Exchange associates deploy to the tip of the spear in Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Korea, Japan and elsewhere to serve U.S. troops and multinational forces engaged in military readiness exercises.

The Exchange gained concurrence from the Department of Defense to allow all honorably discharged Veterans to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, starting on Veterans Day, 2017.

Iraq

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PXs, which operated independently, in the United States prepared 2 million Soldiers for deployment to France for World War I, but civilian agencies had to meet their basic needs once in Europe. 

The first documented use of the term "PX" was in the minutes of a post exchange council meeting as Camp McKinley in the Philippines.

Exchange Today

Visit the Exchange Flickr page for more history photos.